The Top 3 mistakes cyclists & triathletes make when heading back to the gym
(Corona edition)

As the world starts to move back towards normal after the first round of Corona infections, and unprecedented world-wide lockdowns, gyms are beginning to open up. This means many cyclists and triathletes will be among the many gym goers who are looking forward to heading back to a more normal routine.

Top 3 mistakes cyclists & triathletes make returning to the gym

But hold those horses!!

This is NOT like before. There are some changes that are now in place that you (and your gym/studio) need to abide by:

  • Taking your temperature before you enter
  • A Daily health declaration
  • Personal Towels are a must
  • 60-90 minute “visit” time limit
  • As is cleaning/ wiping equipment after you use it (This was actually always a rule, but nearly no one actually did it, and gyms usually picked bigger battles)

However, as the gyms open back up, there are a few mistakes that you’ll want to avoid, that can completely undermine the effort you’re putting in. 

1. Going too hard/ heavy from the get-go


Lifting too much/ going too hard at the beginning

Especially with the racing seasons either pushed back, or postponed to an unknown future date, one of the biggest mistakes we’ve seen, is trying to jump back into either the weights or the intensities which one was doing before the forced time off.

Just to make sure we’re all on the same page, here is a public service announcement once again:

 

SORENESS IS NOT AN INDICATOR THAT YOU HAD A GOOD WORKOUT.

In fact, soreness can completely derail your in-sport progress, and lead to a decrease in performance in the gym and in your sport. 

 

 

When you’re heading back to the gym, and strength training with cycling or triathlon performance as a goal, we want to make sure we’re keeping things in perspective.

Of course, it depends on what- if anything- you’ve been able to do at home over the last few months. If you’re on the HVT Newsletter you had the opportunity to sign up for the 60 day home bodyweight workout program (one for cyclists, and one for triathletes). Those who have jumped on the programs have been working on mastering bodyweight exercises, some light plyometrics, as well as 1x a week structured high intensity workout. 

If your at home training has been similar to this, with a consistent 2-3 days a week of bodyweight or light weight exercises with 1-2 days of high intensity in your chosen sport (run, bike, or if you have an at-home endless pool -swim), then returning to the gym at roughly 60-70% of the weights and/or intensities you had last done, is a probably about the right place to start. 

However, if you had a tough time getting in a home workout – perhaps due to kids, lack of equipment or space, or (let’s be honest) you finally had time to catch up on all the Netflix series you wanted to watch…..and added a few new ones, then you’ll want to start quite differently.

 

 

 

Returning to Strength Training after not doing much if any strength training at home, or being really inconsistent, will look different.

 

Return back to basics for the first 2 weeks:

  • Goblet Squats
  • Rack Pulls or Kettlebell Deadlifts
  • Dumbbell Bench Press
  • Seated shoulder press
  • Seated rows
  • Side planks, top foot forward

Start off with 2-3 days a week, with 1 day in between sessions, doing 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions per set, at an RPE (Rated Perceived Exertion) of 5-6 for the first 2 sessions, and then moving to 3-4 sets of 12-15 for an RPE of 5-7 for the next 3-4 sessions.

But as you do this, you want to be careful not to make the next big mistake…

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2. Trying to do too much in the 60-90 minute time limit

As the gyms open back up there are a number of new rules and regulations in place. From the number of people allowed in the weight room (determined by square footage and setup in many states), to the cleaning of equipment and closing of on-site shower facilities, the gym will feel quite different. 

But one of the biggest changes is the time limit you have for your visit. From what I’ve seen, Nearly all the gyms that are opening around the world are placing a 60-90 minute time limit on your visit, in an effort to allow them to serve as many of their clients as possible. 

While this is a necessity for the gyms, this has led many to try to do TOO MUCH during their visit. This is a bit surprising, as many of these same people are in and out of the gym in around 60 minutes (not including changing), but with these now imposed timeframes, many feel pressured to get more out of their time there.

Don’t. Do. That.

 

 

You do not (and should not) be trying to perform each of the FUNdamental 5+1 movements every single time you hit the gym. At least not as a major movement (A1, B1, C1) in your workouts. 

If you pace your workouts properly, 60 minutes is MORE than enough, including 3-5 minutes of foam rolling at the beginning (although I do strongly recommend you to do this at home beforehand). You never know who is not cleaning those rollers, and if the wiping is actually effective for that foam- this is an ALL the time thing for me, unless I have a specific need due to tightness, or something not feeling quite right. 

You should have a foam roller at home. If you don’t, now’s a great time to get one. Well, at least to order one, it may take 10-14 days to actually arrive due to higher demand. 

 

Plan your work, and work your plan.

 

 

Aim for 3-5 minutes on the foam roller, a 10-15 minute targeted Dynamic Warmup, followed by A’s, B’s, and possibly C’s for your workout, making sure to keep the main thing, the main thing. 

If you’re not familiar with what this means, check out my book The Vortex Method: The New Rules for Ultimate Strength & Performance in Cycling. It’s the most thorough and comprehensive book available on the how and why’s for strength training programming for cyclists & triathletes. 

Next week’s blog I’ll be sharing with you one of my current gym workouts that takes me almost exactly 60 minutes from the second I walk through the door, to the second my feet are both through the threshold of the door on the way out. 

But as you’ll learn next week, that workout has timed rest periods to help ensure we are not making the last big mistake many can make when returning to the gym…

3. Not Sticking to the Rest Periods YOU NEED!

Stick to the rest periods you need in your strength training

The human body will respond to the demands we place on it, so long as we are getting enough rest and sleep, and feeding and watering it appropriately for those adaptations to occur, and manage our life stresses outside of our training. 

One of the most common ways endurance athletes shoot themselves in the foot when it comes to strength training, is not understanding the importance of rest periods in their strength training for cycling or strength training for triathlon results. 

A large contributing factor to this mistake, is that we think:

“Hey, I gotta get ‘sport-specific’ adaptations, so I should be going all out in my strength training, just like for VO2 max, or  other intervals on the bike…. I should be crawling out of the gym”.

 

This, in fact, is the opposite of what many need out of their strength training (not to mention the vast majority of cyclists and triathletes go too hard during their recovery periods in their training- but that’s a blog post for another time).

 

What you NEED out of your strength training is to set up the environment to enable adaptations to happen for the:

  1. Neuromuscular System
  2. Endocrine System (Hormonal system)
  3. Metabolic system (Energy systems)

 

This means that the rest periods are going to need to be more in the range of 3-6 minutes between working sets. Sometimes those rest periods will need to be active (a corrective exercise, or light movement/ technique practice) where we keep your heart rate low, but keep you moving. Other times, these rest periods will need to be passive, where you sit around, watch and assess video of your last set or two, or just set a timer and hang out and shoot the breeze. 

This is an incredibly misunderstood aspect of strength training that many gym goers, let alone those who participate in cycling and triathlon, do not comprehend the importance of.

 

Strength training will happen on a spectrum, much like the light spectrum, that will either have you gaining Metabolic (energy system) responses, or Neuromuscular (muscles and nervous system) responses.

These two responses don’t crossover, despite what many have falsely come to believe about CrossFit and the MetCon’s. 

For those unaware, let’s clarify the confusion:

CrossFitters don’t get stupid strong and able to do all these crazy movements because of the Metcon. The MetCon LITERALLY stands for “Metabolic Conditioning”- meaning the focus is on developing the energy systems to do more of that kind of work. 

This is why a good box is based around 2 things:

  1. Great coaching of the techniques and lifts
  2. Intelligent Programming that is progressive, and that the coaches put athletes into appropriate scaling of a movement to meet them where their technique and metabolic abilities are. 

When YOU  head into the gym, as a cyclist and triathlete, for the vast majority of the year, YOU NEED NEUROMUSCULAR RESPONSES. 

Your Metabolic will come primarily in-sport. And because of how much you’re getting in your sport, the LAST thing you need in your strength session, is more energy system work. 

That is if you’re doing it right in your sport!

Not resting enough between your sets can destroy the gain from strength training for cyclists and traithletes

 

Conclusion

These mistakes are super easy to make…. I should know, I’ve made every single one of them myself, and have suffered from them, as well as have helped hundreds of cyclists & triathletes, just like you, from around the world, to stop making them. 

That’s when the REAL results begin.

What about you?

Have you made (or are making) any of these mistakes? Does it surprise you to learn about them?

Leave a comment down below and I’ll be sure to follow up with you!

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