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Three tips for strength training in event season

Is your strength training leaving you too sore or tired to ride? Take your strength training from general population strength to strength training for performance with three easy-to-implement steps.

Since 2018 there has been a growing number of cyclists who have begun to do strength training in an effort to improve overall health, and on bike performances. From bone health to improved body composition, there are many benefits cyclists of all ages can gain from appropriate strength training.

1. Strength training shouldn't hurt or cause you to be very sore

We endurance athletes become accustomed to our training being hard and hurting. Heck, if your lactate threshold, Vo2max, or all-out efforts aren't hurting or causing you to feel your legs burning and lungs feeling like they're being torched from the inside, you're probably not doing it right.

But when it comes to strength training, it shouldn't be this way.

When you push yourself in your strength training so that you're so sore you can't pedal your bike, or when you're still feeling it a day or two later, it means you've pushed beyond the body's abilities to deal with the stresses. This results in your energy being spent, not to build fitness, but instead to try to rebuild the tissues you've destroyed.

Great for gym bros and brahs…bad for endurance athletes.

Do this instead:

Aim for a perceived exertion of 7 for your weighted lifts, with absolutely impeccable technique. An RPE of 7 means you finish each set with another 3 very high quality reps in the tank.

2. Do full-body routines

An inherent part of being an endurance athlete is spending longer times out on the road, gravel, or trail to build our aerobic engines. This often pushes our schedule to its limits, as our time is demanded by work, families, and even a little bit of socializing.

Trying to maintain an upper/lower split for strength training is a cute thought, but it's one of the many reasons endurance athletes often drop their strength training as the season gets into full swing, as either their upper bodies or legs are too tired to really do their sport with quality (see the first point above).

Do this instead:

Aim for two full-body routines every 7-10 days. This doesn't mean you should run yourself into the ground, though!

Set up your workout as follows:

  1. The most important thing (lower or upper body)

  2. The second most important thing (lower or upper body)

  3. An exercise to aid the first two

  4. Core/rotary stability

3. Keep your training "supplements" on point

No, I'm not talking about daily multivitamins or whatever the latest craze is for your water bottle. I'm talking about hitting your daily requirements for protein (1.6-2.2 g/kg), getting in your vegetables (8-12 servings a day), and making sure to sleep 7-9 hours a night with a regular, consistent bedtime.

I've often seen cyclists and triathletes trying to cram in their strength training while either sacrificing sleep or meal preparation times, instead of doing the easy (and right) thing: decreasing riding time a little. Yes, riding, running, and swimming are important, but if you focus on what you really need on the bike, you can get a whole lot more from a tiny bit less riding. Don't sacrifice sleep (this is where a lot of the important adaptations happen!) or nutrition (this is where the body gets its vital energy and nutrients to keep you going!) to get your strength.

It may seem counterintuitive, but reducing your weekly ride time by 20-60 minutes tends to have no to very little negative affect on your performances, and getting in quality strength training offers big-time benefits…but they take anywhere from 2-8 weeks to show up. So be consistent and patient!

If you'd like to learn more about the importance of downtime and sleep, Coach Tim shared some great insights on this podcast. If you'd like to learn more about nutrition for sports performance, Coach Namrita has some great tips and information on this podcast.


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