Crossfit and cycling

Hey guys Crossfit is something I just can’t get out of my head. I have read a heap about the detriment it would cause to cycling performance but recent renovation work at home has led me to the conclusion I need some more strength work.

I am 43 and was a plumber in my teens and early 20’s so I was strong from the physical labour. Now I am in an office job for the last 16 years and that strength is somewhat gone.

I used to do triathlon completing 9 ironmans from 30-40 but since the arrival of 2 kids I have focussed on cycling only. Wondering if the decrease in performance would be whilst the body is adapting and I could expect performance to return.

Entering: I love CF as a fitness regimen. Did it for a few years myself.

I trained with one of the coaches who started the CrossFit endurance protocol about ten years ago. I had my worst triathlon race season since my first one, and it was cut short by a hamstring injury. Simply put, too much intensity to recover from, and the CF workouts took away from my ability to train my actual sports well.

If you want to do CF, do CF. If your goal is to be the best cyclist you can, CF is not going to help with that. It’s best done standalone with some easy rides in your offseason if you must, but in my opinion and experience, it has no place in the training regimen of a serious triathlete/cyclist, particularly attempting to self program CF with a cycling training program. And CF coaches aren’t going to be much better at creating a manageable training load split between two sports.

CF is best thought of as its own sport/thing, IMO. As always, YMMV.

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One thing Crossfit generally can help with is weightlifting technique. If, for example, you want to do what Coach Chad calls the “if you only do one” lift; the deadlift; Crossfit is usually a good place to get good instruction. I used to instruct powerlifting technique years ago and I went back to a local Crossfit instructor known for good technique instruction to update my knowledge and find out my own technique challenges. It really helped. As noted, Crossfit is very hard to wedge into a serious training program like TR–for a whole set of reasons. But you can find some expertise in those gyms that could help you become a stronger, fitter human. My two cents!

+1. I’m going to make the assumption that you are an above average athlete given the 9 IM’s and hence you are attracted to CrossFit. Resist!

Instead do training specifically to get you strong like the linear progression (novice) program (NLP) from Starting Strength. (See Coach @chad’s comments about the coach behind it. Calling All (Strength) Athletes) . This is the most basic form of increasing stress in that you just add increments of weight to the bar every workout until that stops working. Depending on your athletic response (fast vs slow responder) and previous background with strength training the linear progression will be on the order of 10-12 weeks or longer if your inherent strength talent is high. The “novice” designation has nothing to do with how strong you are, but rather how far along you are in the process of approaching the limit of your ability to adapt to stress.

You can do the NLP yourself with the Starting Strength Book (& app too ), use an local coach if there is one near you or use their on-line coaching, which is very comprehensive. (Disclaimer: I have no financial interests in any of these options) .

One additional advantage to the on-line system is that they can design the routines to maintain your the cycling fitness while you do the NLP otherwise you’ll have to dial it back yourself. NLP is hard but you will get very strong in a very time efficient way if you do the program.

I did the NLP starting in Aug 2017 at the age of 52. After NLP and an intermediate program, one year later I was low-bar squating over 400 lbs for reps and had a standing press of 180lbs. These were far beyond what I had ever done the my lifting days of my 20’s. Now I purposely backed off my cycling training during that year to focus on getting strong and it took me a good 6 months of training to regain my cycling fitness but it was definitely worth it. Getting strong corrected some nagging injuries and discomfort on the bike and improved my quality of life. Now I have both strength an cycling training integrated.

Go get strong :muscle:


Harts, if you aren’t competitively racing the bike for podium spots then there is nothing to think about. Bike fitness only matters if it is paying the bills. Feeling good physically and mentally are what’s important. If having more general strength will do that for you then go with it.


+1 on the CF love.

I’m 44 and do crossfit in the “off season,” generally defined as a few weeks after my final race of the year. I completely walk away from it during the base phase. This is my last year doing that.

At the end of the CF season, I feel strong. I can throw my kids in the air and carry giant packs of worthless “family weight” containing snacks and changes of clothes up hikes with no problem.

At the end of biking season, I can’t lift the hitch rack from my car overhead to hang it on the wall.

Advantages: I cycle 10 or so lbs down from pure atrophy for cycling. I also look great in a swimsuit after CF.

My plan for next season is to continue through bike season with 1-2 boot-camp style WODs through the year. I’m almost done with my build phase now and I don’t want to complicate this season with the added recovery or injury risk.

Also from the same crew is The Barbell Prescription by Sullivan and Baker, which is my go-to strength training book. I’m 44 so I’m within their target demographic. I also started in 2017, and got a lot stronger (and somewhat heavier), and lost quite a bit of bike fitness which I am struggling to get back. It’s a trade-off I am willing to accept, however. I wasn’t that fast to begin with, I don’t race and being stronger has helped me in so many ways with everyday life.

Also, I remember the post you cited about the Rippetoe book. I didn’t realize that was Coach Chad’s post - I was always curious what he thought of Starting Strength.

And, I highly recommend the Barbell Logic podcast. That and the TR podcast are the only ones I listen to regularly. There is one episode with a former competitive track cyclist, and both authors of the Barbell Prescription are regular guests.