Next week is the culmination of our 12-week strength program that we have been working tirelessly on. Now, it’s time to reap the benefits and see how much stronger we have become! But, how do we determine where we are currently at and what we should be shooting for? The more 1 rep max attempts we have during testing, the more tired we get and the higher risk of injury as our form deteriorates. So, we should have a goal number in mind rather than hitting multiple heavy attempts that are relatively close numbers.
During our testing days, we will give you percentages of your goal to go after. Most of the reps should be relatively easy. We want you to warm up the movement, but not stress the muscles too much until the final testing sets.
Create your 100% (1 RM) goal according to the options below:
Option 1: Use if you have not hit close to your previous 1 RMs or your 5 RM, 3RM, and 1 RM have stayed the same lately.
If your strength hasn’t been progressing much, chances are your 1 RM is close to what it was in the past. Let’s set your goals for the day off of your previous max. The last two sets of your testing will be 1 rep at 100% and 1 rep at +2-4%. If you hit your 100%, nice work, you just hit your old 1 RM! Then, if you (and your coach) thought your form was great and you have more in you, bump it up a little to around 105% of that number. Hit it and you have a new PR. If you don’t, no worries, you are still a strong MF! To improve next time around, come to class more, improve your nutrition/recovery, or stick to the weightlifting percentages given in class better in the future.
Option 2: If you are new, don’t have a 1 RM, and/or have not been in the gym much lately.
Your test day is going to be a guessing game, and that’s okay. Your coach can help decide along the way how much you should be lifting based off of your RPE, or Rate of Perceived Exertion, and your technique on that particular lift. Your coach will guide you through the set and determine where you should be for your 1 RM test day. Remember, even if you have lifted X-lbs in the past, if you haven’t been regular at the gym, that may not be your current 1 RM. Technique is key, especially when lifting maximal loads.
Option 3: Use if during the program you have been smashing your lifts, hit new 5 RM or 3 RMs, or already hit a new 1 RM.
The Russians are incredible weight lifters. Some amazing Russian coach along the way came up with a chart that estimates our 1 RMs from our multiple repetition maxes. We can use the chart below and/or some math to determine what our realistic 1 rep max goal should be. Based on our best 5RM, 3 RM, or any other data you have accumulated over the last 11 weeks, we can use those numbers to estimate our new 1 RM. This is your 100% goal for the test. As stated above, your final two sets will be 100% and +2-4%. If you hit the 100%, that’s a new PR! Then, if you feel you can hit a heavier lift, wait a few minutes and try for another. If you are satisfied with your performance and think bad form or failure will occur, do not make that last attempt.
Side note: for some of you with high loads, if you want another attempt, but 2-4% is too aggressive, back it down a bit. For example, if I hit a 405 deadlift my 104% is 420. If 405 is my new PR and it achieved, but rough, I would think about only adding 5-10 lbs versus 15. If that 405 felt easy, maybe 420 is doable. Make the choice based on your RPE, Rate of Perceived Exertion.
Now to the math. Before the workout, look at your recent numbers for that particular lift. Pick the top lift you hit recently. It may be a 2RM, 3RM, or 5 RM. It might even be an 8 RM you hit it during the 5+ day. Use the chart below to determine your new, estimated 1 RM. If your numbers happen to be on the chart, use that. If they don’t, here is an example on how to find your estimated 1 RM.
75 for 7 reps:
7 reps is estimated at 82.5% of your 1 RM
75/.825 = 90
Your 100% and goal for the day is going to be 90 lbs.
345 for 5 reps:
5 reps is estimated at 87.5% of your 1 RM
345/.875 = 395
Your 100% and goal for the day is going to be 395 lbs
Remember, when it doubt, ask your coach. They can guide you through this whole process. Be safe and go out there and get stronger people! Ensure you have good technique, core engagement, and you listen to your body.
There are no quick fixes, diets, or workout trends when it comes to health and fitness. You need to commit to three things to get fit and healthy: don’t overeat, eat and drink real shit 80% of the time, and do something almost every day of the week.
Commitment Number 1: Don’t Over Consume Calories
The body’s use of fuel on a macro level is actually pretty simple: calories in versus calories out. Consume too many calories and you will gain weight. Consume a deficit of calories and you will lose weight. Equal the amount you burn off and weight will remain steady. We can complicate this slightly because not eating enough leads to issues as well with hormone imbalances and poor metabolism often not allowing people to lose weight. If you are trying to lose weight, you want to be at a deficit, but maintaining a slight decrease below what your body needs on a daily basis will provide the best, long term results. Don’t overcomplicate this: consume what your body needs and not more.
Commitment Number 2: Consume real things 80% of the time, splurge 20% of the time
The vast majority of the time, you should be consuming real shit: veggies, nuts, seeds, fruits, and meat. Are you vegan or vegetarian? You should do the exact same thing minus the meat and animal products. 80% of the time you should be having real stuff, that came from the ground or roamed on the ground. What do you do with the other 20%? Whatever you want. Junk food, pizza, alcohol, deserts, etc. all fall into this category. Don’t forget about Commitment Number 1 though, and still keep these things to moderation and within your caloric needs.
Commitment Number 3: Do something almost every day.
This one tends to scare people when I first tell them, but yes, you should be doing some sort of activity almost every day. My definition of activity is pretty lax though. Activity to me is anything active that is out of your normal life. Obviously, a CrossFit class, Personal Training session, or cycling class is activity and that would be yours for the day. Yoga sessions, pilaites, etc. are also included. But, I also count a long walk on the beach, hike with the family, or even a short ab session in between commercials while watch TV at home. A 5-minute hotel workout on vacation is activity as is a second lap around the block while walking your dog if you typically only do one. Intentional activity for your health is what we are looking for here.
Now why “almost every day”? I say almost everyday because some days get away from us. Some days we have to travel all day, work non-stop, or just simply feel like being lazy. If we do activity almost every day, we will tend to have this intentional movement 7 days a week some weeks, 6 days a week others, and rarely 5 days a week. That is a perfect schedule to become fitter and healthier.
Health doesn’t have to be that complex. It’s not about the best diet, the best workout, or the best trainer. It’s about committing to 3 simple things: eat good stuff, not too much of it, and do something active almost every day.
CrossFit began in the early 2000's as a free exercise program dedicated to constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity. The Workout of the Day (WOD) published daily on CrossFit.com created a cult like following with garage CrossFitters, active duty military personnel, and globo gym goes who were quickly on their way to getting kicked out for grunting. CrossFit soon moved to a warehouse space nearest you and provided a fun, energetic, and every changing workout to bring your fitness to the next level. Bicep curls were out and cleans became standard practice for the former athlete and soccer mom alike. This is CrossFit at it's finest as a fitness program.
In 2007 at his parents ranch in California, Dave Castro brought a few of his friends out to compete in the first ever CrossFit Games. He deemed the winners of this multi day event to be the Fittest on Earth. As the friendly meeting of exercisers grew, so did its audience and level of athleticism. In direct proportion with audience and TV coverage, these athletes became modern day gladiators lifting heavier and heavier weights, running longer, and walking on their hands better than many Americans on their feet. This is CrossFit at it's finest as a sport.
Both sides of CrossFit have positives that they bring to the fitness community, but the main issue I see arise is when we combine too much of the two. CrossFit as a fitness program should epitomize health at its forefront and competition extremely secondary. Exercise technique is always held as the top priority and load and intensity only increased when form has been achieved. Injury should not be occurring, or a rare occurrence based on a mistake of the athlete or coaches. This fitness program is perfect for everyone with its wide range of scalability in every workout preparing us for anything life throws at us from sitting up from a low chair to rock climbing on the weekends. All of these athletes can still compete, but once a week competing against friends or themselves is plenty. The remainder of their time in the gym should be spent practicing and training.
Now entering the realm of CrossFit as a Sport, competition is at the top of these athletes goals. Although technique is also a priority, these athletes need to be near the top of every fitness related task from gymnastics, to strength, to endurance. Practice and training should be the vast majority of how workouts are conducted. Competition should be saved for a few times a year, namely local competitions, the open, and potentially onto regionals or the games. Just as an NFL player only competes 16 times a year, the remainder of his day revolves around practice, training sessions, and recovery. Additionally, just like any professional athletes, these CrossFit athletes will get injured. At the rate they train and push themselves, it is inevitable. We now look to how we recovery from injuries and do our best to prevent them in the future.
Why is this important to distinguish CrossFit as a fitness program and CrossFit as a sport? Because too often in our gyms these lines are crossed. The vast majority of people walking into our gyms want to be better humans. They want to loose weight, be healthy, move well, learn a few cool moves (handstands are the best party tricks), and maybe light a fire they once had as a high school athlete. These people are here for a fitness program, not to be CrossFit athletes. They are here for 60 minutes, 3-6 times a week, and will never spend enough time recovering, on accessory work, or perfecting their macros to be as safe and effective of an athlete as possible. When a soccer mom hit a PR back squat, then wants to go light in the MetCon, that's okay! When accountant Joe feels a little something in his shoulder during cleans, he should stop or modify the movement. We want to push these individuals to elite fitness, but not push them to injury.
CrossFit athletes however need to do certain things that aren't the safest. They need to push through a certain degree of pain. They need to do kipping handstand pushups that push stress on the cervical spine. They need to do things that will help them win. This is a select few of us, and CrossFitters need to make the distinction between them. Some want to win their heat at Regionals and others just want to live a better life. Make sure your training and coaching aligns with those goals.
We all walk into the gym on a daily basis with different goals. Ultimately, we all tend to want to get fitter, but individually we may differ in other regards. Maybe we want to get our heart rate up to make up for the cheesecake we ate over the weekend. Maybe we want to post the best time on the leader board for the WOD. Maybe we had 4 too many beers while at the beach. Or maybe we just want to catch up with our gym friends and happen to workout by default. Rarely however, does someone walk into the gym and think, "I want to focus on keeping my shoulder blades together and maintain good spinal alignment while deadlifting today." To avoid injury, increase our performance, and have more efficient and effective workouts, we all need to remember the three primary aspects of our workouts: practice, training, and competition.
On a weekly basis, we all should be working in each of those categories. But, especially in our world of CrossFit, where lifting the heaviest, working the fastest, and doing the most reps is king, we tend to neglect how much time we should be doing each of these. In Ben Bergeron's Podcast, "How to Train with Intention," he hits the nail on the head. As CrossFitters, we tend to spend very little time practicing, a lot of time training, and way too much time competing. He defines each of the following below:
Practice - low loads, low heart rates, with the goal of improving movements
Training - heavy loads, high heart rates, with the goal of improving your engine or strength
Competition - max loads, max heart rates, with the goal of beating someone else.
Essentially, we should be practicing about 45% of the time, training about 45% of the time, and only competing about 10% of the time. In short, on a daily basis, you should be practicing about half the workout and training for the other half. Then, once a week, you can crush that workout and compete to your highest level.
Most of us walk into the gym ready to train, often with competition in mind. The leaderboard is both a blessing and a curse. It can be a fun way to compete against your fellow athletes and also extremely supportive when Jane Doe finishes Fran for the first time RX. Fist bumps and comments flood her SugarWOD with amazing support.
However, the downfall comes when someone looks at the scores on a daily basis with the sole intention of winning. I am one of the most competitive people in the gym, but have recently begun to realize, I am just doing it too much. My lifts were hitting a plateau and I was just not improving at the rate I expected. I was spending was too much time competing and never really practicing. I was also trying to win every MetCon, even if form was sacrificed a bit. Keeping this trend is a great way to compete yourself out of shape, or in many cases, into injury.
Given our typical workouts at Aspire Sports Lab, we should be practicing for the first portion of the workout. During warm-up, we should be striving towards perfect form, asking questions, and keeping the load light. As we warm-up our lifts in a strength workout, this should all be practice.
For example, today's Back Squat looked like this:
Back Squat for load: #1: 5 reps @ 45% #2: 5 reps @ 45% #3: 3 reps @ 50% #4: 2 reps @ 60% #5: 5 reps @ 70% #6: 3 reps @ 80% #7: 1+ rep @ 90% (all loads based on 1 RM)
The goal of rounds 1-4 is practice. Work on technique while slowly increasing load. One aspect of the movement should be focused on to correct. As we get into sets 5,6 and 7, now we are training. Although technique is still vital, here we are free to push our body to heavy loads, thus increasing our strength. This translates to 4 sets of practice and only 3 sets of training. Technique is drastically improved through practice, not competition.
Now, our metabolic conditioning portion of the workout (on most days of the week) should be all training. We do want to push our body to intensity, as long as proper technique is maintained. We are not looking for short cuts just to beat Sally on the leaderboard. If you can do it with great form, go for it. But, we should have thought and precision behind all of our movements. Today is for training. Tomorrow may be to compete, but that's not today's goal.
In all, if we truly want to progress as athletes and do it safely, we need to remember where we should spend most of our time. Although we may be tempted to come into the gym and begin training immediately then compete, we are only setting ourselves up for plateaus, injuries, and frustration. Practice everyday. Train everyday. And compete once a week at most!
Watch Ben Bergeron's podcast here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOobQ4TDVmw
As I have said before, all of us have different goals. One of us may want to compete at the sport of CrossFit, another to look good at the beach, and others be able to play sports with their kids (or all the above!). However, one thing we all should have in common is wanting to get stronger. Lifting heavy prevents muscle degeneration, increase anabolic hormones that burn fat and increase muscle, helps us burn a ton of calories, and makes carrying the cooler to the beach a hell of a lot easier. Gaining strength, contrary to popular belief, does not make the muscles larger (muscle hypertrophy), rather increases the strength of the contractile proteins, actin and myosin, within the muscle fiber.
Our current 12 week program is based heavily on the power lifting program by Jim Wendler that he named the 5/3/1. It utilizes our 1 rep max (RM) to create a percentage based linear program that emphasizes starting light, progressing slowly, and breaking personal records (PRs). I have adapted the essentials of this great power lifting program to fit into our strength goals as CrossFitters: get stronger while still increasing our overall fitness across broad domains.
In our 12 week program, every 4 weeks we repeat a similar rep scheme and percentages of our 1 RM. Out of the 7 sets we are focusing on, the first 4 sets are performed at low load with the focus on technique. As we build, we warm up into our final 3 working sets. The last set, set 7, will be completed until failure, with a goal of hitting a new multi rep PR. This way we are essentially testing each week, trying to hit new PRs and pushing our bodies to the limit. Side note, the limit is our body’s limitations through the movement with perfect form. If technique is not achieved, load and repetitions should not be increased.
Week 1 works around working sets of 5 reps, Week 2 features working sets of 3 reps, and Week 3 features the programs namesake, 5/3/1+ reps. Week 4 is a deload week designed to give our body a rest and let our strength recover. The goal of this week is to go light and pick one thing to improve. Film yourself or have a friend film you. Check out your form and work on that one goal for the day in that particular lift. Trying to set PRs everyday will quickly lead to plateaus at best and injuries at worst. After 4 weeks, we repeat this process with slightly more loads each week.
Is this the only way to get stronger? NO WAY! There are tons of amazing programs that strength coaches utilize to get their athletes to peak performance. What they do all have in common however is emphasizing great technique, increasing loads as time progresses, adding in accessory work to strengthen secondary movers and retesting performance over time. We will use a variety of these techniques at Aspire Sports Lab with one goal always in mind: make you a better, more well-rounded, athlete.
Each month I sit down and analyze where all of our athletes are currently at. We are all at different levels, have varying goals, but do share similarities. For whatever reason, I haven't shared in the past a lot of the methods to our madness. But, I do put a lot of work and thought into our programming based on what all of you need, want, and enjoy. That doesn't mean you'll enjoy every workout, but what it does is make you a well rounded athlete excelling in all aspects of fitness from endurance, to strength, to gymnastics, and everything in between. Our primary goal for our gymnastics in the month of July was Butterfly Pull-ups. For August, we will be focusing on Ring Dips. So although you will see ring dip drills and practice popping up throughout the month, don't neglect perfecting your skills in what we built upon in July on your pullups. Before class and after class are the perfect time to work on honing those skills.
This week (July 30th, 2018) we will be testing one of CrossFit's benchmark workouts, Elizabeth. It is one of CrossFit's original girl WODs consistenting of three rounds of a fundamental weightlifting movement and calisthenics. Sound familiar to last week? That's because just like Fran, Elizabeth consists of a 21-15-9 rep scheme of Cleans and Ring Dips. We will be completing this workout again in 4 weeks with the hope that after becoming more proficient in ring dips, you will be able to increase your performance on this benchmark workout.
CrossFit at Aspire Sports Lab has a lot in common with popular exercises programs from P90X to Orange Theory to any other HIIT (high intensity interval training) class. We base our workouts around constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity, just like many of them do. The main difference, I want you all to care and strive toward elevating your performance. Work on your weaknesses, perfect your technique and care about your performance. Remember the scale and body fat calipers are only one measure of our fitness. But by testing these benchmarks and adding in new skills to our bag of tricks each month, we can quantitatively define that we are fitter individuals.
Read more at: library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/13_03_Benchmark_Workouts.pdf
One of the most amazing things about triathlon is how it forces us to be incredible time managers and multitaskers. Although we don't have to master any one discipline, we strive to be pretty darn good at three of them. One thing that is always tough for triathletes to find time to do is strength training. Once I convince a triathlete on how essential it is, their performances and health improves dramatically.
Because efficiency is so important for triathletes, getting the most bang for your buck is where the focus needs to be. Forget isolated muscle groups and "core" training. Triathletes need movements that work large muscle groups, develop strength and power, and emphasize postural support. Additionally, it is important to know and remember that for triathletes, the goal of our program is to not necessarily gain size, but rather to increase the strength of the muscle fiber at the cellular level. Therefore, when lifting the goal is not for high repetitions, rather the contrary of fewer repetitions, longer rest periods, and more sets.
Muscle Groups Worked: Posterior Chain (erectors, gluts, hamstrings), abdominals, upper back (traps, lats, rhomboids)
Number of Reps: 1-8 reps
Importance: One of the cornerstone strength movements that builds the foundation that triathletes need to swim, bike, and run. When proper technique is achieved, there is no better exercise to work the posterior chain and postural support that triathletes depend so heavily on.
Muscle Groups Worked: Gluts, hamstrings, quads, calfs, abdominals, erectors
Number of Reps: 1-8 reps
Importance: Another cornerstone strength movement working the entire lower body and abdominals. Studies have shown that deadlifts and back squats are some of the best core exercises you can do.
Muscle Groups Worked: Upper back, abdominals
Number of Reps: 1-15 reps
Importance: A strong upper back is not only vital for a fast swim, but also to support yourself erect on the bike and with proper posture on the run.
Muscle Groups Worked: Legs, Upper Back, Shoulders, Core
Number of Reps: 1-8 reps
Importance: The Overhead Squat not only works the muscles listed above, but also creates unparalleled shoulder stability and postural control. Shoulder health is a primary concern in swimming and being able to stabilize heavy weight overhead will contribute to this. This overhead load also promotes a strong core and postural muscles that will be helpful on the bike and run.
Muscle Groups Worked: Legs, Upper Back, Core
Number of Reps: 2-6 reps
Importance: The clean is the most important power exercise out there for triathletes. Developing muscular strength is important, but don't neglect your muscular power and fast twitch muscle fibers. In addition to working the whole body and create a large hormonal response, the clean also promotes powerful hip flexors that your body will thank you for on the bike and run.
Muscle Groups Worked: Legs
Number of Reps: 2-6 reps
Importance: The Box Jump works our lower body power and the fast twitch muscle fibers that are often forgotten about during our endurance workouts. Good box jump technique also promotes proper running mechanics by learning how to jump off of and make contact with the ground, correctly.
Tips on how to balance life and fitness...
Endurance racing takes time and commitment to be successful. Luckily, with the correct planning, you can have a life in addition to an amazing hobby. No matter what diehards may say, there is much more to life than running, obstacle course racing, cycling, or triathlon. Family, friends, work, and other hobbies should still encompass your life. Here are some tips to make sure you still have friends to cheer you on by the time you make it to the finish line!
Scheduling is vital when it comes to balancing your life. Creating a weekly schedule of your training ensures you get everything done. It also allows you to balance out your work and/or other activities. I experienced a good example of this while planning a weekend trip. Being that I was going to be the only one biking, I didn’t want to bring my bike on the trip just for a few hours of riding. So, I switched up one of my weekly swims with a long bike ride to get that done. I was able to swim on the trip much easier since we were staying on the beach.
Don’t forget to schedule your recovery as well. Not only should you be doing your mobility exercises anyways, but if you are on vacation or just wanting have a good time with friends, you don’t want being tight from your morning workout interfering with whatever might be on the agenda.
You’ve got it down as to when you are doing your workouts, but now you’ve got to make sure you are prepared for them. This means packing your bag, getting your gear ready, making sure you have the right fuel, etc. The night before your workout, you should have everything you need ready, including pre and post workout fuels.
Hydrate! Hydrating is always important, but even more important when drinking alcohol. When we drink alcohol it dehydrates and increases urination. Make sure you are hydrating before, during, and after drinking. Take in some extra electrolytes before and after as well. Nothing is worse than skipping or being hung over during a workout just because you indulged in a few adult beverages the day before.
Include Friends and Family
Don’t be the person that only talks about their racing and training. But, do be the person who invites friends and family to cheer you on at races. That can be a huge step to helping them understand your passion. Also, if they happen to want to join you for a workout, but it slightly conflicts with your training plan, who cares?! One workout is not going to ruin your training and you may never know what that slow bike ride or run/walk may be doing for that person.
Unfortunately sleep is very important. Out at night and have an early training session? Sometimes you’ve got to play the best of both worlds and leave the party a bit early. Hey, at least you went and had a good time. And while everyone else stays out an extra couple of hours, you’ll be getting a good night’s rest and making them feel like crap when they see your Instagram post of your 10 miler the next morning.
Contrary to the title of this article, you can’t really do it all. You have to make the decision as to what is most important and when. Sometimes, especially as you get closer to your important races or events, some aspects of your social life might change. Maybe you can’t go out at night, or you may miss that day at the beach. But, that’s ok because you have an ultimate goal that you have been training for. Once your race is over, you can relax a bit and let things other than your prioritize your life.
The biggest thing is this – be realistic about your training and life. Skipping a great time with friends just because you are training for a race can be a mistake. Workouts can be made up or even skipped from time to time. If it’s on occasion, that is not going necessarily going be the difference between you and a PR. What’s the purpose of training if we aren’t enjoying our lives? Do it all by scheduling, preparing, sleeping, and prioritizing.
How to Survive a Hot Workout
A large portion of our year here in South Florida is hot and humid. That fact however shouldn’t be an excuse not to get outside and utilize our tropical environment as a great place to workout. The beach is still beautiful, parks still spacious, and outdoor spaces should still be enjoyed. Though the heat and humidity can be uncomfortable, tough, and dangerous to exercise in, here are a few steps to conquer it safely and learn how to embrace the heat of South Florida in the summer.
There is nothing more important than hydrating when it comes to hot and humid conditions. Before I partake in any outdoor physical activity, I begin hydrating early that day (a minimum of 2 hours prior or I won’t even participate in outdoor activities). My typical one hour run hydration consists of a minimum of 32 ounces about 2 hours before a run. I always try to be over hydrated than under. Also, bring water with you to keep you hydrated throughout. Also remember that water isn't the only thing you need to be taking in. Electrolytes are vital for the body to absorb the water you are taking in, so make sure you are supplementing with electrolytes in additon to water.
Just like any workout, make sure to eat properly beforehand. Always eat 1-2 hours before a workout to allow time for digestion and proper fuel for the exercise. For workouts over an hour in duration, bring some food along as well, something easy to digest like a power gel, sports drink, or my personal favorite, raisins (university tested to be just as beneficial as sports jelly beans).
Time It Properly
Even for the most conditioned athletes, working out midday is sometimes just not the best idea. Temperatures in the high 90s with little wind and high humidity can be detrimental to not only health, but performance. Avoid the hottest times of the day and try to work out when there is at least a little breeze blowing.
Shade can be a rarity in South Florida. It’s not my fault palm trees don’t provide much shade. Find a nice, shady place to workout and it will decrease the temperature dramatically. Even better is when this shade is in an open place like the beach or a park that you still get a breeze to cool you down a bit extra.
Embrace the Heat
Heat doesn’t have to be a bad thing if you don’t want it to. I personally love running on really hot and humid days. I just make sure I prepare for it properly before I partake in any physical activity. After proper preparation, I have learned how to embrace the hot environment and feel that it makes me stronger in other workouts. What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger (just don’t die of heat stroke).
One of the toughest questions I faced when getting into triathlon was whether I should purchase a traditional road bike or a tri (or time trial) bike. I have come up with a little guide to steer you in the best direction when it comes to this difficult question. Remember, no matter what, a good fitting at your Local Bike Shop will be necessary!
Questions to ask yourself:
Can you borrow either of the two?
YES – Borrow it. Whichever one. Try it out, see if you like it, and begin making your next move from there. If you can ride it for your first couple tris, even better. Now take what you have learned and make a purchase.
NO – Too bad, keep reading.
Will you be riding in group rides?
YES – Because of the constant braking and shifting needed in group rides, you’ll need to go with the road bike. Shifting on a tri bike out of aero position is a pain and you won’t want to be in aero while drafting. You can also put on aftermarket aero bars to get into a pretty decent aero position when riding alone or in a race.
NO – There’s no need to worry about braking out of aero position because you’ll be riding alone, so go with a tri bike.
In your training will you be with triathletes or cyclists?
TRIATHLETES – Go with a tri bike. You may be the only triathlete in the bunch without a tri bike, so you might as well fit in.
CYCLISTS – They will be riding road bikes, so you probably should also.
How athletic are you?
VERY – A very athletic person is going to have the flexibility (or be dedicated to work on it) to be comfortable in aero position and is going to want to compete in their age division at races. You are going to want a tri bike to have that competitive advantage.
MODERATELY – Although you many need to spend some extra time working on your mobility to be comfortable in aero position, I would still go with the tri bike. Being able to get into a good position to use a larger percentage on quads vs. hamstrings on the bike will save your legs for the run.
NOT VERY – Positioning is going to be uncomfortable to get into on a tri bike. Also, you are not going to be competitive enough at this point for the advantages to outweigh the comfort factor. You might want to get a road bike for the ease of the ride and the fact that you will ride more if it is more enjoyable, which it will be with a road bike.
Other things to consider:
Road bikes are more popular than tri bikes, therefore they are more abundant both new and used. You may get a much better deal on a road bike. I would rather get a great deal on a full carbon road bike with great components, then spend the same amount on a tri bike that will be needed to be upgraded in the near future. Check your LBS (local bike shop) for end of the year deals and the used market to see what’s out there.
You definitely have a better shot at getting a good deal on a road bike, but you also have a better shot at a road bike being able to be ridden around the block and taken for a ride. LBS’ often don’t carry tri bikes in stock. So, when purchasing your first bike, this might be tough as you will not be able to test out the exact bike you are purchasing. This becomes less of an issue on your 2nd bike as you will know much more of what you want. But, for your intro bike the sport, it is nice to ride around and see what you are getting yourself into.
Interest in Triathlon vs. Cycling
When I purchased my first bike, my main priority was finishing a 174 mile charity cycling event. Doing a triathlon was in the back of my mind, but wasn’t my primary concern when purchasing a bike. Fast forward to a few months after that ride, and I was in love with triathlon and regretting my decision getting a road vs tri bike. But, my initial intentions was not to be focused on triathlons, it just worked out that way. So, if you think you will be more into group rides, cruising the coast, and socializing with other cyclists – you need a road bike. But, if there is a chance that triathlon will dominate your mind – you need a tri bike.
You will be more aerodynamic on a tri bike, even if you put clip on aero bars on a road bike. You will also be in a better position to be quad dominant on the bike, leaving your hamstrings fresh for the run. If you can handle the aggressive position, a tri bike is going to be advantageous during a triathlon for those 2 reasons. In my opinion, even if you currently aren’t flexible enough to be comfortable in aero position for a long duration, you need to work on that.. There is no such thing as not flexible enough – work on it.
My first bike was a road bike. I purchased it to complete a long charity ride and then signed up for my first triathlon shortly after. When I realized I was much more interested in triathlons, I regretted getting a road bike. I felt out of place not having a tri bike at races and knew my positioning was not as good as it could be. Never the less, I road my first year of races on that road bike, including my first Ironman. After knowing I was in this sport for the long haul, I upgraded and purchased a tri bike. Now, I love having my old road bike for group rides and my tri bike for when I am solo. I absolutely love having both. Also, financially I would not have been able to purchase the tri bike I did at the time I purchased my road bike. If I had bought a tri bike back then, I would still be looking to upgrade. Therefore, I am happy that I was able to purchase a great road bike back then and save for a great tri bike now. I love having both!
Have any additional questions? I would love to help! E-mail me at AspireSportsLab@gmail.com
Sean Spire is the Head Coach of ASL. He was a competitive swimmer who discovered CrossFit and Ironman Triathlons. He has his BS in Exercise Science from Florida State University.