Travis Books, cross-training. Photo courtesy Travis Books

Travis Book currently resides in Nashville, TN, but anticipates an imminent move back to his homeland of Colorado. He may not look like much (by design), but he was the Tennessee state champion in 09/10, a year he spent nearly 200 days on the road with his band, The Infamous Stringdusters. Clearly, he’s got the training on the road thing pretty well figured out.

Unfortunately, Book’s next piece will likely be about recovering from injury – a recent wreck on his MTB has forestalled his early season plans.

by Travis Book

Surprise!  Who doesn’t love a surprise? Your opponents, that’s who. The element of surprise is essential to any successful race strategy. I play mind games. One friend calls it sandbagging, another refers to it as “employing a multi-lateral race strategy.” Either way, everything you do on the course will prove infinitely more effective if it’s unexpected. Sometimes the surprise may be a line you choose or a seemingly ill-advised attack. It may even be your equipment – for example, riding singlespeed in your Category or Age Division race. What generally surprises the people I race against the most, though, is my ability to find my way into race shape every winter despite spending half my year and the vast majority of my summers on the road, touring with a band. I know there’s a bunch of us out there trying to figure out how to get fast on the bike, without the bike, and I think it can be done. To race the bike you must ride the bike, but you don’t have to ride every day over the summer to absolutely tear it up this fall. Here’s my “multi-lateral strategy”:

It’s the obvious first choice for maintaining fitness while on the road. It requires little to no gear (barefoot running, anyone?) and it’s relevant to the actual racing. It won’t take much, even just a couple miles a day will help you get and stay lean, and it’ll keep your cardiovascular system running in top shape. My runs mirror my cycling workouts. In the spring/summer, I run slowly and long and treat it like base mileage. As the season draws near, I incorporate some speed work that helps me going over the barriers and prepares the cardiovascular system for interval training on the bike. Don’t be scared, the human body was made to run, just take it easy, find some grass, dirt or something other than concrete. Need some inspiration? Pick up a copy of Born To Run, Christopher McDougall’s account of The Greatest Race The World Has Never Seen. I read it when I was laid up from a snowboard accident, and it changed everything.

When I got back into racing a couple years ago, I started doing some simple, restorative yoga around the same time. It has since become a practice unto itself, but I maintain that using yoga as a means to warm up the body on race day and to stretch and prepare for rest is essential to my success. Yoga trains the body to control breath, remain relaxed under strain and greatly improves balance. It also works a whole host of muscles in the body (like, all of them) that you may not need when you’re on the bike, but you’ll certainly appreciate once you unexpectedly come off of it. Yoga can be done anywhere and the equipment takes up virtually no space. I use Yoga Paws that attach to the feet and hands and eliminate the need for a yoga mat.

I don’t like to lift weights, but supposedly it’s good for you and many hotels have gyms. Most of you will be incorporating weights into your routine anyway, and a hotel gym is a great way to push some heavy objects around. I don’t love riding the exercise bike, but it’ll work if you really want to spin circles and watch some TV. You can also knock off a quick mile or three on the treadmill if it’s wet or cold outside, or if you’re soft, which you aren’t, because this is ‘cross, people! (note: Treadmills are a necessary evil, like indoor trainers. Use sparingly.)

Community Recreation Centers are springing up everywhere as public consciousness about fitness increases. While it’s rarely easy to find a pool within walking distance of my hotel, I swim laps whenever I can. I find it does more to improve my breath control than any other activity, and it challenges my core muscles in ways only swimming can. It’s easy to toss a Speedo and some goggles in the suitcase, just make sure to keep some Auro-Dry or something similar in your toiletry bag to keep the ears from getting waterlogged.

Rest Days
You gotta rest, why not do it on the road? I usually do my hardest ride the day before I leave. Then, first day home I, get on the bike. Weeks at home I treat like training camps, packing in as much on-bike activity as I can before I head out again. The first and last two days on the road I try to rest as much as possible by skipping the running and sticking to walking and yoga. Returning from a trip well-rested will allow you to jump right into some serious riding when you walk in the door.

It may help to keep in mind major fitness gains are going to be made when you’re home and on the bike. If workouts on the road are treated as maintenance, they’ll be easier, more enjoyable, likely shorter and thus easier to squeeze in between meetings, family meals, or whatever it is you do when you’re traveling. I spend most of my time in a van or bus, carrying gear, hanging out or standing around and playing music. My nights are late and beers are plentiful. If I get off the road with rested legs, having not put on weight around my middle, I consider it a success. I walk every chance I get, stretch at gas stops and try to fit a run, yoga session or swim into my mornings before departure.

Traveling and being away from home can be to your advantage if you use it to round out your fitness and rest. The road is hard. You’ll wish you were on your bike. Get over it. Do what you can, when you can and when it’s time to race, no excuses. My best races consistently follow periods of intense travel and time off the bike. If you can embrace the time away from the wheels and use it to further your general fitness goals, I think you’ll find a deeper appreciation for time spent on the bike and you may even find yourself off the front.