Human Vortex Training offers Expert USA Cycling Certified Coaching for Cyclists of all backgrounds. From beginner to Professional Riders, Road Cycling and Mountain Bike Riders and Races, Coach Menachem Brodie has helped athletes of all backgrounds achieve their goals, and far beyond!
As happens every winter and again in the spring, I get a lot of emails asking about Strength Training for Cycling and Triathlon. Some are from those who have been skeptical but seen friends or fellow riders/triathletes have fantastic years, in some cases their fastest years yet, after having added a well designed strength training program to their year-round training program. Other messages come from those who see huge gains in their riding abilities when lifting, but have noticed those gains decrease when they remove strength training in favor of much more saddle or in-sport training.
Over the last several years I’ve answered the same questions hundreds, if not thousands of times, and this year elected to make some of these commonly asked questions into blog posts. There is a lot that goes into answering these questions and I hope that these blogs will shed light onto how complex and yet simple the human body can be.
Don’t get too lost in the details here though, as most often the simple answer is the best answer.
We’ll start with a common question that comes from you, the reader:
When should I strength train for optimal effects: in the morning, or in the evening?
This is a common question across the fitness world, as many people wonder how to plan their strength training for optimal effects- from increased muscle mass, to improved performance. In fact, I contributed heavily to an article in Men’s Health Magazine in 2018 on exactly this topic. You can read it HERE
Let’s dive into the background info you should know, and then we’ll tie it all together specifically for cyclists and triathletes.
What are some benefits of working out in the morning if you're trying to build muscle & strength? What are the cons?
First, we must consider the fact that working out regularly at a specific time of day, will allow the athlete to perform at their best at that time (Hill et. al. 1998). So really we must consider what time does the athlete normally workout? For the Triathletes, Runners, and Cyclists I train, the mornings tend to be their best times. Meanwhile the Strength Athletes, and those looking for fitness and general health who workout in the evenings regularly, see their best performances there.
Throughout this piece, keep in mind that in order for our muscles to GROW, we have to RECOVER (Sleep), and ensure that we are supporting the muscles growth with killer nutrition.
-Far fewer disturbances in your morning routine to knock you off the path.
-Huge feeling of accomplishment before starting one's day (this should not be overlooked, as it can have HUGE positive impacts)
-Starting one’s day early can have huge production boosts across your entire day. Check out this video with former Navy Seal, and driven leader, Jocko Willink
https://youtu.be/Xpv-sEKl1B4 (Disclaimer- I am AGAINST burpees! They are a highly advanced exercise given to beginners because of LAZINESS by group fitness coaches, In my opinion, of course).
-With cortisol working against you in the morning, if you're not accustomed to training in the morning, it can be fairly tough to workout and try to build muscle. If you add on top of that NOT eating before your workout, you've now stacked the odds against you, as you'll not only have the cortisol actively trying to break down fats and proteins for energy, but you'll also be running on empty for energy, which you'll need to have a quality workouts.
This is incredibly important for women in the second half of their menstrual cycle (called the luteal phase), as the body is already in a catabolic state.
-Already highly active gluconeogenesis (breakdown of fats and proteins), however can counter this a little bit by having EAA's (essential Amino Acids) or BCAA's (more on this later on) and some carbs within your workout, as well as eating a snack/small mean before your workout
Women in the luteal phase can help counter these negative effects in part, by taking 8-10g of BCAA or EAA’s before exercise of any kind, and eating a meal with 15-20g of varied protein sources within 30 minutes of finishing their workout. Aim for a 2:1 Protein to Carbohydrate balance in that meal, along with some healthy fats.
Working out in the morning to build muscle CAN work, but you must be mindful of a few things:
1. Eat before you workout. It doesn't have to be something big. Try something like 200g of yogurt, 2-3 Dates (or a banana), and a 10-12 almonds before heading to the gym (skip the almonds if you’re going to ride/run/swim). These will provide you some energy, and allow you to still have a quality workout, without filling you up.
2. If you regularly workout in the morning, this CAN be a good time to build muscle, as you are free of distractions such as the kids, the telephone, your cell phone ringing, chores needing to be done (what's open at 5am?!?!), and you can focus on YOUR workout.
If anyone tries telling you that working out in the morning makes it impossible to build muscle, just point to guys like Dan John's dad (Who used to workout like clockwork early in the morning in their families garage), and The Rock. I mean, who can argue with those two dudes?!?!
3. Take to heart the point about being CONSISTENT in your lifting & exercise times. The key to success, especially in lifting to build strength, is consistency. Grab some Iron on a regular basis, and make sure to fuel your body, and recover (SLEEP) enough to support those goals.
-Your vertebral discs fill up with water/ fluids over night, so they are a bit more "full" than normal first thing in the morning, which can increase your risk for hernias (thus the name "rowers disease"). Add in 1 set of 10 repetitions of the “Cow-Camel” Exercise to your pre-lift warm up, as this super simple move can literally save you some major pains by pushing some of the extra fluid out of the discs. (This has been researched by Dr. Stuart McGill)
-If you are going to do a strength training workout in the morning, look into Glutamine as a pre-breakfast supplement, and EAA** (Essential Amino Acids) for consumption during your workout, to help spare your muscles from being broken down.
What are some benefits of working out in the EVENING if you're trying to build muscle & strength? What are the cons?
Working out in the evening, while having more pro's when it comes to hormones and the bodies systems, offers its own set of challenges. Particularly for Cyclists and Triathletes, I’ve found that for the vast majority, Morning in-sport workouts and evening Strength Training sessions allows us to see the best results possible.
While this isn’t true for everyone, most of us do not have 2-3 hours in the morning to workout, let alone shower, eat, and commute to work.
- the bodies neuromuscular system has had time to "warm-up" and is ready for strength efforts (winget et al 1985).
-Hill (et al 1998) showed that evening athletic performance bested morning performance. This could be due to a number of things, however, if we take a big 30,000ft view of strength training, we're really training the nervous system, so that makes sense, as the nervous system has had all day to warm-up!
-Less cortisol, and as Borer points out in "Advanced Exercise Endocrinology"(Human Kinetics (2013):215), "Optimal adaptations to resistance training occur when an athlete performs training in the late afternoon. At that time exercise-induced increases in testosterone concentration coincide with a circadian DECLINE in concentrations of the catabolic hormone cortisol."
-More distractions and likelihood of less quality of your workout due to these distractions (Work, Kids, Life)
-Busy gym, means less optimized rest periods for muscle building.
-Mental Fatigue due to work/life
-If you've failed to fuel properly, or have had a crappy day, you may be more apt to skip your evening workout.
Do hormones or circadian rhythm play a role in whether or not morning or evening workouts would be more or less beneficial when you're trying to build muscle?
Absolutely! Circadian rhythm plays a huge role in this, especially the ebb and flow of Cortisol and Adrenaline. See answers and references above, or look for Chan & Debono "Replication of Cortisol Circadian Rhythm: New Advances in Hydrocortisone Replacement Therapy" as I believe they have a chart of the changes in cortisol levels through the day". While Testosterone is high in the morning, it's offset by other hormones, such as cortisol, and their negative effects (when it comes to building muscle).
Another great book to read about hormonal changes in the body as it affects metabolic functions in the body is “Maimonides on Metabolism”.
Hormones play a huge role in all this for women, as in the second half of their menstrual cycle called the luteal phase, we see significant changes in the EStrogen and Progesterone levels, which leads to a much more catabolic state, as well as a number of other performance- altering changes, including but not limited to:
-Decreased blood plasma level
-Temperature regulation issues
-Increased perceived exertion
-Trouble holding high intensities
For these reasons, and more, I am a fan of shifting my female athletes in-sport activities to be tempo effort or lower in-sport, and utilizing more strength training during this phase of the cycle. While each athlete responds differently, strength training in this phase has historically worked very well, especially when some changes are made to the pre- para- and post- workout nutritional strategies.
How does what and when you're eating play a role in am vs. pm workouts being more beneficial for building muscle?
As discussed above, fueling for men and women will be different (based off the woman’s menstrual cycle and hormonal changes during the luteal phase) which is a consideration that MUST be heavily taken into account.
Overall, endurance athletes as a whole have over weighted their plates carbohydrates, while neglecting an important macronutrient: Proteins.
Partially because of the myth that simply EATING more protein will lead to big, bulky muscles (LOLZZZ), when in fact, proteins offer the endurance athletes a bevy of positive benefits including helping to stabilize blood sugar.(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12566475 Side note: HOORAY! A study done specifically on women!), and to supply the building blocks necessary to repair the muscle damage done by intensive exercise.
Proteins need to be consumed mid-activity by endurance athletes as well, but should be done via eating REAL, WHOLE foods, as opposed to supplements. In fact, use of supplements in-sport should be significantly limited to when they are needed, and even then one needs to be a very intelligent consumer, electing to read labels, do some research to determine what actually works (SPOILER ALERT meme)....... Spoiler alert, claims on labels are usually poorly supported by actual independent research!
To make it clear, when I use the term “supplements” I am referring to Gels, Chomps, Bars, Chews, Tablets, and anything else that’s been packaged to “aid in performance”. I’d like to go as far as to rain on the parade and tell you that complex carbohydrates are NOT your friend during intensive exercise when you actually need/ want to reach for your back pocket…. The simple sugars of glucose and sucrose are.
For times that you are regularly hitting the weights 2-4 days a week for dedicated 40-60 minutes of strength training, we want to be ingesting 2.2-2.6 grams of protein per kilogram (That’s 1.0-1.2grams of protein per pound)
For times we are looking to maintain lean body mass, we want to be eating 1.75-2.2 grams of protein per kilogram (That’s 0.8-1.0 grams per pound) during ENDURANCE Phases of our training (AKA when you’re not including 3-4 days of strength training in your regimen).
You Read that Right. You need to eat that much protein to maintain your lean, fast body.
These guidelines were once thought of to be bodybuilder amounts of protein, but as any past or current HVT Athlete whose worked with me on their nutrition will tell you, is pretty much around what I’ve been recommending for the last decade +.
That’s a Lot More Protein Than I Eat Now! How Much Protein Can I eat In a Single Meal?
While there still are many preaching no more than 20-25g of protein in a meal “due to the bodies inability to utilize any protein ingested above that amount”, this has actually been shown NOT to be true. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29497353 One should aim for 4 meals a day, with 0.4-0.55g /kg/ meal (Grams of protein, per kilogram, per meal). Obviously this is NOT meant for mid-ride/run/swim, but rather at each of your main meals a day. I do NOT recommend eating that much protein if your meal is less than 2 hours before an endurance workout. Instead it’s better to have a smaller serving of protein (8-12g, dependent on body size and sex) up to 60 min before sport activity of run/bike/swim.
While Meal Timing has been quite popular, it’s actually been found that outside of women in their Luteal phase, meal timing pretty much doesn’t matter, AS LONG AS you are getting adequate protein in your diet (as it pertains to muscle building) (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24299050). Women in the luteal phase MUST eat a mixed-protein meal within 30 minutes of finishing a bout of exercise, in order to help stave off the catabolic effects
What's the most important factor when it comes to building muscle, if not the time of day that you're working out?
1. Consistency- Super underrated. If you want gains, you gotta be consistent!
Strength training for endurance athletes is NOT a “Transition” or “Winter/Base” time of year thing. It is a properly designed year-round endeavour.
2. Nutrition- this MUST be on point to get your body what it needs.
As previously discussed, endurance athletes have a history of shunning the very macronutrient they need to stay strong, lean, and fast. Get your nutrition on point: Food in your pocket (REAL food is better!), Water in your bottle.
3. Recovery- Sleep is a must to allow the body to recover and repair!
Sacrificing an hour of sleep to get another hour in sport is NOT a good long-term solution. If you must get up earlier, get to bed the same amount of time earlier.
4. Ensuring proper training stimulus- Hit the main pathways for muscular growth/ increase muscle strength of: Metabolic stress, Mechanical Tension, Muscle damage. This include in sport and out of sport work. Examples of in-sport include: -Big Ring Overgeared work
-Sprints (with proper recovery)
-Paddle or Pull-buoy work (within reason!)
While I numbered these, EACH INDIVIDUAL should take a look at these 4 things, and order them for themselves. Everyone is different. For the busy executives I train, recovery is often number 1, meanwhile for those looking to put on mass, it's the nutrition AND recovery that they miss. Order these for what makes sense for you RIGHT NOW, and reassess every 2 weeks. Be brutally honest, these are your GAINZ at stake!
Workout when is best and easiest for YOU to be consistent, and that you feel best. Personally, I've never been a morning person. All the way through my post-college years, I would hit the gym around 3pm, before the afternoon rush, and had fantastic results. Once I started working as a Health & Fitness Engineer for Fitness and Wellness companies, that time is filled with meetings....and so I now workout in the mornings, with great results.
The key is to BE CONSISTENT and allow your body to settle into a rhythm. As we saw with Hill et al study in 1998, once you make it a habit, the body WILL adapt.
Make sure you choose a time that will work for you, and allow you to stay consistent. The Rock works out every morning at 4am, regardless of where he is in the world. meanwhile, my friend Ronny works out at 730pm consistently. Both see great results, and find it works best for them. Choose what works best for you, stick with it, and be consistent!
JANUARY 2019 UPDATE:SCIENCE AGREES WITH OUR STANCE ON THIS: TRAIN CONSISTENTLY AT A TIME THAT BEST SUITS YOU!
Spending many hours on the bike leads to a number of adaptations in the body, especially when it comes to muscles and how they act on the joints of the body. Because "Joint position dictates muscle function" this means that many of the muscles in the body will be put into positions on the bike, for long periods of time, that do not allow the muscles to work as intended or designed.
There are a number of factors when it comes to the development of neck pain for riders, but what we'll focus on here are the biggest contributing factors of:
1. Long periods of time on a bike that for most, is not set up to allow them to ride in the most efficient or economic of positions.
2. Awful alignment of the head, diaphragm, and pelvic floor off the bike (due to poor posture and poor balancing of the muscles at the joints)
3. Lack of strength in the trapezius (mid and lower), paraspinal muscles, and deep abdominal musculature (including the pelvic floor)
4. Loss of mobility of the ribs due to poor breathing patterns & bike fit
5. Poor awareness of the role of proper strength and mobility training for cyclists.
Let's do a short breakdown for each of these 5 major contributing factors of neck pain for cyclists, and how to remedy them:
1. Long periods of time on a bike that for most, is not set up to allow them to ride in the most efficient or economic of positions.
While many believe that we can simply jump on a bike and ride, there is actually quite a science, and art, to getting your bike set up properly for you.
Especially for those riding road bikes, having at least a basic bike fit is paramount to allowing you to enjoy your time riding while keeping you from suffering neck, shoulder, and even lower back pain.
There are a number of factors which include:
-proper "reach" (how far forward fo the saddle that the handle bars are)
-proper differential, also known as "drop" (the difference in height between your handlebars and saddle)
-Proper handlebar width (the mid-point of the outer portion of the handlebars should match the distance from Acromial process (the bone on the front of your shoulder) to acromial process (aka your shoulder width)
-Proper handlebar height (This is different than differential, but does have significant impact on differential)
-proper saddle selection (The saddle should support both of your "Sit bones" properly and fully
-Proper handlebar girth (This is especially important for female riders, as due to smaller hands, they should be using Womens Specific Design handlebars which have narrower girth, making them far more comfortable.
-Proper cleat alignment (allowing you to have support, and produce maximal power without compromising your system (body) for power).
While the road bike and time trial bike are the most extreme of positions, Mountain bikes, gravel bikes, and "trail bikes" should also have a basic fit done as well, though these are far less time consuming and cheaper than road bike fits.
Ideally, when a bike is fit properly, one should be able to ride without any tension through their shoulders and hands, along with the saddle supporting around 70% of the riders weight, and the hands supporting roughly 30% of the riders weight for a Road Bike fit.
The shoulders should be relaxed, with the elbows softly bent, and the shoulder blades should be sitting relaxed along the back of the rib cage across ALL bikes and fits, although Time Trial bikes will have variances depending on the athlete.
This last part (elbow and shoulder position) is where we often see riders have gone wrong, as they try to either make a bike that is too big "fit them" or by trying to get "super aero", "slam that stem", or they just don't know any better.
SOLUTION: Before purchasing a bike, the bike shop should do a few basic measurements, including inseam measurements, shoulder width, as well as at least a simple toe-touch test. these will help the shop determine the right size bike frame, as well as handlebar width.
If you already own a bike, especially if you're already having pain or serious discomfort on the bike, head to a reputable bike fitter, with a reputation for quality, and have a basic bike fit done. Be prepared, as you may need to purchase new parts for your bike, such as a saddle, handlebars, seat post, and stem. These are all common items to be changed to allow a rider to ride more comfortably and powerfully.
A proper fit should take at least 45 minutes to an hour, and the fitter should look at your hip and shoulder mobility, as well as look at how you squat, stand, and hinge.
All of the above mentioned effect not only how the muscles work on the bike to steer, support, and help us put out power to the pedals, but also leads us to #2 on our list.
2. Awful alignment of the head, diaphragm, and pelvic floor off the bike (due to poor posture and poor balancing of the muscles at the joints off the bike.)
This one tends be a bit tough, as our sport inherently requires us to be in a cervically extended (head back) position- especially if you're on the road or TT bike. However, this doesn't mean that all is lost.
After one has had a basic bike fit, we are not only able to hold better position on the bike, you'll be able to tilt your pelvis (hip bones) forward while keeping your diaphragm and head in better alignment as you get into the riding position on the hoods, bars, and even the drops. some fitters call this "tilting the cup forward".
SOLUTION: Have a basic bike fit performed, and learn how to rotate the pelvis forward instead of rounding your spine.
This isn't to mean that you won't have to bend forward from the spine at all.... most riders will need to do this in order to ride comfortably. It does mean that you'll be able to move your pelvis to meet the demands the road requires to conquer it, through positioning on the saddle, rotating the pelvis, and thus unlocking the power of your GLUTES!
3. Lack of strength in the trapezius, paraspinal muscles, and deep abdominal musculature (including the pelvic floor)
This is a problem not just for cyclists, but those who sit most of the day, which now days is pretty much everyone!
In order to help us strengthen these muscles, we must first reconnect our brains ability to fire the muscles independently. While many will immediately dive into stretching the tight muscles, this often times makes the issue WORSE, as those muscles are tightening as they are attempting to do their jobs, working against muscle on the other side of the joint which have become shortened and tight due to the positions on the bike.
SOLUTION: Instead of stretching the muscles that are tight, such as the mid-back and upper traps, aim to use the foam roller to release your chest, lats (those big muscles on our sides), along with activation and strength exercises to help you recruit and develop the deep abdomen, and mid back.
Such exercises include the "McGill Crunch" (for your core), 45 degree bench Y's, T's, W's, and L's, as well as Wall Scapular slides can help significantly.
However, we must ensure that we are also coaching the body to retain movements at joints that may have shut down due to tight or weakened muscles, including: Thoracic (rib cage) extension, Shoulder flexion (raising the hand overhead), and Scapular rhythm (movement of the shoulder blade on the rib cage) with shoulder flexion & extension.
This can be done through foam rolling, trigger point therapy (by yourself or by therapist), or manual therapy. The key here is small, consistent amounts of work. Suggested is 30 seconds per location for each side, per day, 5-6 days a week.
4. Loss of mobility of the ribs due to poor breathing patterns & bike fit
This is an area where many individuals, let alone cyclists,don't realize they are putting themselves into a more "fight or flight" mode via poor breathing patterns.
Over time, through riding on the bike for long hours, in mostly closed or fixed positions, muscles such as the intercostals, serratus anterior, pectorals minor, and a number of smaller, supportive muscles tend to shut down, or lose movement, in an effort to stabilize a weakened support system.
Poor bike fit will make this problem much worse, and can lead to other issues later in life, including rounded upper back (kyphosis), increased pressure, wear, and tear on the intervertebral discs (which can lead to arthritis and other joint issues).
SOLUTION: Learning how to breathe, especially via back-body expansion, is incredibly helpful in not only avoiding this issue and relieving neck tightness and pain, but can also allow us to turn-off the fight or flight response off the bike, which can help us attain the "holy grail" for advancing our on-bike abilities: RECOVERY.
We can also help resolve these issues through our last point:
5. Poor awareness of the role of proper strength and mobility training for cyclists.
Cyclists, as a whole, are some of the most historically weak athletes out there, in any sport. I don't mean watts per kilogram. I'm talking about muscle-skeletally.
This is in part due to the misinformation that has proliferated the sport for decades on end, that in order to be a better cyclists you must avoid strength training, as it will have you gaining unnecessary muscle, and slow you down.
Thankfully, in the last 5 years we've seen the cycling community come to it's senses and realize that PROPER strength training can not only help one ride longer, but also significantly improve power output, by balancing the body, and making it possible for higher power output.
While many cyclists believe the strength training for cycling entails squats, lunges, leg press, hamstring curls, and planks, this is not even a snowflake on the tip of the iceberg of what proper Strength Training for cycling must entail.
On the other side of the coin, many believe that simply stretching will help one feel better and be better balanced. unfortunately this isn't true.
Stretching may help the muscle FEEL better, but it's much like putting a single small band aid on road rash that covers your whole hip: it misses the bigger picture.
Muscle have 3 jobs in the body, in this order:
1. To protect a joint
2. To stabilize a joint while an adjacent joint moves
3. To move a joint
When the muscles are tight, they are yelling at us that they are in a poor position and have poor strength with which to do their #1 job. Stretching doesn't address the root of the issue, which is poor muscle balance at that joint. In fact, often times we should be stretching the OPPOSING muscle to that which is tight, and STRENGTHENING the muscle which is tight, after some activation.
SOLUTION: Learning how to build a properly balanced strength training program to include the 5+ 1 fundamental human movements of:
6. Rotary Stability
Along with focus on working the muscles not oft-used in out sport, as well as slowly rebalancing the joints through proper YEAR-ROUND Strength training.
The last part can be far easier than many believe, especially if you take one of my online courses on Training Peaks University:
With the (completely unnecessary) change of the clocks done, and days now longer, the road riding season is in full-swing. While many of us may think that now is the time to "drop strength training" and focus on our riding, this is in fact the OPPOSITE of what you should be doing….especially for those who are looking to perform better this year, than any other year.
This should include pretty much all of you,
Our focus, at this point in the season, should be 70-80% on the bike, with the other 20-30% being on continuing shorter, more focused strength training sessions.
Yes, yes, I know this makes you want to throw your computer or mobile phone against the wall and tell me I'm a blaspheme....but it's true.
But why only 70-80% focus on our Riding/Running/Swimming? Shouldn't that be 100%?
Much of this comes down to how our bodies actually deal with the training stress we place on it when riding, and how we can keep it working in tip-top shape.
WHy Strength Training is pivotal through the season
While riding our bikes is SUPER fun or SUPER PAINFUL (you like it...you know you do...), in order for us to actually get stronger and maximize the training effect from our in-sport training, we have to:
1. Get our recovery on point- EVERYTHING from quality of sleep, nutrition & nutrient timing, and more!
2. Keep our muscles at healthy resting lengths- This happens through a focused and well balanced strength training program, including massage, such as foam rolling.
3. Alternate periods of increasing and decreasing training stress- Commonly called periodization, this is an area that many cyclists & triathletes get carried away with during the warmer days, and often find themselves burned out in late August and early September, just when the weather is at it's best for pushing long distances, they don't want to even look at their bike or running shoes because they're burned out.
4. Continue to stimulate strength training adaptations so we can see even better on bike performance.
Strength training is like any other training, when you remove the stimulus, your abilities will fall, relatively fast. Yet so many cyclists and triathletes drop their strength training as soon as the weather turns, and then wonder why their body isn’t recovering as well between rides, or why their abilities are falling off.
Now don’t get me wrong, you absolutely should be increasing either the quality or the overall quantity of your in sport practices. But it needs to be done intelligently, allowing you to keep RECOVERY as a top goal.
This is the first mistake many of us make: More is more is more is more is more. When the weather gets warmer, we ride way longer. I myself am totally guilty of this in my early days, as looking back on my own training logs I can tell exactly when the weather turned, as my strength training dropped off to 1-2 short sessions a week, while my riding time nearly tripled.
But a large part of what allows us to go out an push ourselves in our sport is the fact that we spend time using a properly built strength training program to allow us to build a better, stronger, and more balanced and resilient body.
The key here is that the Strength Training Program doesn’t simply mimic “Sport specific” positions and demands on the muscles, joints, and fascia. Rather, we want to ensure that it balances out the joint muscle balance, increases our ability to maintain STIFFNESS to CONTROL FORCE, and gives us the ability to direct that force where and when we need it.
If you’d like to learn more about this, take a listen to episode 2 of my podcast “The Strong Savvy Cyclist and Triathlete”
How To Include Strength Training Throughout Your Season
“Put me in coach, I’m ready!”- Ace Ventura
The in-season strength training sessions only need to last about 30-45 minutes, and quite often become the highlights of each week, leaving the athlete feeling refreshed, balanced, and powerful.
The shift from: "NO! NO! NO! I can't Strength train through the season! I'll be slow!"
to 5 weeks later:
"This is the best I've felt and ridden in YEARS!"
always brings a big smile to my face for each athletes that goes through the transformation.
The best part of it all? Your in-season strength training can easily be included in your weekly riding schedule, and you don't necessarily need to head to the gym to do it.
Here's How To Do It:
Look at your weekly schedule. Which are your off days, and which are your shorter ride days?
While we must keep 1 day a week completely off from physical activity/ training, we can use shorter Strength Training sessions (30-45 min) 2-3 days a week.
While it's often thought to separate your strength training and in-sport workouts, it's been my (anecdotal) experience with REAL ATHLETES that doing Strength Training after an in-sport training works well. Especially if the training program is well balanced, and addresses weak areas and movement deficiencies.
KEY POINTS: If you're going to do this, make sure the time between workouts (i.e. changing clothes after a swim.bike) is less than 20 minutes. This will allow the body to "treat" the double session as just one big workout.
15 minutes of super focused work immediately before & 10 minutes AFTER your in-sports sessions, 4-5 days a week.
The 15 minutes before you get on the bike, should be focused on firing up your rotary stability, glutes, and mid back, while the 10 minutes after should focus on hinging, thoracic extension, your glutes, and rotary stability.
While this may seem a bit "weird" it is the consistency of doing the key exercises that will help you stay fit, healthy, and on track to get even better. Simply lifting 1x a week for long periods of time will NOT help your performance continue to build.
While there are times that Strength Training 1x a week may be appropriate (i.e. the Grande Tours), these are exceptions, and usually we’ll want to see the majority of endurance athletes 2x a week with strength training, although those sessions will be only 20-30 min in length, and VERY focused.
If you're getting into your taper time of year (2-5 weeks before your big event), OR if you are a newly minted Cat 1/Pro or World Tour Rider, we will want to do strength training as a separate session completely. Ideally we will want to have 2.5-3 hours in between your on-bike sessions and your strength training sessions. If you fall into this category, you can email me with specific questions.
For everyone else, these 2 options are the way to do it!
This weekend, as I perused the interwebs, I came across a post from a fitness professional whom I thought was brilliant. It read:
Running does not make you stronger, you must be strong to run
Brilliant, and very true.
As one of the great things about the internet, we had some interactions on the post from those who may not have the most up to date information or approaches when it comes to training endurance athletes. Now the thing about this is, that the professional who posted this, is incredibly open minded, welcoming of CONVERSATION, and understanding where others are coming from, so when the following was posted, a conversation was begun:
I don’t think this is correct. None of the best distance runners in the world are strong. They’re light and have great power endurance. But definitely couldn’t be classified as strong by any measurement other than in running terms such as the strength to hold pace while running up a hill. (Again, really power endurance than strength anyway).
Given strength training is likely to make people even bigger, and that ~70% of most western countries are overweight or obese, this is actually only going to compound the problem.
Making yourself bigger to deal with impact forces doesn’t make sense when by making yourself bigger you’re going to have to deal with more impact forces.
What people need to do is shed the excess weight and learn to run well.
Edited to add - don’t disagree that running doesn’t make you strong. But saying you need to get strong to run is as ridiculous as saying you need to run to get strong. And we’d all recognise the fact of that.
And a second post from the individual (after the fitness pro stated that she is talking about the AVERAGE runner, not necessarily the top in the world), and that strength training can be done without much hypertrophy, to which the response was:
Good thing you both explained the difference between strength training and hypertrophy to me. I had no idea! (sarcasm).
If you're going to use someone as a strength example, I wouldn't pick the guy who half squats 40kg and actually does circuit training as my example :)
While the answer for each athlete will ALWAYS be IT DEPENDS, the stance that this individual took- that runners are weak and strength training would hurt their sport performance due to hypertrophy- is incredibly prevalent in the fitness industry, and even with some performance coaches.
THIS IS A BIG PROBLEM. And is in fact one of the biggest obstacles that we MUST get past if we are to unlock the human being’s full abilities to perform in endurance sports.
The vast majority of runners out there,ESPECIALLY those at the amateur levels, NEED a properly designed strength training program to help them maintain good posture, muscular balance at the joints, to help them deal with the forces in their sport, and to keep the joints of the spine, hips, knees, and feet from taking unnecessary strain due to insufficient muscular strength and poor posture.
“STRONG” is all RELATIVE to what that athletes needs are.
Runners, as a whole, do NOT need to be moving heavy weights, although “heavy” (relative to that athlete’s abilities) must be included at certain points in the training program to elicit best results.
So today’s post is a sharing of what current best practices are, and WHY strength Training for runners is a MUST, as well as why when compared to other sports athletes, the raw numbers for runners SHOULD be lower, but that does not mean they are weak. Rather, they are SPECIALIZED to perform in their unique sports demands.
The following is my response to this individuals post:
Yes, you are correct that learning how to actually run properly will be a huge boost to the runners abilities. This too, as much as proper strength training for runners, is way too often neglected or overlooked.
Yet one cannot simply state that strength training for runners will slow them down or cause them to not perform in their sport. That statement is ignorant, and is in fact one of the biggest reasons why so many runners continue to be plagued by injuries that can, and should be, prevented with basic strength training done on a consistent basis.
Many professional runners are incredibly weak to the point they are useless outside of their running, in an UNHEALTHY fashion, Ryan Hall himself publicly stated this:
Speaking as one who has worked for over a decade in Strength Training for endurance athletes at all levels, it’s been my experience, and is my expert opinion, that strength training is an absolute MUST for runners, alongside technique refinement and tissue-quality training (these 3 go hand in hand in hand).
HOWEVER, your statement above of:
"If you're going to use someone as a strength example, I wouldn't pick the guy who half squats 40kg and actually does circuit training as my example."
Your thought process follows the "classic American thinking" that lifting weights will automatically lead to body-builder type muscle growth, or unnecessary muscle growth. This is ignorant, and follows a very shallow thought process of "what strength training is", as well as what “STRONG” is or needs to be.
While adding body building style muscle mass can be the case when someone follows a strength program that does not suit their sports needs/demands, the thought that "muscular hypertrophy as a result of strength training is unnecessary" is, in fact, incorrect, as there are 2 types of muscle hypertrophy:
When strength training for endurance sports, we actually are programming for myofibrillar hypertrophy (the contractile parts of the muscle themselves), allowing for very dense muscles, and for the muscles and tendons to be able to carry good muscle tension.
While this will usually lead to increase in weight, when done properly and in the correct proportion, it actually leads to a better overall functioning athlete; in sport and out.
Again, I must stress, WHEN DONE PROPERLY.
Programming is where many endurance athletes and well-meaning fitness professionals go awry, and ultimately leave strength training due to unwanted results (muscle mass, or increased strength with decreased results).
Hypertrophy is, in fact a part of the correct process with which to progress endurance athletes in strength:
1. Anatomical Adaptation
3. Max Strength
4. Conversion to sport specificity
5. in-season maintenance
IF we want to get into the issue of half-squats vs. full squats, we can certainly do so:
The 1/4 squats, as per your citation of Mo Farrah and your dismissal of his half squatting and circuit training as not "really" being strength training, is one of the major obstacles that the general strength training community need to wrap their heads around if we are to truly allow strength training for endurance athletes to move forward and help us unlock the full human potential in these events.
1/4 squatting, while you seem to dismiss it, is in fact completely sport-specific to these athletes, as with proper running form the hip and leg is put through a 1/8-1/10 of a full squatting motion with each footstrike. Thus 1/4 squatting for runners, is essentially the equivalent of "ass to grass" squats for olympic lifters- it is BOTH necessary for their in-sport success, and to strength the tissues and muscles through the ranges of motion (and then some) required by their sport.
Add into the equation the fact that "ass to grass" squatting and Deadlifting off the floor are not requirements by any means for someone to see sport success- UNLESS they are an olympic lifter (in the case of squatting) or powerlifter (in the case of deadlifting off the floor), and we can now begin to better understand how "partial lifts" are in fact strength training in ways that will significantly help these athletes.
"Assess the athlete's sport needs and demands, and build your programming to meet and even slightly exceed these demands" is a basic principle when it comes to programming. Do not forget or neglect this, as if you do, you will simply be burning the athletes mental and physical energies in ways that will hinder their progress, not propel them forward.
We want to be as efficient as possible in our programming in sport and out, allowing for the least amount of energy and effort being put forth, in order to see the sport result we are after. THAT is the true secret to the top coaches and athletes accomplishments!
As per your issue with circuit training, this actually goes back to what Verkhoshansky pushed in his foundational book "Super training" as the primary mode of strength training for strength-endurance:
Timed sets (2-4+ min in length) with 20-40% of estimated 1RM with multiple exercises formed in a fashion that most replicate the athletes sport demands, with timed rest periods.*
This serves multiple purposes, as the building of athletic performance, and not simply strength for strengths sake, is actually built upon 4 pillars which MUST be addressed through proper training:
1. Cardiorespiratory fitness
2. Neuromuscular Fitness
4. Metabolic Demands
Doing strength training for many top-level endurance athletes in a timed set, circuit fashion, actually allows for the 4 pillars of athletic progression to be simultaneously built, thus allowing for the maximum effectiveness to be elicited by a single strength training session. (See above about how training must be energy and time efficient)
This is in fact, in my opinion, an optimal way for an endurance athlete at Mo's level to train. For the “average runner" however, it depends, and more often then not, we will be focused more on building baseline strength and balance of the muscles at each the joints.
Some of your "average runners" will need to focus more on the myofibrillar hypertrophy and max strength end of things, as they build up not only the muscular strength to deal with the forces demanded on the body by their sport, but also the tissue qualities needed to be able to use less muscular force, and more of the "spring" supplied by building up of tissue qualities over time, such as the fascia and tendons.
It is NOT size nor the total weight one can lift that most endurance athletes need to have their programming seek after.....rather, it is the ability of the body to produce and maintain muscle tension and "tuning", and inter & intramuscular coordination which will allow them to execute the long-duration of repetitive movements in their sport that will ultimately propel them to success.
In that case, you are correct, endurance athletes "Max strength" abilities pale in comparison to other sport athletes....but then, it SHOULD. Yet you cannot discount their needing strength training simply because their raw numbers are low! This would be, and is, a huge mistake!
As you so pointed out, it is their strength endurance and power endurance that they need to build atop the platform of Strength, not strength for strength sake. So yes, runners are weak compared to other athletes, if we look at raw numbers. But they should be.
All this being said, your simply writing off "strength training for runners", as well as the style of strength training selected, is a huge mistake and one that is incredibly pervasive in most peoples current thinking on strength training for endurance athletes. It is a HUGE impediment to our unlocking the development of the best human abilities in the endurance sport abilities.
This includes "Half squatting" and "circuit training" as being "bad", as you seem to be hinting to in your post.
There is a correct time and place for different kinds of training, and in this case these ARE appropriate and very specific to this athlete, and where he is (based on what information is available to the public about this athlete, and having never met him, or assessed him).
This is EXACTLY the kind of thinking that is so prevalent across the fitness industry, and even with some performance coaches. As Lee Taft said in his interview with me on my Podcast "The Strong Savvy Cyclist and Triathlete", We really are barely even beginning to tap into the performance gains that strength training offers runners....
This kind of thinking: that 1/4 squats and circuit training "aren't really strength training" and that "strength training will only slow runners down because they'll put on unnecessary size" is holding us back from truly unleashing top-human performances, and is hurting our clients- literally - as many of the common injuries sustained by runners could be avoided through simple, short, consistent strength routines done at home, or at the gym.
*Verkhoshansky recommended 40-60% of e1RM with 25-40 reps per set, 2-4 sets per exercise with 1-2 minutes rest in between. The sets should take 80-150 seconds to complete, with the speed being 6-80% of max speed per rep, with 8-14 sessions per week.
Over the course of my career I have found the 2-4 minute sets with 20-40% of e1RM to have high success with endurance athletes in fewer sessions per week, usually due to life and time constraints.
***To begin 2018 I'm trying a less formal blog-post format, more "what's on my mind" posts than "planned and researched" posts, although we will have a good number of those. Let me know what you think of the new format in the comments below!***
As those in the Northeast bunker down for the next 2.5 months of winter (sorry all, I think it'll be the end of March this year folks), one thing that I'm happy for, aside from a great Islay Scotch and my Chemex Coffee maker, are my collection of Kettlebells.
Why do I love the Kettlebells so much? Because they serve us endurance athletes to a high degree. Just one or two Kettlebells of varying weights allows us to add external resistance to some basic moves we should be able to master, or at least take time to work on, in order to keep our body in a happy balance.
These moves are:
Strength Training for Cycling: The Eastern Squat (Cycling Tips) - YouTube
Kettlebell swing (these are killer!)
Bent over rows/ supported rows
These 4 movements allow us to have a fighting chance to make significant strides towards balancing out our bodies hip and shoulder joints- two joints that are often made a train wreck thanks to the sport of cycling hours on end in a closed-off position.
They are a fantastic way to begin to work on maximizing your on-bike performance, although there is much more that goes into a properly balanced Strength Training program of cyclists.... But you'll have to stay tuned for more on that!
Don't forget to subscribe to the HVTraining Youtube channel for some really interesting and higher level videos on how to tune in your Nutrition so you can maximize your on-bike results. We'll be covering a nutrition topic that many endurance athletes have been neglecting over the last 10 or so years....
With the Road Cycling season all wrapped up with a pink bow and the colder, short days of winter upon us in the Northern Hemisphere, many endurance athletes are now looking to “Get lean” as they head into their base period.
Again and again the most common advice to those who are looking to “lean out” is to “ride more...a lot more”, and “create a caloric deficit of 300-500 calories a day”. While this advice is essentially the foundations “common knowledge” of how to get leaner, there are actually a few more details that you MUST know, before you start your leaning out journey, especially if you want to get lean AND fast.
What I’m about to share with you may blow your mind, so make sure you have your brain strapped in, and on lock-down….
“If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” -Yogi Berra
The research is in, and thanks in large part to Alan Aragon and his massive effort to spearhead a meta-analysis of all the weight-loss study data out there, we know a few truths:
1. Caloric Deficit is a must - While this is the current widely accepted view, I’m not so sold on it, and emerging research is suggesting that this may not be the way to go for healthy, fit individuals. And in fact, caloric deficit may put you at risk for lowering your Resting Metabolic Rate, and causing you to struggle more with your weight in the future! (but we’ll save that for another post)
2. High protein (1.6+g/kg) is a key to weight loss success, for numerous reasons
Endurance athletes have historically been on high carb, low protein and fat diets. This causes problems on a number of fronts. Especially for females in the Luteal Phase of their cycle, days 15-28, who need 1.8-2.0g/kg of protein to help maintain an anabolic state, and to be able to recover from their workouts- especially those which are strength workouts, or more muscularly challenging workouts (such as big-ring endurance, low cadence work, or sprint work).
Sports Nutrition: Protein Requirement Differences Between Men & Women - YouTube
3. High protein intake during caloric deficit periods serve to help preserve muscle mass
Lose fat + keep your POWER! This is where so many endurance athletes go awry and lose massive amounts of power when trying to “lean out” to boost their watts per kilogram. We live in (endurance) sports where for the past ump-teenth years we have been pushed carbs, carbs, carbs, in an unhealthy and unbalanced way….
4. The higher the % of Body Fat the individual starts with, the higher the caloric deficit may be imposed..... BUT...the vast majority of us are not in a high enough body fat % class to need or want a high calorie deficit! For those men over 18% Body fat, and women over 32% body fat, this (caloric deficit route) can make sense- for a little while, at the beginning of your fitness journey, but it must be changed as you get closer to a healthy body composition, and/or aim for more PERFORMANCE oriented goals!
5. Slower rates of fat loss better preserve lean muscle mass Ummmm, Duh? If you try to lose a bunch of weight quickly, especially via caloric deficit, the body is going to shed fat mass AND Muscle, something we very much want to avoid as athletes seeking to boost our performances, not simply see the scale go down.
6. Using Weight Training to help balance out the body and increase your ability to produce power is key Yes, If you are looking to “lean out” for the upcoming season, your best bet is to get a well designed strength training program, increase your protein intake, and be more laser focused with the riding you’re doing, allowing you to get the most out of your time riding…..so that you can increase the amount go sleep you get each night by 20-60 minutes, and to get in 3-4x a week 30-60 min strength training sessions.
Your pathway to being lighter, faster, leaner is:
Better Nutrition to support your training + recovery
Strength training appropriately for your goals, to include the FUNdamental 5+1 movements. (Push, Pull, Squat, Hinge, Press, + Rotary Stability)
How do we make this work in sports that are so highly carb reliant, and that we must consume carbohydrates immediately post 2- hour + longer bouts of exercise?
First, we must recognize the importance of protein in the average endurance athletes diet. In order to maintain lean muscle mass we must ensure we are consuming enough protein to match and EXCEED our demands. This is one area that many cyclists mess up, as they are SO focused on carbohydrates, they neglect to get even close to 1g of protein per kg of bodyweight in their daily diet.
This creates an environment which is incredibly frustrating for the athlete, as they see the number on the scale go down….but so do their power numbers. I should know, not only have I been there (twice) in my career, but I’ve had a number of athletes (cyclists and triathletes) seek me out to help them recover/bounce back from this very problem.
The number on the scale IS important, no doubt. Especially if you’re heading to an international 3 day stage race with tons of climbing, and including a hill-climb TT as the first stage, or a race that has brutal amounts of climbing, such as the famous Tour of Tucker County …. But outside of these super-hilly occasions (for amateur athletes), as long as we are supporting the muscle mass that is producing your power and strength on the bike, we are ok at a slightly heavier weight…. It all depends on where you are in your season, your strengths and weaknesses, and more, but that’s another post.
This doesn’t mean that we just accept your weight, but rather that we take a look a few months before peak race time, to figure out what your watts/kg needs will be for your peak race’s demands are, how your POWER PROFILE looks in comparison to those needs, and look to SLOWLY (See #5 on Alan’s list) decrease your fat mass, while improving, or at the very least, maintaining your power output.
From here, here we work together to come up with a nutrition gameplan, seeking to break up your protein intake over 4-5 meals a day, depending on your lifestyle, training regimen, and time of year (Annual Training Plan). I prefer athletes aim for 20-30g of protein per meal, depending on sex, eating habits, and dietary preferences. While you may be doing the math and saying “Hey! That doesn’t hit my goal of 1.6g of protein per kg!” These meals simply serve as anchors for your nutrition, and will allow you to hit the mark via your mid-training nutrition, and snacks throughout the day. Which is actually far easier to do than you think. It just takes a little planning ahead.
Why are endurance athletes scared about eating protein as it is?
Much of this has to do with the sports supplementation business for cyclists and triathletes that has been built over the last 25 years. So much focused is on Carbs, carbs, carbs, that proteins get lost in the shuffle, as do fats.
This is NOT to say that you should be drinking a protein shake while out on the bike, but it is to say that much of what we have been fed (literally) is that we need carbs only when we’re in our sport.
While carbohydrates are the PRIMARY fuel for humans during endurance activity, we still need to ingest some fats and proteins on the bike (for cycling and triathlon). This is why so many teams give the riders REAL foods in those fancy musette bags out on the race course.:
From peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or tortilla rolls, to prosciutto, you can find a whole array of REAL foods in the Pro peloton.
YES, sports supplements like Gels and chews have their place, but they should be used at the RIGHT time, not ALL the time. (Of note, I RARELY use these in training, and the few kinds I do use or recommend, are NOT what you’d expect- They’ve got simple sugars like Glucose and Sucrose in them GASP!…. Yes in sport, during intensity this IS ok….PREFERABLE even!!!)
But what is it that scares endurance athletes about eating proteins?
It’s this asinine fear of turning into a bodybuilder, and the B.S. association we have with simply eating protein and instantly becoming bigger, more muscular athletes.
Let me share with you something: I’ve been on both sides of the coin- Trying to put on lean muscle mass for the Mr. Pittsburgh natural bodybuilding competition back in the early 2000’s, and then a few years later getting as light as possible so as to ride the bike faster/stronger.
IT’S HARD TO PUT ON LEAN MUSCLE MASS. EVEN WHEN YOU WANT TO!
The amount of strength training you have to do PLUS how much you have to limit the cycling you do (limited to less than 6 hours a week), and as an endurance athlete who is actually training the MINIMUM amount of time you need to get stronger/faster…. Oh, and the amounts of food you have to eat? You’re literally stuffed throughout every day?
So get it out of your head that eating 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight will make you massive. I can pretty much guarantee that unless you’re hitting the weights 3-4 days a week and only cycling at endurance for 4-5 hours a week, that it ain’t gonna happen.
What WILL happen is you’ll see better recovery times from your riding, as well as fewer crash-cravings throughout the day, thanks to the blood glucose stabilizing effects of protein.
If I am going to go the Caloric Deficit path, how much of a calorie deficit to we need?
OK, so if I’ve failed thus far in my post to get you to understand that going into a caloric deficit when you’re a strapping, fit cyclist or triathlete who is looking to get leaner and faster for next season is NOT the way to get where you need, then the least I can do is give you some training wheels so you don’t completely blow your season up…
When it comes to caloric deficit, we are essentially seeking around 200-500 calorie/day deficit to help drop off the extra fat mass. But before you go jumping into the deep end of the 500 calorie/day, we need to first weight a few things:
How long do you have to lose this weight. As per item #5 on the list, we essentially are seeking slow, longer term weight loss, versus immediate or fast weight loss.
There are a number of reasons for this, which we’ll cover in brief/bullet points for the sake of brevity for today’s post. - Hormonal balance, as fat helps with hormone production and balance in the body - Immune system support, as fats help support the immune system with building blocks needed - Recovery, fat is stored energy and allows the body to pull “resources” as needed in order to help the body recover from training…. This ties into the first two here, as hormones help with recovery/balance, and if we’re sick, we’re screwed.
How do you plan on losing weight Do you plan on seeing some muscle mass loss as well due to your previous football playing/muscle beach years? Or are you seeking to keep your lean muscle mass and simply lean out a bit more as the season progresses?
Is this your first time losing a significant amount of bodyweight? This is something I saw a lot when I was working as the Exercise Physiologist for the Bariatric Surgery group: many patients came to us because they had tried, and failed numerous times before. While a larger part of weight loss and body composition change has to do with lifestyle, another significant factor is how much weight you’re seeking to lose, and if you’ve been on the dieting yo-yo in the past.
Our body likes to try to keep things at a homeostasis, or balance, this means that rapid fluctuations in weight can throw the body into a bit of panic mode, as things are “out of sorts”. This, along with behaviour change, are big parts as to why slow weight loss/ body composition change are best.
What are your performance goals? If you’re simply looking to lean out and are ok with losing some power, a caloric deficit of 200-350 calories a day can possibly work for you. Usually those who elect to go this route and whoa re happy with the results, are those seeking to simply complete a long charity ride, such as the MS150, over mountainous terrain.
But if that’s not the kind of rider/racer that you are, know that simply putting yourself into a caloric deficit can screw with your resting metabolic rate, which for active individuals seeking performance gains may NOT be the best thing (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6088538/).
While this is another post in and of itself, in short, decreasing your Resting Metabolic Rate (which can happen due to practicing caloric deficit over time) may negatively effect the bodies ability to perform, as the decrease in energy demands may come from a loss of fat free mass (muscle) which may be used to help the individual perform, or the metabolic (energy) precesses in the body going through significant changes- which may not be good.
Although, if we can include 2-3 days a week strength training appropriately within your training, with moderate to heavy weights, and get in the appropriate amount of proteins and fats along with carbs a day, we CAN see faster fat loss….AND BETTER ON BIKE PERFORMANCES!
How do we maximize this information? (Strength Training in transition/base)
There are a few ways one can utilise this information to help lean out relatively fast, and to maintain your power.
1. Ensure that you are fueling enough for your training. This may seem pretty obvious, but so many riders mess this up.
While trying to hit daily calorie deficits they short themselves on calories, see their weight come up, assume that they are still eating too much and so eat even less….leading down the slippery slope of overreaching and under fueling: a true recipe for frustration, fatigue, burnout, and if you’re lucky enough to make it to the season- a miserable season.
If you’re not sure about how much you need to eat, check out this video. It shares with you the metabolic equation that is the most accurate, and take into account lifestyle, and daily activities beyond training- something many “quick BMR calculators” neglect.
You’ll need a few minutes, as well as a scientific calculator, but the extra time and attention to detail is WELL worth it!
Expert's Weight Loss Equation: How much do you need to eat to support training while losing weight? - YouTube
If you’d rather not have to do the work yourself, you can simply find an RD/LD, or a Precision Nutrition Certified Coach to help you start to guide your macronutrient intakes to be on point with your needs and demands, as well as help you determine if caloric deficit will work best for you.
2. And finally, the timing of protein intake isn’t as paramount as had previously been believed, and isn’t as vital for endurance athletes immediately after cardiovascular training (again, duh).
BUT, there is an important exception to this rule!
Women in the second half of their menstrual cycle. They DO need to eat a mixed protein meal, with 15-25g of protein within 30 min of finishing their exercise bout, to help negate the catabolic state their body is in, due to hormonal changes. This is of paramount importance!
There is a lot to consider when we are looking to get leaner and faster at any point of the year. But in my 10+ years of coaching cyclists and triathletes from around the globe, I’ve seen almost as many seasons self-sabotaged in the base period due to shotty nutrition as they try desperately to “lose 2-4kg”, as I have seen athletes burn their best efforts “Just testing out my fitness” in the 7-10 days before their key event.
Don’t ruin your season trying to get leaner and skimping on the things that will TRULY help you be better next year:
1. Recovery from this past season
2. Learning and starting better stress management
3. Proper Nutrient Intake/balace
4. Strength Training for cycling and triathlon, which are properly built for performance results
What did you find most shocking?
Have you made any serious mistakes in your previous base periods? Share below in the comments!
Whether you love them, or hates them, E-bikes are EVERYWHERE.
Here in Tel Aviv, where I’ve made my main base the last 6 years (easier and cheaper to get to Europe to coach riders & train), E-bikes have been quickly adopted and become relied upon for transportation by a growing number of people, mostly “non-cyclists”.
Moving from Pittsburgh, Pa, to Tel Aviv was quite a culture change in itself, but add in the huge European influence on the culture, along with the fact that it’s a beach city and Tel Aviv is bound to have bikes galore (which it does). And it was a bit of a dream until 2015, when E-bikes first started to make their appearance on the roads and bike paths here.
But E-bikes have been getting a really bad rap from those of us who ride push-pedal bikes regularly. Yes, I felt very negative about E-bikes myself as well the first few months E-bikes were becoming popular (don’t even get me started on the E-scooters!), but much of my opinion was formed based on the fact that those riding the e-bikes had ZERO bike handling skills, were extremely dangerous to others on the bike path/ road due to their scoff-law behaviors (blatantly running red lights at high rates of speed, weaving in traffic, texting or on phone calls while riding, etc), and the fact the E-bikers were riding at speeds far faster than the riders understand how to safely handle their bikes.
Oh yeah, and it sucked a lot to get passed (the first few times) by someone casually drinking a latte, while I’m fighting a headwind with my power in the mid-300’s, barely able to keep
But like many things technological in my life, I forced myself to take a step back and look at how we (Coaches) can USE E-bikes to improve fitness abilities, and to make our athletes EVEN STRONGER, FASTER, AND MORE POWERFUL. Below is what I’ve come up with so far, and I think it’s a very strong case for us push-peddlers to embrace E-bikes, as E-bikes can serve quite a few important, if not integral, purposes in our riding lives.
Touring, Boost, or Turbo?
While the E-bikes that have geometry similar to folding bikes are an exception to this, I DO see power-boost Mountain bikes and Road bikes as quickly becoming a way for coaches and athletes to better control training stress on scheduled recovery days or long endurance days, where cutting an athlete’s ride at a specific point may be incredibly necessary, but not feasible (think Kilojoule rides, and taper Target TSS/Intensity Factor rides). In my opinion, using E-bikes in this fashion can be HUGE and can significantly boost riders performances, when done properly.
Much like the use of ERG mode on the trainer (pretty much the deciding factor for why I purchased a CompuTrainer in the 2nd year of my business), or simply using the trainer for specific workouts to ensure that the necessary work is done in a controlled fashion, the use of E-bikes in this fashion is a COMPLETE GAME CHANGER.
One of the biggest struggles coaches (and self-coached riders) have, is keeping training stress in check for those weeks where we are pushing the upper limits of our abilities. It’s during these weeks that we are walking the tightrope of seeing immense training benefits, or getting sick and losing fitness+ training time due to being sick.
Use of the E-bikes for group rides, endurance & recovery rides, and even for high-intensity interval rides that require us to go a bit further away from home than is ideal, makes total sense:
- Bob decided he wants to drop the hammer at the furthest point from home? No problem!
- No time to drive halfway out to where the ideal intervals are to be done? No problem!
- A friend is in town and wants to ride for 2 hours, but you have a 60 min recovery ride? No Problem!
- Finished your prescribed KJ’s but still an hour out from home thanks to big headwinds? No problem!
- Finished the first day of a stage race, but want to go to the best restaurant in town, which of course is a 30 minute ride away via car, but just 10 min by bike? No problem!
-Your ideal training grounds for your 75 minute high intensity interval session is a 40 minute bike ride each way, with nowhere to warm-up if you drive there, and nowhere else to park on the way? No problem!
Bring your significant other too!
Some riders prefer to keep the riding with their significant other to a minimum, as it’s your own private time/space, while others enjoy having their significant other along for a ride to share the experience.
For those who want to share their riding lives/experiences, another huge opportunity I see with e-bikes, is the newfound ability to go out for an endurance ride with your significant other without having to worry that the pace will be too slow or fast (depending which one of you is in your race calendar).
It really does bring a whole new level of enjoyment to riding together, as you no longer have to worry (as much) about the pace, or seeing that scheduled “together ride” as a loss of a training day (which I disagree with, but I digress).
RIDING AN E-BIKE FOR THE FIRST TIME | Ep 28 - YouTube
On my side of things, this E-bikes allow me to keep up with my stronger riders (working with pro riders is fun, but I have my own limits, and you cannot take the scooter on bike paths…) allowing me to stay focused on COACHING them, not having to worry about redlining and dropping myself from the days workout, and opening up a lot more safe training grounds since we are not tied to where the motorized scooter can go.
The biggest opportunity for e-bikes for a serious rider
While the above are all big, big opportunities to take advantage of E-bikes, I think thy pale in comparison to the biggest one of all:
The ability for an injured athlete to get out and ride with their friends.
Of course this needs to be done within reason, and with a careful, thought out plan (aka don’t go out on your E-bike if you just had collarbone surgery!). I have had many riders come to work with me after being injured and unable to get back to riding. Return form injury can be a long, hard journey, and often times leaves us isolated from our friends.
Not being able to go out and enjoy time with your friends on the bike makes one feel isolated, more lonely, and can delay our recovery time due to loss of motivation or even depression. E-bikes can allow a rider the opportunity to “get out with friends”, even if just for a short 20-30 minute "ride over to the local cafe. Again, this needs to be done CAREFULLY, and cautiously. But when done correctly, this can turbocharge ones emotional and mental state, as connection to the group/friend remains strong.
I see a HUGE opportunity in E-bikes for those who are forward thinking to have an incredibly positive impact on what we can achieve for ourselves, or those we coach. Of course, as always, there will be those who try to exploit E-bikes in ways that are far from the air of good sportsmanship, yet we cannot allow those individuals to drive what we think of this new piece of technology.
It’s my belief that we can, and should, embrace E-bikes and their utility to the sport. Leverage for learning bike-handling skills is increased with the E-bike as well, something which EVERY cyclists and triathlete should be doing on a regular basis. (You want to go fast and be safe? LEARN HOW TO HANDLE YOUR BICYCLE!).
With greater power (speed) comes more responsibility"
Taking Technology and using it to help the athletes I work with see better fitness & performance results is one of the main pillars on which I’ve built HVT the last 12 years, and is something I’ll continue to do. From being an early adopter of Strava and Zwift, to LEOMO, Morpheus, and Vi by Lifebeam, I greatly enjoy figuring out how and when to take the newest advances in fitness technology to boost athlete performance and recovery.
Bonus section: The average e-bike commuter
The E-bikes those who use them for transportation aren’t made for much more than driving in a straight line, at relatively high levels of speed (25-40kph).
Add to this the fact that 99% of those who are riding these E-bikes have absolutely zero bike handling skills or understanding of how to deal with obstacles or hazards that they may come upon, and we have a recipe for trouble. (Most roadies/ cyclists who ride 3-5 days a week on their own don’t have very good bike handling skills around other riders. This is something I feel strongly needs to be changed, and that more riders should practice bike handling at least 20 minutes a week… but that’s just me.)
Combine the above with the fact that many e-bike users don’t seem to understand basic driving laws (or at least have any desire to follow them), and we have what my Russian friends call a “Balagaan”, which means a “Huge giant mess” / Cluster F**K.
For those using E-bikes for commuting, please keep in mind the bikes are NOT built for turning/handling, but for speed in one direction: Forward.
Let other riders know you’re coming up on them
Don’t text and ride
Don't phone and ride
As always, Train Smarter, Not Harder & Stay safe, because it’s all about YOU.
Is Strength Training for Cyclists and Triathletes really as simple as Squat, Deadlift, Bench Press, Pullups, and Rows?
Or perhaps you’re thinking: Lunges, Squats, Hamstring Curls, and Front Planks?
Despite Strength Training for the mainstream population having made large strides forward in the last 10 years, the cycling and triathlon communities seem to be joining the late 70’s and 80’s mentality of strength training:
”Yeah, it’s important, and I’m doing some lifts that feels good to what matters to me.”
While this is definitely better than the old mentality of “Strength Training isn’t for cyclists and triathletes, it will ruin your in-sport abilities”, we are still a long way off the path of truth, when it comes to proper programming for in-sport success.
There are a lot of different pieces that we MUST take into consideration before jumping into our strength training. Today’s post will cover one of the biggest considerations that EVERYONE must take into account as they begin strength training for cycling or triathlon:
Use of Corrective Exercises in their programming
This past weekend I was reading this Outside Magazine Article on “Top Fitness Trends for 2019” While I usually read these for entertainment value, Matt Fitzgerald’s guess that “Corrective Exercises will go mainstream, especially for endurance athletes” got me pretty excited. This is something that I’ve been teaching to my athletes at HVT the last 11 years, and which I had the opportunity to share with other coaches in my USA Cycling Coaching Summit Presentations. Understanding and implementing the use of Corrective Exercises as a major keystone in my programming has allowed me to help many athletes around the world unlock abilities they had, which they thought were impossible to attain, or which they thought they would never reach due to previous injury or dysfunction.
Today I aim to answer the questions of:
Why are corrective exercises so important, especially for endurance athletes?
What do we need to consider when it comes to strength training as an endurance athlete?
I hope this post helps you understand the pivotal role these exercises, and a properly designed strength training program for cyclists and triathletes, serve you. (If any of you know Matt and can get this in front of him, please give him a huge high five from me…he can even pretend to be Charlie in the GIF).
Our sport has us in a scrunched up, unnatural position
This means that we cannot, and should not walk into a gym, hire a “regular” personal trainer, who will have us simply jump into Barbell Squats, Deadlifts, and Bench Presses. There MUST be a ramp into your Moderate to Heavily Weighted Strength movements, anywhere from 2-4 weeks, depending on how far developed/ how bad your movement deficiencies and imbalances are.
This is something that is so often overlooked, in part because I think many trainers feel that they NEED to have you leave each session “feeling something”. It’s quite understandable, as having athletes/clients leave “because the sessions were too easy”, and their not understanding the bigger picture, is a real challenge.
But hey! We’re athletes! We can handle it! Just give us some weights and we’ll figure it out!
This mentality often leads to MANY injuries and issues for the vast majority of cyclists and triathletes over the age of 25.
However, a great trainer will have you start off with a movement assessment- NO this is NOT a Weighted Repetition Maximum assessment! Rather this is you going through a number of different movements, to assess where and when you lose stability of the moving parts, as well as help understand what muscles are tight, and not doing their job correctly.
These movement assessments can vary in their execution, from the FMS to simple Range of motion tests, but here at Human Vortex Training I’ve developed my own assessment process, which gets updated as things appear that are more valuable, or of use. No two assessments are the same, as the order of when the movements are done can affect how the body moves, and there are always a few pieces that are added or moved around to get the most out of the assessment for that particular athlete.
Single leg hip lift and Hip lift Assessment - YouTube
2. Simply throwing load/ a bar/ moderately heavy weights around is NOT an option
Or at least, it shouldn’t be at the very beginning. That is, if you want to stay healthy and injury free….
This is possibly one of the biggest points of education for most riders and triathletes I work with, and one of the many reasons I love resistance bands and TRX almost as much as I love Kettle Bells. We can add resistance to help the athlete improve and strengthen the movement, but not so much we push the upper limits of what their connective tissues, joints, and fascia can handle at the time.
As cyclists (and triathletes) we’re athletes who LOVE pushing our limits, but jumping right into moderate to heavy weights isn’t the brightest idea, as our sport (cycling) is a non-impact, non-weighted sport, and one in which the connective tissues do not have to bear weight more than our own bodyweight. This means that the connective tissues, joints, fascia, and muscles themselves need a little time to prepare to move under more stress. (Triathletes DO get impact via running, but the equation doesn’t change a huge amount).
Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean we only do body weight exercises when starting. Rather, it means that the first 2-3 weeks will be more oriented towards the used of bodyweight, band resistance and lighter weight exercises.
This is a fantastic way for the body to get used to the new movements, new loading patterns, and to help us work on common weaknesses that cyclists and triathletes tend to face.
We want to figure out how the body is moving, WHY it’s moving that way, and then look to find the best tool possible to help that athlete move better. No, this doesn’t mean throwing on knee sleeves and a band around the athletes knees while they squat because their knees cave in!
We’re cyclists and triathletes! This is an adaptation to the position we’re in on the bike- our main sport!
The glute medius (in particular) is probably under-developed, and the glute max is used to working in a lengthened position…These muscles, and those that serve supporting roles in the squat motion, must be re-educated as to what they’re role is OFF the bike.
Take the bar off the athletes back, get them doing some breathing exercises to help them learn to move their ribs, diaphragm, and pelvic floor appropriately, and get down to business on the Internal Obliques + Glutes, teaching them to work together to stabilize the hips while they move…
You can (and in my opinion, should) use Goblet Squats to help get some load. Goblet Squats are quite under-rated, as they are very difficult to execute properly for most cyclists & triathletes, and allow for massive bang for your buck. We’ll save that for another post.
3. Joint Position Dictates Muscle Function
Those of you whom have already taken my “Strength Training for Triathlon Success” Course will remember this very vividly, as it is one of the big take-home messages from the course.
Helping the muscles return to proper resting lengths and more appropriate strength proportions to one another, is a key component of unlocking your best performances. This is why “Corrective exercises” must be included in any and every strength training program for Cyclists and Triathletes (and, well, everyone). Yet, they are often the first thing to be dropped, that is if they’re programmed at all.
What’s interesting about “Corrective” or “Prehab” exercises, is that many serious athletes scoff when they see a program with these often light or non-weighted movements. Add to this skepticism the fact that these exercises often put the athlete in a position to feel weak or unable to do something, and we have a recipe for likely disaster.
Either the athlete will:
1. Go and perform the exercise over and over again or for long periods of time to try to master it in order to quell the feeling that they are vulnerable.
I.e. Me- "Hey, what are you doing with that 24kg kettlebell on your knee and your foot on top of the weight stack, for the last 15 minutes? Broski - “I’m working on my ankle mobility dude, it sucks. If I do this for the next 2 weeks, it will be 200% better, and I’ll be able to squat more- I saw it on the internet.” 7 weeks later “Dude, I tore my ACL, no idea how that happened, I’ve been lifting regularly.”
2. They will ignore the exercise, or “Go through the motions” half-effort, in a way to simply check it off.
Unfortunately, both of these will lead to a less than desirable outcome, usually the athlete getting injured due to an imbalance being continued, or opened too quickly, before the rest of the bodies muscles, tissues, and systems can adapt.
While some strength coaches call the corrective exercises “Filler exercises”- meaning something to do as active recovery between your working sets- I prefer to educate the athlete to understand the importance of the exercise and why it’s in the position in the programming that it is.
Corrective Exercises are super important and should be included in every strength training program- whether in the dynamic warmup, or in between the primary lifts- as they help us to get the body into better balance…And yes, they can serve as fantastic Active Recovery options when need be.
But just because something is a “corrective” doesn’t mean that it can’t be a main focus. For example, Give the McGill Crunch and Side-Lying Windmill below here a go, but make sure your technique is perfect for them- NO CHEATING.
The McGill Crunch- Core Strength training for Cycling & Triathlon - YouTube
Side Lying Windmills - YouTube
Super difficult, right?
Correctives can, and should, also be used as primary exercises for a well-designed training program, at times. It just depends on where that individual athlete is.
The Golden Ticket
Corrective exercises are 100% necessary, ESPECIALLY for Cyclists and Triathletes looking to use strength training to improve their performance. As a professional “in the trenches” for the last decade+ trying to teach cyclist and triathletes the better way to strength train and have life-long movement, I am pretty much in love with Matt Fitzgerald and his putting Corrective Exercise at the forefront for 2019. (I’m working hard on more courses and content to help YOU be able to get the most out of your own training here in 2019, and am excited to get them released!)
However, it remains that we MUST work on rebalancing the body, helping things (bones, joints) to be in positions so they can function as designed. After all, you wouldn’t take a Tennis Racket to a game to play Squash, would you? Both look kinda, not really similar, in that the ball goes to the end of the racquet, but the Squash racquet won’t supply what you need for tennis, and vice versa.
Same thing with our corrective exercises, proper use of Corrective Exercises, combined with intelligent Strength Training planning and design using the FUNdamental 5+1 Movement patterns (Push, Pull, Squat, Hinge, Press, Rotary Stability), will allow you to see amazing results from your strength training, AND help you keep your body in better balance during the season when your ride time is high, and time for strength training is low.
The Golden ticket is for you to develop a Dynamic Warmup that includes exercises that will help you breathe better, move better, and execute the strength training session of the day to the best of your abilities, AND help you be able to improve your movement qualities.
Consisting of 4-6 exercises, the dynamic warmup should be done 3-5 days a week, helping you get the repetitions you need to ensure you move towards the improved movement balance your body wants and needs.
While there are also ways to work the corrective exercises into the program, that process is much more complex and is a post (at least) in and of itself…. But you can always subscribe to the HVT YouTube Channel to keep on top of the fresh new content we’re putting out, which will allow you to move better, feel better, and unlock your full potential, or take one of my Online Courses mentioned above, to get a “deeper dive” into the Corrective Exercise pool.
Until next time, remember to Train Smarter, NOT Harder, because it is…all about YOU!
You may be sitting there with your jaw in your double espresso thinking “Who the hell is this guy?!?!? CLEARLY he doesn’t get what the “cycling life” is all about… didn’t he read Phil Gaimons book???”
Yes, I read the book. Yes, I’m a cyclist. Yes, I no longer spend all my money on bike shit. And here is why you shouldn’t either.
Let’s make one thing crystal clear first: I am in no way a financial specialist or expert, nor am I receiving any payment for writing this piece. Over the last 10+ years of coaching cyclists & triathletes, I’ve realized that only a tiny, tiny segment of riders and triathletes ages 18-45 are saving for retirement, and many are spending as much of their money as possible on bike related stuff, instead of having a long-term view. This is simply a post trying to help others get on track to enjoy things down the road, by taking small, easy actions now.
Cycling is quickly becoming one of the sports outside of golf where much business and networking occurs. It’s funny that so many cyclists are broke, or simply “in between buying new bike stuff”, as some of my friends and athletes would say, yet many riders are closing business deals of all sizes while riding. Talk about a juxtaposition.
So why should you stop buying new parts and stuff for your bikes, buying more stuff for riding and racing your bikes?
Because your retirement won’t save for itself.
Yes I used the “R” word...But hear me out, this isn’t a post that will make your eyes glaze over, or give you a massive migraine. We’ll keep this short and simple, with a few SIMPLE and EASY actions that you’ll take today.
Let’s start with Why
Why should you care about you retirement? Well, aside from the obvious answer of you may or may not want to HAVE to work for the rest of your life, let’s think about a real example:
Think about the “old fast dude” who is always super chill, and who rolls up every 6-12 months to the group ride on a new top of the line Colnago, Pinarello, or whatever bike that you’re drooling over and constantly trying to draft behinds so you can see it up close.
Don’t you want to 1. Be that FAST when you reach his age? 2. Not have to think twice to purchase a bike like that when you’re older? 3. Be that relaxed and chill while enjoying life?
We ALL want to be FAST, FIT, forever CHILL, and have a beautiful stallion as we ride more and get older. But as of right this second, every penny you earn is going towards the “right now, right here”...who’s taking care of yourself for 30 years from now? Sure riding and fitness are constantly on your mind, but what about your financial health?
While you may be fast on the bike, when it comes to saving for your retirement you’re still in your car trying to put on your bibs with your towel wrapped around your waist and legs while the race is already ⅓ to halfway over…...Let’s change what you’re doing now, so you can start making some major improvements in your FTP for your retirement fund.
If you’re one to read, you can pick up one of the following books which won’t bore you to tears, and will give you REAL, EASY, ACTIONABLE steps to help you get on track to enjoying being “That old fast guy with a sick bike, and legs to back it up.”
1. I will teach you to be rich by Ramit Sethi- Targeted to 20-30-somethings, this book is fantastic for those who want a plan that they can automate, set, and forget. This book is written in basic english, so you understand what’s going on. It’s set up in a 6 week plan, so you can read a little each week, take an action step, and have everything good to go without a second thought.
4. A random walk down wall street by Burton Malkiel- This one is more for those who really enjoy learning about a topic so they understand it beyond the surface. Perhaps this could be called the “Textbook for investing” for modern times, this book helps you make sense of investing, the terminology, and start to explore the world of finance on a more serious level.
Your 401(k) isn't as good as you think it is....
While many of us have our retirement savings “all taken care of” by the 401(k) offered by our companies, these are often riddled with hidden fees that suck out much of the growth from the money we do invest. Do your research and find out how much you’re paying in fees. As “Small” as 2.5% per year in fees can have a devastating effect on your retirement fund. We're talking about eating away at well over 35-40% of what you COULD end up with, if you did your homework to find the best possible low-cost/low-fee 401(k).....YES, you have the right to do so! Don’t be surprised to find that many of the fees are hidden in “legalese”, let alone deep within 60+ page documents.
To learn more about the 401(k) hidden fees and retirement funds, you can watch the Frontline Special “The Retirement Gamble”. It’s a great look at what’s really going on with retirement funds, and people like you and me.
How to get started, TODAY
If you’re not one to read books and just want a few core principles, it comes down to these 3 basic things:
It really can be as simple as taking 5-10% of your pay each month, and automatically transferring it over to an investment house that offers low-fee index funds, such as Vanguard or Dimensional Fund Advisors.
While many of us barely have time to get our riding in, let alone even THINK about investing, Vanguard and Dimensional Fund Advisors offer some pretty solid “set it and forget it” kind of funds, such as the Target Date Funds (TDF’s) where you invest in a fund that will automatically rebalance your investment portfolio as you get closer to your retirement date. As always, do your own research, and consult with a professional to make sure you get it right for you and your situation.
Vanguard is my personal choice, as there are no fees to invest/purchase, and as you accrue more money into a specific fund, thresholds are met that drop the costs down even further.
Again, I’m not a finance expert, so take this with a grain of salt: I’d personally start with a Roth IRA (Independent Retirement Account), as you pay taxes now (known rates) so the money you accrue is ALL yours, and not 50%+ going to Uncle Sam when you go to draw it out (or at some absurdly higher tax rate that we could never guess). Look into the rules and regulations that apply to Roth IRA’s as you won’t be able to easily dip into the account if you need some cash between now and retirement, and there are also maximum amounts you can put into the account each year, etc.
2. The sooner you get started, the better off you’ll be- Let’s just say that Compounding Interest is a fantastic invention, but one that you can’t take advantage of unless you’re investing! If you’re in your early 20’s CONGRATS! Even “just” $150 a month can grow to significant amounts by the time you’re in your 50’s, and really put you ahead of the game!
If you’re thinking “I don’t have $150 a month to put away”, then start with $50, or $20 and work your way up. These small amounts, with the help of compounding, give you a big leg up in the long run, and set you up to make bigger contributions as you get older, with far less pain.
Don’t make the same mistake I did, and keep telling yourself “I can’t afford it”. (I missed out on probably a once in a lifetime opportunity of getting into investing for retirement during the 2008 financial market collapse. Not because I was afraid, but because I kept telling myself that I couldn’t set aside $50 a month...boy do I regret that. But live and learn!) Automate small amounts to come out from your paycheck each month so they’re automatically invested, and you’ll make it much less painful.
STILL struggling to make it happen? Treat it like a tax. You’ll learn how to adjust and live within your new earnings because when it comes to taxes, you don’t have a choice but to pay them. Aim for 10% of your monthly pay as a good starting point.
3. Play the long game- Don’t get into any of this day trading stuff that is super risky, and takes a lot of time/effort. Indexing and using low-fee index funds makes the game a lot simpler, puts the odds far more in your favor...so much so that the world’s top Investors like Warren Buffet recommend it for the average investor!
Why take a guess/gamble on which company will be the next Apple or Amazon, and instead own them all!
A portfolio as simple as a low-fee S&P 500 Index along with a Total Bond Market Index and Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS) may be enough to have you rolling. Talk with a Financial Fiduciary to help you determine the proportions of your portfolio, as this can have a big impact on your performance. NEVER go all-stocks, or all-bonds! If you’re not sure what to do, you can go 50-50 (That’s 50% S&P 500 Index, and 50% bonds made up of Total Bond Market Index and TIPS).
If you want some help to figure out what’s best for you, you should seek out a Financial Fiduciary- this is super important, as fiduciaries are required to put YOUR needs first and foremost. You must make sure to differentiate between a financial broker and a 100% Fiduciary. Always ask first, making sure they don’t have any secondary motives, such as receiving kickbacks/commissions for your purchasing specific funds. That’s a conflict of interest, and well, ruins the whole fiduciary thing.
Either way, get started NOW- even with seemingly small amounts- as time and compounding interest are your friends as you move forward. But you have to get started to take advantage!
Ignoring saving and investing for your retirement is like heading to the start line of your peak race with 2 flat tires, a rusty drive train, and the brakes locked up. You can work really hard, but you're clearly at a huge disadvantage, and won't win.
Not the post you expected from a cycling coach, huh?
Life INCLUDES the bike, but we must make sure to keep a healthy balance.
Tell me, do you invest? Have you started to build up your Retirement fund, or are you still putting it off?
What’s keeping you from getting started?
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Last year I finally attained a nutrition certification. After many years of kicking the idea around I decided to take the Precision Nutrition Coaching Certification. While I finished it very quickly, I rather enjoyed the process and attention to detail that the course had.
There are a number of reasons I decided to formalize my Nutrition Coaching, the most of which was to have solid footing with which to be able to help those I talk with and coach understand that the FUNDAMENTALS of great nutrition remain universal, and are the foundation for success, regardless if your goal is athletic, or for looks.
Unfortunately, in the last 4-5 years there has been an increase in the number of athletes, especially YOUNG athletes, who come to me asking about supplements and how to get more out of their training through the use of supplements. Alongside those athletes come nutritionist and dieticians who have also gotten sucked up into the “supplements are necessary for performance” standpoint.
I’m not trying to be, nor claiming to be, an expert on sports nutrition. I’m simply sharing my perspective on the overreliance on supplements, in a world that is so incredibly “right here, right now” focused, that the foundations for success have been neglected or erased from thought and more frighteningly: from practice for many professionals.
Sound nutrition is not rocket science, although we could argue that it is an arm of Organic Chemistry…
Especially now days, with our growing understanding of the human body and how it functions, more and more supplements that promise this, that, and the end of the world if you don’t have it in your daily regimen, abound.
In a modern lifestyle where we are working longer hours than possibly any non-war era, we have lost perception of what a truly healthy nutrition plan is. Long gone are the days of “3 squares a day”, and in are the Keto, Paleo, Intermittent, and Gluten free diet, just to name a few.
“THIS FOOD IS THE DEVIL” abounds, and all sanity has been lost… ESPECIALLY when it comes to athletes, or those who are training with intent.
Supplements are NOT the devil. In fact, when used at the right time, in the right amount, and for the right reasons, they can serve an important role in an athletes diet.
But at the right time.
In the right amount.
For the right reasons.
So What’s up, Doc?
In the last 3 months, I’ve had several young athletes/development athletes share with me that their sports dietician/nutritionist have recommended supplements, including, but not limited to:
Branched Chain Amino Acids
“Antioxidant” pills/ Drink mixes
Athlete Greens/ powdered greens
While these may not seem like such a big deal, and some of you are probably scratching your head wondering what my issue is with this, others will immediately understand where I’m going with this.
Let’s be honest, how many of us as teenagers and young adults had decent nutritional habits?
Not many, right? Well, with the athletes who came to me from the dietitians/ nutritionist, the same can be said.
They’re normal teenagers.
They eat junk food and often go long periods without eating anything at all, or simply drinking soda/sports drinks/red bull.
Most of them are consuming large amounts of sports drinks (SUUUUGGGAARRRRRR!!!!!!) and snack bars (nutra-grain bars = MOREEE SUGARRRRRR!!!!) to deal with low energy.
If this is the case, why are supplements even a thought when it comes to dealing with low energy, or poor performance? Why aren’t we focusing on the bas of the problem: poor nutrition habits or knowledge.
By simply having each athlete keep a food journal for 3 days (2 weekdays, 1 weekend day) we were able to see some incredibly telling information:
-Little to no vegetables or fruits
-Often no breakfast (besides a nutri-grain bar)
-Low Protein and high carbohydrate oriented (processed)
-Long periods between meals
-Often practicing without eating anything, or eating anything after
While the dieticians and nutritionists had the individuals keep a nearly identical food log, how in tarnation did they come up with supplements as the answer?!
Setting the bar low
With the rates of childhood obesity and diabetes climbing year after year, it’s no surprise that by suggesting/giving the young athletes supplements, instead of teaching healthy eating habits, that the obesity rates of those over the age of 20 has climbed at an even faster rate, and shows no signs of slowing down.
What are you teaching a child, especially one who is highly active with aspirations to be a pristine example of the fittest and most athletic their sport has to offer (i.e. LeBron James), that instead of teaching them to eat a healthy, balanced, and well rounded diet, that they should be taking 1g of BCAA before a practice, INSTEAD OF eating a balanced meal 2-3 hours beforehand?
Or even a sandwhich: Something, ANYTHING which has more nutritional value than some supplements and a sports drink!
I’ve seen this before, with junior cyclists who are fed spinkles on everything, cola as a recovery drink, and twinkies for on-bike “nutrition”…. The coaches excuse? “They’re kids, let them live it up while they can” or “They want it anyhow, why not let them burn it off during the ride/race?”.
We are literally destroying the healthy bacteria balance in these athletes guts, leaving them set up for a lifetime craving sugars and highly processed foods, instead of produce and lean meats (or tofu, for you vegans).
Do not get me mistaken; I am NOT against sports supplements. I use them myself and recommend them ***when appropriate and for the time period that is appropriate*** for the athletes I coach. I’ve even aided in developing and refining some supplements. But we’ve lost our way, and forgotten that they are there to SUPPLEMENT a healthy, well-balanced nutrition program consisting of 5-6 servings of vegetables (2-4 of which should be dark, leafy greens), 4-5 servings of lean proteins, and 2-4 servings of healthy fats a day!
Food in your pocket, Water in your bottle.
This is a saying that is so vital to cyclists around the world, no matter their level of performance, competition, or development. (And make it REALY foods, like sandwiches or wraps for 90%+ of the time!).
Carbohydrates in sports drinks should be glucose or sucrose- simple sugars- as they simply aid in the uptake of water in the digestive tract. Complex carbohydrates such as maltodextrin can inhibit this uptake of water, as well as even have the opposite effect on our performance, as they take water FROM our system… but that’s another post in and of itself.
The Take Home Message
As a whole, we MUST take a serious step back from the use of sports supplements with our youth athletes, and make a huge commitment to teaching them lifelong healthy habits. Teach your athletes to eat REAL FOODS on the bike- not only will they feel and perform better, but they’ll also have to improve their bike handling skills (something we ALL need to continuously work on!).
Their future performance, health & wellbeing depend on it.