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Does Cycling Make You Fitter?

Updated: 5 days ago

During lockdown, I quickly became very bored with exclusively doing workouts with my pair of 15kg dumbbells, jump rope and resistance bands. I got about a month in then my workout regime dropped off the face of the earth.

I was working out on my balcony which was great when sunny (which is rare in yorkshire) with plenty of space to do what I wanted.

However, I just couldn't motivate myself much after about a month of #balconywods.

As the UK government lifted the exercise limitations I tried running outside to expend some of the energy I have, rather than sat inside all day. Again this was great until my knees gave up on me and started aching after almost every run. I had to find something else.

Now back in 2013, I had some time in-between my internship at university and my final year where I decided it would be a great idea to spend two months cycling round France and Spain.

I bought all the cycling gear I needed (including a new touring bike), a tent and some maps and off I went. In two months I covered just over 4,000km (2,485 miles) and cycled pretty much the most of France, over the Pyrenees and the northern Spanish coast to Santander.

Back in 2013 however, I was a climber, during my internship there was a rock climbing wall near me which I practically lived in. So my upper pulling strength was good but other than that I was a complete newbie to the world of fitness.

When I returned from my cycling trip in 2013, I had legs of steel. I have always had quite chunky legs but when I returned they were chunky and toned too, something which has rarely happened in the past. In addition to that, I had the ability to cycle all day every day. My aerobic capacity was the best I had ever experienced, I was able to tackle mountains and still ride for another 4 hours in the day. However, I didn't then go on to maintain that mass or fitness level.

The first gym session I had after my return, I hit arms with the boys in the local discount gym. This is where I first experienced Rabdo. I couldn't move my arms for a week.

Throughout that final year I tried to maintain my fitness levels by playing lacrosse for both the uni team and the city team in addition to another 3 nights at the gym. And thus started my love for functional fitness.

My Gym Progress To Date

I hated bodybuilding so tried to do exercises and programmes that got me strong and fit at the same time but it was a tricky few years until I found CrossFit. After dabbling in many sports throughout my life, trying to be good at all of them (and not the best at one thing) really struck home with me.

After training CrossFit for around 5 years now, I have built up a good amount of fitness and strength. I was focussing on a powerlifting strength programme before the lockdown came and hit PBs in many of my lifts including:

Back Squat - 165kg (330lbs)

Bench Press - 90kg (187lbs)

Deadlift - 185kg (396lbs)

All at 73kg bodyweight (160lbs)

So when lockdown came along and my gym closed up for the foreseeable future, I know my strength was a long distant friend, whom I may only ever see in a masked, dystopian future.

As I said, for the first month or two I tried desperately to hold on to my strength but using two 15kg dumbbells, you can't hold on to too much.

Currently I live on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales in the UK. The countryside surrounding me is beautiful and idyllic and its a blessing to be living here. In Ilkley, where I live, there is the largest cycling club in the UK, Ilkley CC. It's very easy to see why too.

Cycling & CrossFit: Hand in Hand?

Rolling hills and well maintained roads with a buzzing cycling community means that Ilkley is the place to be if you're a cyclist. It was an easy decision to pick up the lycra again and don the helmet and get back out on the road. Especially seeing as because of the lockdown, there were practically no cars or vehicles on the road.

Throughout the past 3-4 months I have been cycling almost non-stop. Taking every opportunity to leave the flat and get out on two wheels.

Much like CrossFit there are many different variations and difficulties of cycling that I had discovered. The longer, endurance type workouts contrasted with the sprint, hillier workouts would be the endurance and strength based workouts you usually find in CrossFit.

In terms of has cycling made me a better CrossFitter? Well, it certainly has increased my fitness.

Using Zwift I calculated my FTP (functional threshold power) this is usually done my taking your maximum effort and calculating the power you can hold for maximum efforts. This can be done by running, cycling or rowing and is used across a lot of different sports to measure fitness levels.

Cycling on the Coast
Cycling on the Coast

At the beginning of lockdown, I tested my FTP which came out as around 115. Not great by any means.

As we are just coming out of lockdown, I have also just tested my FTP again and its risen to 144, which is a huge increase.

Relating this back to CrossFit, my fitness definitely has increased however my strength will have suffered. After not touching a barbell for over 5 months I am sure my lifts will hold up either...

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