Despite all of today's modern sports science, the old adage that to get cycle fit you have to put miles into the legs still rings true. There is no escaping it - time spent in the saddle, and using that time effectively, eventually equates to better performance.
However, there are certainly benefits to supplementing your training with different activities, particularly ones that will compliment your main event. This is called "cross-training", the theory being that it helps your usual activity muscles recover and freshens you up without sitting around idly, risking the loss of those hard fought gains.
My bit of extra-curricular activity has been the introduction of Bikram Yoga into the regime. Bikram (or "hot yoga") takes the form of 26 postures and two breathing exercises, carried out in the same order over a 90 minute session. What's more, this is done in a room heated up to around 40c. Getting a sweat on is guaranteed. The idea of the heat is to induce the sweat, helping to flush out toxins, but also create an environment for your muscles to be at optimum temperature for stretching.
I was reluctant at first to try out Bikram, worrying about my lack of flexibility, wasted time which could be spent on the bike and, frankly, outright emasculation. However, once I had taken the plunge these fears quickly evaporated. In the studio I visit (Hot Bikram at London Bridge), men and women of all shapes and sizes, and varying degrees of flexibility, attend. Despite being able to turn my hand to most sports, I was surprised how challenging I found the exercises, as well as getting to grips with the heat. However, the environment at the studio is supportive, with patient instructors who even encourage having a lie down during the session if you are finding it hard going. They also put up with the horrible postures I am putting together at the moment and offer top tips to improve. I'll get there.
In terms of the TdF, I am sure Bikram will help my flexibility and core strength in the saddle, making sure I do not put overbearing strain on my lumber region day after day. However, most importantly it is helping me improve my focus and getting to grips with the heat I'll be facing during July in south France. The variation from the monotony of turning the cranks and the challenge of improving my postures has been a good motivator.
If you want to give Bikram yoga a try in London then I would check out the Hot Bikram Yoga studios http://hotbikramyoga.co.uk/. Olga and her team have been particularly supportive of my TdF endeavours and, from what I've seen, apply the same principle to new and advanced yogis alike.