To Gym or Not to Gym?
Find out if staying out of the gym is a better choice for you as a rider.
Winter is traditionally the time of year when cyclists and other summer-season endurance athletes divide their training time between sport-specific workouts and some form of strength training. While the benefits of strength training for endurance athletes has been proven time and again, you may actually be better off staying out of the gym this winter.
In deciding whether to include gym work into your winter training program, you have to take a look at the total amount of time you have to devote to training during the week. Every hour you spend in the gym is one less hour you have to spend on your bike, and if your work and family schedules, together with limited daylight, leave you with fewer than eight or nine training hours each week, you?re better off spending all your available time on your bike.
Strength training is effective for increasing muscular strength, improving the integrity of connective tissues (tendons and ligaments), increasing bone mineral density, and increasing power output. As an endurance athlete with limited training time, however, you have to consider whether these benefits will improve your cycling performance more or less than spending your time on your bike rather than in the gym.
If you have eight total hours to devote to training each week this winter, and an effective strength training program will require three one-hour trips to gym, you?re only leaving yourself five hours a week for riding. Divided across four workouts, your longest rides are probably going to be two hours or less. Spreading all eight hours across four workouts, you may be able to extend your rides to hours. Maintaining and improving aerobic conditioning requires a steady and continuous load on your aerobic engine, meaning your two- and three-hour rides are going to be more effective than one-hour rides for improving your aerobic engine.
Staying out of the gym doesn?t mean you have to miss out on all the benefits of resistance training. On-the-bike resistance workouts provide many of the same benefits without the need to add hours to your total training load.
On-the-Bike Resistance Workouts
On-the-bike resistance workouts generally involve the use of large gears and low cadences in order to set up an ?overgeared? situation. By increasing the tension you?re pushing against, you?re placing a heavy load on your leg muscles during each pedal stroke, much like you do when lifting weights. Two examples of highly effective on-the-bike resistance workouts are PowerStarts? and MuscleTension Intervals?:
PowerStarts: Shift into a large gear (53x12-15) and slow down to a very low speed (1-2 mph). With your hands in the drops and one pedal in the two o-clock position, you?re going to jump out of the saddle and pound on the pedals to accelerate as rapidly as you can for 10-12 seconds. The point of the effort is to produce a great deal of power in order to accelerate against a high resistance, so once you?re spinning the gear quickly, the effort is over. Shift into an easy gear and spin for