CYCLIST STACEY ECCLES EXPLACYCLIST STACEY ECCLES EXPLAINS INVOLVEMENT TRAINING FOR THE RACE ACROSS AMERICAINS INVOLVEMENT TRAINING FOR THE RACE ACROSS AMERICA

CYCLIST STACEY ECCLES EXPLACYCLIST STACEY ECCLES EXPLAINS INVOLVEMENT TRAINING FOR THE RACE ACROSS AMERICAINS INVOLVEMENT TRAINING FOR THE RACE ACROSS AMERICA

They start in Oceanside, California, and end in Annapolis, Maryland, all while biking through extreme heat, rain, snow, sleet and hail … Here’s Stacey’s account for what she went through as she prepared for this amazing race!

Stacey Eccles is one half of the dynamic duo, Just Sweat No Tears with co-cyclist Brian Welsh, that has chosen to participate in this years Race Across America (RAAM). Its an annual bike ride that you can participate in solo or with a team.

The cyclists start in Oceanside, California, and end it in Annapolis, Maryland. One has to bike through extreme heat, rain, snow, sleet, hail and whatever else mother nature chooses to throw at them on any given day. Just Sweat No Tears is RAAMs first British Mixed pair to participate. They are both extremely active individuals, who hold titles and impressive records in the cycling events they enter.

How long have the two of you been training together?

Just a couple of years. I contacted Brian as I wanted a coach because I was tired of planning my own sessions and it seemed I was spending more time planning them than doing them, especially the bike rides and planning where to go. I didnt understand the structure of the club sessions so I wanted to know what I was doing, how it all built up and have something I was aiming at.

I had moved from no sport, to getting fitter, to building my mileage up and now needed to take the next step of improving. I was living in Denmark so Brian coached me from afar. He would see me when I came back to the UK to train or race.

I chose Brian as his CV read well and had an amazing emphasis on cycling. I LOVE cycling and just want to be good at it. No, I have no definition of what good is, as the boundaries keep moving.

We then did more and more together and the boundaries started being pushed. Brian was planning an Ironman (Lanzerote) and I asked if I could do one. Sure, he said, but tried to find an easier one for me. Thankfully they were sold out and when he said I could watch him, it was a case of No, can I do it?, so, we began training for that.

Going from an Olympic distance to Ironman was an incredible journey and had lots of tears and learning about how far the body can go, yet, how fragile it is and how much it needs looking after, from nutrition to rest to fitness and so much more.

Brian wanted to do PBP too and asked if I wanted to do it. Yes, sounds good, was the answer. I knew nothing about it but trusted Brian implicitly. We then started doing the Audax and learned so much about each other on those rides and once the distances went up.

We went through times when one was down the other would be the strong one, and then we would switch when necessary. Again, it was an incredible and very special journey.

We encountered the infamous sleep monsters on Black Mountain, late at night on the 400km Audax and that was a new experience. We were tired, I was on my knees and we had the last checkpoint to get through. We had pints of coke/lemonade, tea, coffee; Brian had cheese on toast and I had jam sandwiches.

A bit later, once all of that was wolfed down, we refilled our water bottles, I got on my bike and fell over the other side. I dont remember if Brian laughed or not but there were tears, I just got on my bike and carried on for the rest of the journey uphill.

Brian kept 5 minutes behind me, leaving me to have my space, deal with it and get through it. We then had horses cantering across the road at the top by moonlight and sleep monsters. It was a magical experience. Brian is an amazing man. We have been through so much together, there may be more if people are interested in it.

What is it like to ride at night? How do you feel? What is a sleep monster?

Riding at night can be amazing, when things are going right. It is quiet, surreal and can feel like you are the only one in the world. The best experiences are my first night ride and also the one going over Black Mountain in Wales on a 400km bike ride. We had moonlight, clear sky, no civilization for miles, nobody else around and then wild horses ran across the road in front of us. Amazing.

When things go wrong it can be quite hair raising. Example: having insufficient light, puncturing on a wet, muddy descent and the back wheel coming out. Not funny.

Sleep monsters are just hallucinations or tricks that your brain plays on you. The Black Mountain ride was my first experience of this the stones on the side of the road were faces. Other people reported seeing trees as horses and riders.

Q / What prompted you to decide to Race Across America?

Brian has done this race twice before and to me it sounded like an awesome race. I honestly never even contemplated it. I considered it well outside my league and just was in awe of him having done it. Many of the races Brian does just because they are there; unusual and hard. I dont think he knows the meaning of easy.

Q / What kind of preparation is involved in this kind of event in terms of training, nutrition, supplementation, mentally, etc?

Aye, this is a good question. I trust this and my life to Brian. He is an incredibly experienced and unique coach who coaches around life and recognizes that life happens. Brian sets the training, I do it and hey, presto, results come out the other side, like magic.

Doing endurance events has so much about it and each of them needs to be trained mentally, physically and physiological.

The body reacts in such a different way under different conditions. Cycling 40km in an Olympic distance triathlon is a very different animal than cycling a 600km Audax in Wales or racing RAAM.

It is a different attitude, muscle and approach. We use different systems (steady and long vs. short and quick), put our bodies through different things Making sure your body is moisturized is so much more important for long events as is having equipment to cope with body swelling, and have different mental attitudes and belief.

Mentally learn to deal with those barriers; be selfish as the event gets nearer, do what one needs to get in the zone for the event. The best preparation is being able to be in these situations beforehand so you know what it is like but still recognize that there may be more to come.

Until you have done an event I dont think anything can fully prepare you for the event itself. Even once you achieve it: the next time you do it, it changes from doing it to I have done it and my goal this time is but visualization and research helps loads, as does memory recall of when things have been conquered. When we did Lanza, Brian kept saying, There is no hill on this course that you have not done somewhere else and, You have done worse.

Having family and friends around you, believing in you and supporting you helps loads too. Surrounding yourself with these people and those that display the attributes you want to copy really helps. A mate at 220 Magazine helped me out the first few months having the mate around with a focused, honest attitude helped tackle the first hurdle and event which was a charity bike from London to Paris. He was an instrumental part of my development.

There are some definite key figures that stand out in my own development to where I am now. It has all built, and built and built. A potential crew member of ours wants to do RAAM and he is preparing for it by crewing for us first so he can get an idea of what is involved.

Nutritionally it is vital that the body can take on what it needs. Cycling burns, I think 400 calories an hour, and goes through liquid very fast, so, from a nutritional point of view our bodies need to learn how to take on and deal with the calories needed each day and drink enough.

On the bike we need to be drinking a liter an hour, on average. The first time we did this we spent a lot of time going to the loo. We need to learn what our bodies like and dont like, where we need to address issues etc. (e.g. I need to eat something every hour otherwise my stomach doesnt want solid food which then becomes a problem and is horrible having to force food down my throat).

We also need to understand what our bodies need at different intensities (e.g. long and slow burns fat), but we need carbs to burn the fat, whereas speed work need carbs and very little fat. I dont understand it all but know the consequences of running low on carbs and water.

Food is more temporary for the body to recover from but it takes ages to recover from any level of dehydration. So, we have learned and are learning when our bodies need carbs in the form of energy drinks, gels and solids. We are recognizing the signals our bodies give out.

It sounds a bit complicated but we are just learning and it is becoming normal. I know that if I get a surge of energy, typically it is a spike before a fall so, I take a gel NOW! If I get emotional it is typically because my sugars are down so its time for another gel. Gels are carbs that are absorbed super fast.

We also need to train on equipment what is it like cycling with lights? Which shorts do the trick when cycling distance? Which cycling jerseys, what do our shoes feel like after what mileage and how do we deal with it? How do our bodies respond to being in padded shorts for hours on end, and have it repeated. It is amazing how different a helmet feels after 600 miles.

How long have you been preparing?

Officially since late last year but, if you considered the training bit only, in a way, we have been building to this ever since the Ironman. The Ironman, Paris-Brest-Paris and all of its qualifiers have built a base that we have built on. Brian never stops really

Is this the toughest thing youve had to do physically?

No idea, havent got there yet. I think Brian found cycling around Australia as part of breaking the World Record for cycling around the country was the toughest thing he has done. When he has done RAAM before he has cycled in a team of 4, he has not yet done a pairs and aims to do solo by 2011. This will be the ultimate of ultimates.

For me, so far, Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) is the toughest thing physically. Mentally, for me, it was in training, having to carry on despite my body crying out to stop. I can think of more than one occasion of breaking through this. Crying helps.

What kind of supplementation are you currently using? When do you take what products?

Tablets:

Starting the 1st of June 08 through the 30th of June 08

  • 6 x fish oil per day Taken on an empty stomach where possible?
  • 6 x joint formula per day Taken on an empty stomach where possible?
  • 2 x antioxidant tablets
  • 1 x magnesium tablet

On The Bike:

  • 1.2 litres per hour, either 4:1 or Energy Source Plus (1.5 Sachets make 750ml).
  • For each 250ml not consumed, then one energy gel (normal with 4:1, + Energy Source Plus).
  • Each bottle should have 1mg of table salt added, to keep the thirst drive operating.

Off The Bike:

  • 2 hour break: 750ml of Protein Recovery water with half a stick of creatine in each one.
  • Sandwiches: enough for 2 x 2 hour breaks per person in the cool boxes.
  • 4 hour break: 750ml of Protein Recovery with milk, NO CREATINE.
  • 1st 4 hour break: hot food (pasta, etc.) as they get off the bike, then cereal before they get back on the bike.
  • 2nd 4 hour break: hot food as they get off the bike, then porridge before they get on to do 2 hour stints.

Coming up to a 2 x 2 hour shift; each rider should have 5 bottles of the preferred drink in the bottle carriers, 1 bottle on the bike, and 2 bottles of protein recovery water in the carrier.

BECOME A BETTER CYCLIST IN JUST A FEW DAYS WITH THESE 3 EASY COMPONENTS

BECOME A BETTER CYCLIST IN JUST A FEW DAYS WITH THESE 3 EASY COMPONENTS

Not only are there things you can do in the gym to help with your cycling, but understanding proper nutrition and supplementation will also help. Here are three key things to keep in mind. Learn more.

With the weather now becoming incredibly warm, many of you may be starting to think about getting out and going cycling a little more often.

Whether you choose to take your bike to the mountains and escape the busy life that goes on in the city or youre just looking to go out riding after a hard day at work or over the weekend when youre ready to relax and enjoy the outdoors, keeping some factors in mind is important.

Not only are there things you can do in the gym to help you with your cycling efforts, but understanding proper nutrition and supplementation will also help you make the most of your time spent out on your bike. Here are some things to keep in mind as you head out.

In The Gym

Focus On Quad And Hamstring Training ///

When youre out on your bike, the two main muscles that will power you through the ride are your quads and hamstrings. It will be important to have a careful balance between training the two muscles. You dont want to start experiencing a muscle imbalance.

When that happens, you set yourself up for injury, especially in the lower back area if the weaker muscle becomes tight. Good exercises to include for these muscles include squats, deadlifts, leg curls, lunges, step-ups and split squats.

You will also strengthen these muscles as you ride, but devoting some exercises in the weight room to them as well is a smart move to get maximum results.

Dont Neglect Your Upper Body ///

One problem many cyclists have is they focus so much of their energy on their lower body training thinking this is what will be needed for cycling and end up neglecting their upper body entirely.

The upper body is actually used to a large extent during cycling because it partially supports your body weight as you continue to cycle. Over longer rides, lasting one to two hours in duration, dont be surprised if you find your upper body feels sore.

Since it will be evident to you after a few runs out that it is working the upper body muscles, take the time to do some weight lifting exercises such as bench presses, shoulder presses, horizontal rows, and an exercise for both the biceps and triceps muscles.

Walking On An Incline Is Preferable Over Running ///

Finally, for the cardio portion of your gym workouts, cycling seems like the obvious choice but if you are out on your bike a number of times a week, you may not want to do this or you could start suffering from overtraining.

Consider performing some uphill walking if youre looking to do some cardio in addition to your rides. This will be a better choice than running since it still allows you to get your heart rate up and burn calories quickly (if the incline is high enough), but it will also force your legs to fight against resistance, which is important for building muscle and simulating how it feels when youre out cycling.

This will be especially the case if you cycle in the mountain areas or in locations where there are a number of hills

Proper Nutrition

Next, you also need to look into proper nutrition to make sure you have the fuel to get you through your workouts. Its important that youre eating well not only before you go out to cycle but also after youre finished.

Carbohydrates Around Training ///

Right before your training you want to take in a good solid source of carbohydrates that will release somewhat slowly in your body so youll have a steady stream of fuel for the longer period of time that youll be out there. Good options include oats, pasta, brown rice or a big bowl of fruit and yogurt.

If youre going to be out for longer than an hour, then its also a smart idea to take some fast-digesting carbohydrates along with you.

Options here include dried fruit (just limit quantities of this; it can cause some individuals gastrointestinal distress), one of the gel glucose packets that are available for endurance athletes, or a sports drink made out of a carbohydrate solution like Vitargo.

Some people may even be able to handle more solid sources such as a bagel with jelly as well, but youll have to test this out for yourself first and see how your body handles it.

Maintaining Adequate Hydration ///

In addition to providing carbohydrates to fuel your ride, you also need to make sure youre staying well hydrated. While you may not feel as though you sweat as much on a leisure ride as you would if you were out for a hard run, that does not mean you shouldnt take in liquid.

Water is best for rides that last an hour or less, but for rides that are longer again that carbohydrate beverage will be a good option. These will also help to supply your body with the electrolytes it needs to maintain good muscular contraction rates.

Being sure to properly hydrate yourself before the ride is also essential since this will get you started on the right foot. If you go in already slightly dehydrated, youre going to be fighting an uphill battle.

Supplementation

Finally we move on to supplementation. When used properly there are a number of supplements that can make your cycling trips more effective and enjoyable.

Protein Powder ///

The first supplement to consider is protein powder. This is a good option to take for longer rides to give your muscles some amino acids to feed on while youre out there burning up fuel. Failure to provide these amino acids could result in lean muscle mass loss, so its important not to overlook.

Even taking in 10-15 grams worth of protein powder could mean the difference between maintaining your muscle and suffering a small loss. Mix it in with your carbohydrate solution if youre using one for easy use.

Creatine ///

If youre doing mountain cycling or are doing any type of races, you may also want to think about adding creatine to your supplement protocol. While creatine has traditionally been used for weight lifting workouts, if your rides are intense enough and involve short bursts of intense activity, creatine will be beneficial to you as well.

You may not need to complete the loading phase like someone who is doing three or four lifting sessions a week, but taking the maintenance level (5 grams/day) is a smart move.

Glucosamine ///

Glucosamine is a good supplement for cyclists to take since it helps to prevent joint problems from developing.

Since there will be a good amount of wear and tear on your joints as you go about your rides, this will provide back-up support that all the tendons and tissues surrounding the joint maintain good health, preventing pain down the road.

Energy Products ///

Finally, if youre still struggling with the nutritional aspect of what to take on your rides, consider some of the energy products available. You can easily pack a high-carb protein bar with you that will be easy to stash with you and take out when you need fuel.

Or, if youre looking for pure energy, consider one of the caffeine stimulant products. These you can take about half an hour before you go out and will provide you with an extra kick to get your ride going.

Conclusion

So, make sure you keep these three components in mind as you prepare to do your riding. Cycling is a great activity to keep your fitness level up and by taking care of these issues you will help make the most out of it.

BRIAN BOYLE BEATS ALL ODDS

BRIAN BOYLE BEATS ALL ODDS

Brians dramatic recovery after being hit by a dump truck is phenomenal. Find out what training and nutrition programs he uses to prepare for Ironman events.

I would just like to thank Kris Gethin of Bodybuilding.com for allowing me to give an update on how everything has been going over the past few months since my last entry.

Ive been competing in the sport of triathlon for more than a year now and Ive loved every second of it both training and competition. But, what I enjoy most about it is the progress that has taken place since the first triathlon I competed in back in August of 2007 in Benton Harbor, Michigan.

The race was the Steelhead 70.3 and I honestly had about a little more than a weeks worth of training under my belt in the sport of triathlon; also weighing about 220 pounds because I was personal training and bodybuilding at the time the Ironman headquarters contacted me about possibly competing in Kona in October.

Going into the Steelhead race, there wasnt much hope for me in regards to finishing due to my extremely limited experience in the sport. Cannondale supplied me with a Caad 8 road bike to use to attempt the race and I was able to train for about 30 minutes total on it before I had to catch my flight to Michigan; I ran on a treadmill to work on my half-marathon training while relying on my swimming background in high school to get me through the swim.

Miraculously I was able to finish the race in about seven-and-a-half hours, wrecking my bike when I reached the transition area. I got up and continued on, eventually making it to the finish line and then also to Kona. This was all in 2007, but in 2008 I was curious to see what things would be like if I had more than six weeks of triathlon training, like maybe six months or even six years.

The main goal was to train and make it back to Kona one day by qualifying to get there, so to help me along my journey was Ironman Hall of Famer, Mark Allen, and things improved drastically and quickly right from the start.

Last June I competed in my first Half Ironman since the Steelhead 70.3 and was able to drop over two hours off my time; in July I flew to Canada to compete in the Newfoundland 70.3 triathlon and was able to drop a few more minutes off my time, while also taking third place in my age group.

The final race of the season was the 2007 Foster Grant Ironman 70.3 World Championship that took place in Clearwater, Florida and that was the best race of the them all. I was able to drop another twenty minutes off of my time.

Training has been going well so far this year, and bodybuilding is still a main factor throughout my workouts, but with a focus that is placed more on getting lean and building endurance rather than mass.

Outside of training, it has been interesting trying to juggle between being a full time college student at St. Marys College of Maryland, training 20-35 hours per week for triathlon and trying to finish my book, but it has been a great experience. Overall, the way I see it, any day when youre not in a coma is a great day I think I say that with a big smile too.

Two weeks ago I competed in the first triathlon of the 2009 season which was the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon in San Francisco. I felt strong and conditioned for this race, weighing in a little over 180 pounds. This was a fun race all the way through and consisted of nonstop action from start to finish through the frigid and choppy shark infested San Francisco Bay, throughout the steep hills of the city and along the sand of the beach that included the infamous sand ladder. It was a great day that consisted of beautiful weather and fun, making for the ideal race conditions.

Two weeks ago was the Dextro I.T.U. World Championship series triathlon in Washington D.C., which was an Olympic distance event that I decided to do at the last minute just to work on the transitions a little bit more and work on foot speed for the run.

I was surprised to find out after the race that I had placed second in my age group so that was definitely a very big boost that I need to continue pushing on with the rest of the season. The next event on the list will be the Nautica New York City triathlon at the end of July and then Ironman Louisville at the end of August.

As for the book, Iron Heart, I have been working on it since I was released from the hospital back in 2004. I began this writing journey as another form of therapy back in 2004 when I was released from Kernan and after a little over four years of writing, it is being published by Skyhorse Publishing of New York. It will be out in the bookstores by October 1 of this year, but it can be pre-ordered now on Amazon.com.

The sport of Ironman triathlon is a challenging sport and Im often asked why I would want to put my body through further pain than what it has already faced during the coma and hospitalization period back in 2004. But to me, the Ironman is a good kind of pain.

This kind of pain helps me remember that Im alive-when my heart is speeding up and my blood is pumping in a race, I no longer have to ask myself am I dying? Those days are over because this pain lets me know that Im living, which is a great feeling to have after what Ive seen and experienced over the years.

Just like the Ironman slogan, Anything is Possible, and that truly is the story of my life and I would just like to thank everyone who has made this journey possible for me. Thank you for all your support.

BRIAN BOYLE BEATS ALL ODDS

BRIAN BOYLE BEATS ALL ODDS

Brians dramatic recovery after being hit by a dump truck is phenomenal. Find out what training and nutrition programs he uses to prepare for Ironman events.

I would just like to thank Kris Gethin of Bodybuilding.com for allowing me to give an update on how everything has been going over the past few months since my last entry.

Ive been competing in the sport of triathlon for more than a year now and Ive loved every second of it both training and competition. But, what I enjoy most about it is the progress that has taken place since the first triathlon I competed in back in August of 2007 in Benton Harbor, Michigan.

The race was the Steelhead 70.3 and I honestly had about a little more than a weeks worth of training under my belt in the sport of triathlon; also weighing about 220 pounds because I was personal training and bodybuilding at the time the Ironman headquarters contacted me about possibly competing in Kona in October.

Going into the Steelhead race, there wasnt much hope for me in regards to finishing due to my extremely limited experience in the sport. Cannondale supplied me with a Caad 8 road bike to use to attempt the race and I was able to train for about 30 minutes total on it before I had to catch my flight to Michigan; I ran on a treadmill to work on my half-marathon training while relying on my swimming background in high school to get me through the swim.

Miraculously I was able to finish the race in about seven-and-a-half hours, wrecking my bike when I reached the transition area. I got up and continued on, eventually making it to the finish line and then also to Kona. This was all in 2007, but in 2008 I was curious to see what things would be like if I had more than six weeks of triathlon training, like maybe six months or even six years.

The main goal was to train and make it back to Kona one day by qualifying to get there, so to help me along my journey was Ironman Hall of Famer, Mark Allen, and things improved drastically and quickly right from the start.

Last June I competed in my first Half Ironman since the Steelhead 70.3 and was able to drop over two hours off my time; in July I flew to Canada to compete in the Newfoundland 70.3 triathlon and was able to drop a few more minutes off my time, while also taking third place in my age group.

The final race of the season was the 2007 Foster Grant Ironman 70.3 World Championship that took place in Clearwater, Florida and that was the best race of the them all. I was able to drop another twenty minutes off of my time.

Training has been going well so far this year, and bodybuilding is still a main factor throughout my workouts, but with a focus that is placed more on getting lean and building endurance rather than mass.

Outside of training, it has been interesting trying to juggle between being a full time college student at St. Marys College of Maryland, training 20-35 hours per week for triathlon and trying to finish my book, but it has been a great experience. Overall, the way I see it, any day when youre not in a coma is a great day I think I say that with a big smile too.

Two weeks ago I competed in the first triathlon of the 2009 season which was the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon in San Francisco. I felt strong and conditioned for this race, weighing in a little over 180 pounds. This was a fun race all the way through and consisted of nonstop action from start to finish through the frigid and choppy shark infested San Francisco Bay, throughout the steep hills of the city and along the sand of the beach that included the infamous sand ladder. It was a great day that consisted of beautiful weather and fun, making for the ideal race conditions.

Two weeks ago was the Dextro I.T.U. World Championship series triathlon in Washington D.C., which was an Olympic distance event that I decided to do at the last minute just to work on the transitions a little bit more and work on foot speed for the run.

I was surprised to find out after the race that I had placed second in my age group so that was definitely a very big boost that I need to continue pushing on with the rest of the season. The next event on the list will be the Nautica New York City triathlon at the end of July and then Ironman Louisville at the end of August.

As for the book, Iron Heart, I have been working on it since I was released from the hospital back in 2004. I began this writing journey as another form of therapy back in 2004 when I was released from Kernan and after a little over four years of writing, it is being published by Skyhorse Publishing of New York. It will be out in the bookstores by October 1 of this year, but it can be pre-ordered now on Amazon.com.

The sport of Ironman triathlon is a challenging sport and Im often asked why I would want to put my body through further pain than what it has already faced during the coma and hospitalization period back in 2004. But to me, the Ironman is a good kind of pain.

This kind of pain helps me remember that Im alive-when my heart is speeding up and my blood is pumping in a race, I no longer have to ask myself am I dying? Those days are over because this pain lets me know that Im living, which is a great feeling to have after what Ive seen and experienced over the years.

Just like the Ironman slogan, Anything is Possible, and that truly is the story of my life and I would just like to thank everyone who has made this journey possible for me. Thank you for all your support.

HOW TO STRENGTH TRAIN FOR CYCLING

HOW TO STRENGTH TRAIN FOR CYCLING

Give us a couple of workouts a week, and well change your performance potential on the bike permanently. Its time for cyclists of all levels to embrace strength training!

Want to improve your cycling performance, either on its own or for a triathlon? Step one is simple: Put in your time on the bike. Theres no way around it. Cyclists simply have to improve their aerobic and anaerobic systems by following a strict endurance-training program. Ill spare you a lengthy discussion of the SAID Principle—that is, specific adaptation to imposed demand—but suffice it to say, to get better at cycling, you have to cycle.

So does the story end there? Only if you want to hit your head against the same performance ceiling over and over again. As an increasing number of recreational and competitive cyclists are discovering, training for strength allows you to use your existing muscle more efficiently, tap into power you didnt have before, and perform better in the crucial late stages of your races and time trials.

This style of work is known as concurrent training, but the version backed by the latest science isnt the same old lightweight rep-assault you may have been doing for years. Change the way you approach your workouts, and youll create a whole new idea of what you can achieve on the bike!

Build Endurance on the Bike, Strength in the Gym

As someone who has experience in both strength training and endurance training, Im not going to insult you with a stereotype of the endurance athlete versus the strength athlete, as if the two are entirely different species. Both are athletes, and theyre also people, which means they encompass every body type, personality, training style, and lifestyle.

However, just like any other type of athlete, cyclists who get serious about their craft are prone to following the prevailing training style they see modeled around them. And when it comes to strength training, that model has been this:

Im an endurance athlete, therefore I should stay in the endurance rep range: 10 reps and above per set, with light weights and short rest periods. After all, I dont want to add weight in the form of muscle or induce too much leg fatigue.

Sound familiar? Even if thats not you, youve no doubt heard someone use this line of reasoning to describe their approach to training. Let me be the first to say that this approach is no longer valid. Its time to outgrow it the way you outgrew toe clips and steel frames.

Ask any bodybuilder—youre on Bodybuilding.com, after all—and theyll tell you that the best way to add muscle is with moderate weights, high reps, and short breaks. In other words, exactly the same way endurance athletes have been taught to train to avoid building muscle.

Its time for a change. Heres what you need to know:

  • You can significantly increase your strength without adding large amounts of muscle.
  • Increasing your strength can improve your endurance, power production, and resilience to injury.
  • The best way to build strength is by training for absolute strength. This means heavier weights, low repetitions, and longer rests.

This is the recipe for building powerful muscles that will help you perform better: Train for endurance on the bike, and train for strength with free weights in the gym. Heres the how and why.

How does strength help endurance?

The strength-building mechanisms that help cycling performance are largely neurological. This means they have to come from teaching your body to better use the muscle it has, rather than from adding lots of new muscle.

This has the potential to benefit you in a number of ways. For instance, endurance training typically relies largely on the recruitment of slow-twitch muscle fibers. These fibers have great stamina as it is, but researchers have concluded that strength training improves the maximum strength of these fibers, which further increases the time it takes to work them to exhaustion. This allows you to reserve your fast-twitch fibers for later in a race or time trial.1

Heavy strength training develops fast-twitch fibers far more effectively than light high-rep training. This is where things really get interesting. A 16-week experiment performed with top-level cyclists found an increase in type IIA fast-twitch muscle fibers relative to more easily exhausted type IIX muscle fibers following combining heavy strength training and endurance training.2 Type IIA are more fatigue-resistant than type-IIX, yet still capable of producing high levels of strength and power. Theyre the ones that can give you an extra gear when everyone around you is exhausted.

Additionally, combined strength and endurance training has been shown to increase concentrations of fast energy-yielding substrates—e.g., phosphocreatine and glycogen—and lower concentrations of lactate at the end of a 30-minute bout of cycling at 72 percent of VO2-max:3 In other words, more energy and less discomfort.

Lastly, strength training improves how quickly you can produce force, what is known as the rate of force development. Bump this up, and youll reduce the time you need to reach certain velocities, as well as decrease the intensity required to perform your endurance work.1

What about fatigue?

This is a fair concern. Whether because of the prevalence of intense bodybuilding-style workouts in gyms, or just because strength training looks tough, endurance athletes are rightfully concerned about heavy weight training impairing their performance. Research has shown, however, that its all about the approach you take.

Back in 1999, researchers at the University of Waterloo in Ontario found that adding maximal strength training to a cyclists endurance-training program had no negative physiological effects on endurance parameters, such as maximum oxygen consumption or lactate threshold.3 On the contrary, it has been shown to lead to an improvement in cycling economy, particularly in less-trained cyclists.4 Cycling economy is the oxygen consumption required to maintain a submaximal cycling intensity.

Ask any strength coach who paid attention during their certification exams, and theyll remember at least the Tweet-length version of that idea: Stronger muscles are more efficient muscles. The slightly longer version: As maximum strength increases, the amount of activated muscle fiber required to produce the same submaximal force decreases.5 Youll do the same work, but with less effort.

While some research attempts to cast doubt on strength trainings benefits for cyclists, these studies methodologies are often to blame: the volume is too low, the program is too short, or not enough time is left for recovery. All of these issues can be addressed with smart programming.

Program Design Recommendations

Put all of these studies together, and a picture emerges of a cyclist who trains strategically for strength. He or she takes longer to exhaust, and has lower levels of lactate during intense stretches of work. This cyclist can also produce more force more quickly when the need arises. If that sounds like the recipe for a faster, more satisfying race or time trial, youre right.

So when is this person training? Good question. You have a couple of options.

Winter/Off-Season

This is the most common time for cyclists to devote time to strength, and with good reason. The Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology found that devoting five weeks to maximal strength training (3-5 sets of 3-5 reps, 3 times per week) helped cyclists maintain their pedaling cadence over the course of two hours.6

During the Cycling Season

The flaw with some lackluster studies into concurrent training is that the strength component is simply added to an endurance program, without making any changes in the latter.7 This is a recipe for exhaustion and impaired performance. Consider taking a cue from a review study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in 2009, which concluded that replacing a portion of a cyclists endurance training with maximal resistance training is likely to yield better time-trial performance and increase maximal power.8 The takeaway: You can have it all—but not all at the same time!

In my experience, most cyclists can benefit from maximal strength training 1-3 times per week, depending on the time of year. The program should focus on improving strength and power output, and consist of free-weight and bodyweight exercises. These will have more athletic transferability to cycling than using exercise machines will

Focus on multijoint movements and avoid isolation-type exercises. This isnt the time to try to bring up your calves! Stick mainly to sets of no more than 5 repetitions on big-ticket movements like the squat, with 3-minute rest breaks between sets. During these, you can either rest or perform mobility work or noncompeting strength work—such as ab work after lunges. Perform the concentric phase (the up phase) of heavy lifts as fast as possible, even if the weight moves slowly. Do not go for the burn or to failure on any movement. Feel strong and in control at the end of every set.

Heres an example of what such a strength session could look like. Bear in mind, this doesnt have to be your workout, but its an example of a full-body strength routine that would give an endurance athlete a lot of bang for their buck.

Why Join Revolution Cycling Team?

Why Join Revolution Cycling Team?

Thank you for your interest in Revolution Cycling Team.  We are proud of our accomplishments (See more on the web page). We are located in west Central Ohio, and are one of only a handful of cycling groups that is totally dedicated to promoting All levels of bicycling. Revolution Cycling Team is a cycling advocacy group which is composed of beginning, recreational, and competitive cyclist of all ages.  We are dedicated in promoting TEAM camaraderie, a healthy lifestyle, community involvement and charitable activities in the region.

So why ride with Revolution Cycling Team?

ˇ         Members are covered by our insurance with all “Club” rides

ˇ         We maintain a “no drop” policy in all our club rides

ˇ         We have rides for all levels of cyclists – from first time riders  to seasoned riders

ˇ         Improve your health, Increase circulation, Sleep better, and experience Weight loss

ˇ         Reduce your Stress

ˇ         Meeting new people and make good friends

ˇ         Have FUN!

If you would like to partake in these benefits, See more details about how you can join us at Revolution Cycling Team.

(All membership information is confidential and is not shared with other third-parties without your permission).