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Cool Runnings


Dave Haygarth talks about the end of the cyclocross season and how he handles downtime from riding...

As a 'cross rider this is a strange time of the year. The cyclocross season finished for me just before the end of January and there's the annual dilemma of 'what next?' Traditionally of course, most 'cross riders will race on the road or mountain bikes now that spring is under way and the year becomes one long season. Personally, I stepped back a bit from road racing a few years back after multiple shoulder surgery. On the road your safety can be in the hands of riders who sprint with plenty of power but with absolutely no regard for other riders. I just can't run the risk of more time off work (unable to drive etc.). I also, for some reason, seem to avoid mountain bike racing in the summer these days too.  
 
Every February, I just feel like I need a bit of a break from racing in general after four months of plugging away on the cyclocross circuit. It's not the racing - that bit's great - but the bike prep, maintenance and cleaning and the warm-ups, reps, drills and general training that takes its toll on you. It's great, but it's just as nice when it stops for a bit! 
 
With conditions in January and February being as bad as they were this year, I almost put down the bike totally for a couple of months. It was less of a conscious decision and more of a simple, practical no-brainer to avoid constantly getting soaked, frozen and thrown about by the winds. I'm not a sedentary type though, so downtime from the bike meant a massive surge in my running. I try to run at least once a week - it's a good thing for cyclocross riders and many argue that it is beneficial for riders in general.  
 
Running is certainly practical in crap weather. It’s more straightforward than cycling and far cheaper than moving to Majorca for a fortnight's fitness training. There's something just very comforting about not worrying about the weather and just throwing on the trainers and getting out there. The maximum faff involved tends to extend to whether to put gloves and a hat on or not. Decisions about jacket or gilet, overshoes or oversocks, cap and glasses are not required. Simplicity itself.

Add to that the fact that an hour of running will burn way more calories, and use loads more muscle groups, than an hour of cycling and it is a very effective, time efficient way of getting and staying fit if you fancy some downtime from the bike. Plus (it just keeps getting better, this does), I have a big, lanky dog who loves running as well. So it ticks yet another box.

I've run almost 200 miles in 2016 and nearly all of those are off-road miles. I even raced the North of England cross country championships (basically cyclocross without a bike) through a hailstorm and six-inch-deep mud. I have barely ridden my bike more than once a week recently, but I'm as fit as a fiddle at the moment. 
 
In true fair-weather cyclist style, I've suddenly cleaned the dust off the road bike and, hey presto, winter seems over and the break has been so, so good for the soul. If you fancy a change, but want to stay fit, I can heartily recommend a spot of running... but remember to ease yourself in if you haven't got your legs used to it.

18 March 2016