So why do you skip strength training?

Twenty-nine, thirty, thirty-one, thirty-two…

I closed my eyes into the sensations of my abdomen ripping apart under the strain of a few bicycle situps. Suddenly, I felt some small hands on my midsection.  I opened my eyes to a gap-toothed grin from my 8-month-old who had broken through his playpen and crawled over to me.  He proudly raised himself, wobbling, and let loose a barbaric howl.

It’s Monday, which means I wake up with my son. It’s also the day I’m supposed to lift because that’s what roadies do in November – they do things real athletes do, like strength training.

My track record with strength training over the years is atrocious. Sure, I’ve attempted it, but it always devolved in two ways:

First, I’d lift consistently for a while, then I’d plan my day poorly when I was supposed to lift and ride, and I’d skip the lift and do the ride. Before long, I didn’t lift.

In the other scenario, I’d lift much too enthusiastically, struggle to walk or sit on toilets, and while I was healing from my hubris, lose any motivation to continue lifting, and only ride. 

Both scenarios meant I never completed the lifting program. Weirdly, I’d struggle those seasons with injury, high-end punch, and general physical usefulness unless I was on a bike.

Last year, I doubled down. I bought a simple gym:  a squat rack, a plyometric box, some kettleballs, and, for reasons I still don’t understand, a TRX.  Because everything I needed to be consistent was literally in my basement, I followed through on the lifting program.

Did I turn into a track sprinter? Did I gain enough muscle mass that I could no longer swim?  Did I have to invest in new jeans?

Sadly, no. Boring things happened.  I no longer had lower back pain while I rode. My anaerobic capacity went up. My ability to produce power on the TT bike went up.  I never got injured. And, less importantly, I could perform other day-to-day tasks, like lifting groceries, or my children, without grimacing.

So what changed last year?  You could argue that I invested in the gym equipment, and that’s why I finished the program, but you’d be wrong.  You and I both know people are perfectly capable of buying things they intend to use and instead stare at them. 

What changed is the habits around the execution.  First, if I had a lift and a ride one day, I’d always force myself to get up early and do strength training as my first workout. If I rode first, I usually skipped lifting, which pushed the lift to tomorrow, but the plan called for a lift the day after that, so I just skipped again and ended up missing one or two lifts a week.  That’s not how overload works.  Tomorrow is always the day you’re going to do your workout when you’re bullshitting yourself.

Second, if life happened, like the birth of my son, I improvised.  Do I have to watch my son? Cool.  He can crawl around on a makeshift playpen with toys while I crush myself 20 feet away. Is he going to crawl over and lean on me during a 2-minute plank?  You bet he will. Thanks for the extra push fellah!

As a cyclist, it’s all too easy to skip that annoying 30-minute workout on your TrainingPeaks calendar.  Don’t. It’ll help you on the bike (and off) more than you can imagine. If I can watch my 8-month-old while I do it, you can make it happen also.

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