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Balancing Riding & Strength Training

Derek Teel on September 29th, 2019

The ultimate balancing act of your long term training plan will be to stay consistent with your riding and strength training.  What does consistency mean for the two?  Before I give you the answer, let's look at the facts.  Super Compensation is the term I break out for people who don’t believe my “opinion.” This image represents how your body responds to a training stimulus.  
Check out the Super Compensation Curve below. The length of this line represents 1 week.

As you can see, immediately after a training session your performance will drop due to fatigue. Once you begin to recover, your body will adapt to the type of training you did and progress.  Your performance level will surpass that of the initial session after about 3 days to its peak on the 4th or 5th day. That’s when you want to hit your next session.  If you wait until the 6th day, your body is already going back to its starting point.  On the 7th day, you’re back to square one, in full maintenance mode not really gaining or losing.

What does it mean?  To progress at anything physically, you need to do it at least 2 days per week.  For cyclists, that means we will hit this quota in the gym and try not to do much more so we can expend more energy on the bike, while still making progress with our strength.  It’s ok to hit your next session before you are fully recovered.  In fact, it’s necessary if you want your legs to get really proficient at pedaling (AKA hella fast).  Two days per week of pedaling (consistently over the long haul) will keep most fit for riding, but to get to a higher level you’ll definitely need more.  That’s because as our body gets used to the stimulus, the recovery becomes more and more incremental.  You can also recover faster, which means that shorter time between rides is required making 3, 4, or 5+ days on the bike purposeful.

Last question…Don’t these two support each other?  What if I ride on Monday and then strength train on Thursday.  Does that apply to Super Compensation?  You guessed it, the short answer is no.  Well, maybe a little…technically.  The stimulus of riding will help your body distribute lactic acid making your strength sessions more efficient, while the added strength and stability from the gym will give you extra power and control on the bike, but you use such drastically different energy systems, that it’s kind of apples to oranges.  The real combo you want is progress in both areas, so 2 days minimum per week of each.

Welcome to your new bar of consistency.  Start moving forward!