Clients and friends frequently ask me how to train for various events and activities. Spring is upon us, which means motorcycle enthusiasts and scooter riders (expecially in the city) are hitting the road, making fitness for riders a hot topic. Riding a motorcycle or scooter is a fun and challenging activity. It’s a great way to get where you’re going, escape from the everyday doldrums, spend time alone in the outdoors, and learn a lot about yourself while exploring new places. But, like any other outdoor activity, riding is best enjoyed when the body is conditioned for it. A strong lower and upper back, good hip flexors, strong shoulders, a firm grip, and conditioning of the abdominal muscles are all important, particularly for long rides. Proper conditioning will help you stay alert, improve your reaction time, and avoid fatigue and muscle aches while your body is in riding position for long periods of time.
Some of the best exercises for this (or any) kind of conditioning utilize very simple equipment that can be found in a gym or used at home. This equipment includes a kettlebell, a medicine ball, a jump rope and a pull-up bar (I like Iron Gym: www.getirongym.com). For kettlebell training, I recommend starting with a 26 to 35 lb. bell for men, and a 17 to 26 lb. bell for women. For medicine ball exercises, I recommend a 14 or 20 lb. ball (one with handles; SPRI makes good ones: www.spri.com). Any jump rope will do. You can also find all of these items at Perform Better: www.performbetter.com.
The kettlebell is probably the single best tool available for strengthening the core. There are many kettlebell exercises, but a couple of them are particularly useful for developing the necessary conditioning for riding. The swing is the one movement which incorporates the hip flexors, abdominal muscles, the hamstrings and glutes, lower and upper back, the shoulders, and the grip. The swing develops the overall strength and conditioning of the upper and lower body with just one movement. Swing the kettlebell between the legs, and then all the way up to the chest level, for many repetitions. Enter the Kettlebell! by Pavel, available at www.dragondoor.com, provides excellent information on the swing and other kettlebell exercises.
Another great kettlebell exercise for riding conditioning is the Turkish get up. This is great movement for developing the core muscles, the back and shoulders, as well as the thighs and glutes. Start from a lying position on your back, then pick up the kettlebell using both hands and press it with one hand. Slowly stand up while your working arm is in a straight vertical position. Then push into the ground with the opposite arm and try to get up. Once you are up, reverse the movement all the way until the kettlebell is back on the ground.
The medicine ball is a great tool for balance and strength. Some of the exercises you can do are: front wood chops, squat or lunge with extension, squat or lunge with rotation, squat or lunge and overhead press, push-ups with one or both hands on the ball, and sit-ups with the ball on the chest (press overhead when you reach the sitting position).
Some of the routines I recommend involve a combination of exercises using the kettlebells, medicine ball, jump rope and some pull-ups. Normally 3-5 sets of 8-15 repetitions would be enough to challenge the muscles. The jump rope can be used for an active recovery either between sets or exercises for 30-60 seconds. It’s best to alternate one exercise for upper body and one for lower body during each workout. The pull-ups are great for upper body strength and they can be mixed with any of the above movements as well as with push-ups. For abdominals, mix crunches, sit-ups or planks.
All these exercises are very simple. If done correctly, then 2-3 days a week of the sets and reps listed above would be enough to get back any conditioning and stamina lost over the winter so you can feel just as good when you arrive at your destination as you did when you started your trip. Now get going on those workouts, and don’t forget your helmet when you’re ready to ride!