So you want to become a professional cyclist huh? Well you’ve come to the right place. Cycling has become the ultimate sport for everyone who wants to get a full body workout, while simultaneously toning and building muscles. With its riveting routine and technique, it has been the saving grace for many worldwide, and is quickly gaining traction as one of the most physically and mentally rewarding athletic activities.
While many go into cycling as a way to get some good exercise, professional cyclists are becoming more and more common everyday. It’s becoming easier for you to break into the professional cycling ranks, because of the increase in events, equipment and training in many countries, and if you’re naturally competitive, professional cycling may just be the best sport for you.
Before paving your way to becoming the next best Tour de France cyclist, there are a few things you need to consider, including the nutrition, training & physical activity required. You may also need to take a look at the cycling equipment and gear you will need and how to get integrated into your niche.
Now, here’s everything you need to know about becoming a professional cyclist.
As with most professional athletic sports, your diet has a huge role to play in how successful you become and how well you’re able to perform. The truth is that you are what you eat, and despite the amount of hours you put in doing training, exercising and practising to become a professional, your diet could erase that in as little as a week. Eating the right blend of nutrients allows your body to perform to the best of your ability, so what should you be eating?
1. Carbohydrates – I know carbs may be your enemy, but if you want your body to perform well when cycling, you’re gonna have to make them your friend. Before you go wharfing down some pasta or bread, you have to ensure that the carbs you’re taking in won’t be counterproductive to your body. This is easily done by knowing what carbs are the best to eat, and at what time.
Foods like quinoa, brown rice and potatoes are great for obtaining the carbs needed to perform, and are best when eaten on a regular basis, or the day before an event, but when it comes to event days, pro cyclists opt for more easily digestible carbs, such as high energy bars. The major difference in these carbs are their glycemic index, which speaks to the impact of glucose levels in the body after digesting particular carbohydrates. When you consume an energy bar, glucose levels rise much quicker than the 2 hours it would take if you had eaten rice or bread, allowing you to have more energy to use right away.
2. Protein – Now this doesn’t mean all meat and seafood, but also lots of green leafy vegetables, beans and nuts. Because of consistent training, protein will be needed to help rebuild muscles after exercise, and you cannot afford to leave it out of your diet. When doing weight lifting or strength training, ensure that your protein levels are met each day to prevent medical issues and muscle tearing.
Of course a balanced diet is needed to make sure you’re at optimal health, but once you place emphasis on obtaining the adequate nutrients from everything you eat, your body will be rising up to what your mind has set out to do in no time. And don’t forget to hydrate, your body needs enough fluid to do its job, whether on or off your bike.
Training & Physical Activity
Now here comes the hard part, training. Most experts indicate that to become a professional cyclist, you need to get on your bike and ride for 2 hours, 5 – 6 days per week, as a beginner. When you become more seasoned in the sport however, your training should increase, going as much as up to 6 hours a day, including weight lifting and strength training. Methods of riding can be changed daily, just to make you more excited for your journey; cyclists go from changing their routes constantly to switching to an indoor stationary bike when necessary.
Strength training also plays a very important role in developing and building muscles and improving endurance. Ensure that you prioritize leg and core muscles, and that you do a lot of leg workouts such as squats and lunges. In many cases, getting a personal trainer or cycling coach will significantly improve your craft, as they are versed with the knowledge to ensure you improve your technique and skill set. You may find a cycling coach at your local cycling club, or by searching popular cycling websites or magazines in your area.
Getting your Cycling Equipment and Gear
Once you decide to go professional, you’ll need to get a top range bike. Incorrect biking gear will do you more harm than good, causing aches and pains that could otherwise be avoided, and make your cycling experience more painful than enjoyable. If you train with a coach, it would be much simpler for him to walk you through the process of getting the equipment, but if not, head to your local cycling store and get yourself a professional bike fitting.
Having a professional fitting ensures that you buy the correct bike according to your size, weight and optimal performance, which results in a reduction of possible injuries and an increase in comfort while riding. It also allows for improvement and a peak in overall performance, as the comfort and suitability of the bike allows riders to go faster, quicker. The experience of the person doing your fitting is integral to whether you get the proper equipment, as techniques and theories for excellent performance vary from person to person. To avoid mishaps, ensure you also do a little reading on the subject, and test what you’ve learned with what the fitter knows, to ensure that both ideals and goals align.
Getting Integrated in Cycling; Finding Cyclists around you
Finding a local cycling community may be the competitive edge you need to perfect your niche and improve your performance. This also gives you the opportunity to get criticism that you couldn’t see yourself, by virtue of having more seasoned athletes around you, to provide feedback. More importantly, find athletes that are better than you to train with and learn from. Having an active and friendly cycling community will help you to build on your craft, and make training more enjoyable.
Start Competing Locally
Entering local cycling events such as 5K’s and triathlons or just general obstacle course events can build your confidence and give you a feel of how you will fare in more serious international events. These competitions also allow you to build technique and assess your competitiveness against more seasoned riders, which can provide tips for what you need to do differently.
The better you get, the bigger the contest you can enter as your craft improves, and you can move from community and club based events to national competitions. It’s important however, that you seek out a sponsor, as many professional cyclists are not compensated well enough to make a living off this sport. Having a sponsor will help to compensate for things such as equipment and travelling to different competitions.
There you have it, all the information you need to transform your cycling hobby into a professional sport. Remember to train hard, eat right and find lots of cycling friends, to make this journey an enjoyable lifestyle. Happy cycling!
Here is a story of a professional cyclist: