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Joe - As is often the case, your blog post is very topical to something I've been thinking about recently. I am less than 5 weeks out of my goal marathon, and during this training cycle, as with previous cycles, I typically add about 2-3 hours to my week of cross training in the form of cycling and incline treadmill walking (a bit of swimming early on). All easy/recovery zone, as measured by HRM.

I'm injury-prone and my thinking on this has always been it allows me to have more volume but at less risk from the running.

But with 5 weeks to go, I've been wondering recently what would best serve me in those 2-3 hours per week:

Choice 1 - Keep the same schedule and plow forward (I drop all cross training 10 days out regardless)

Choice 2 - Keep 1 and drop the other (i.e. keep the incline walking but drop the cycling)

Choice 3 - Drop them both and only do the prescribed run workouts from here on out.

My problem is what do I do with those 2-3 extra hours a week? Replace the cross training with easy runs? Keep the incline walking but replace the biking with easy runs?

I'm not sure what would benefit me the most here in this home stretch. Would appreciate any comments/suggestions, thanks as always.

Joe Friel

GregC - Wow, lots of questions. I'm only guessing because I know so little about you, but I'd vote for #1. The only thing you have to consider in making this decision is your risk of injury. Good luck!

Willem J Martins

Joe, do you have any statistics which suggest weight training for strength increases FTP?

I have been on and off with weights over the years, but have never really been sure of the answer?

Also, trying to understand why curls and knee extensions are not relevant, as from around 170- 360 degrees of the pedaling stroke I thought those muscles would be in use?


Thanks Joe - Yeah, sorry for all the questions.

I knew about your rule of thumb to "make your training increasingly like your race" the closer you get to race day. But it didn't seem right to just drop that 2-3 hours out of my week altogether, nor risk switching all of those hours over to running either.

The incline walking is more similar to running than cycling is, so maybe I can move some of the time over to that. It's also fairly low risk injury-wise.

This blog post just happened to pop up right when I was giving this some thought.

Joe Friel

Willem J Martins - Good questions. There is considerable research showing a positive association between strength training and various markers of performance, esp those around the lactate/anaerobic threshold which would be similar to FTP. Of course, there is also some research that found no benefits. That usually happens no matter what the area of study is. I've found it to be quite effective in coaching riders for the last 30+ years. Isolated-joint exercises such as curls and knee extensions don't use all of the muscles necessary to drive the pedals.And the joints aren't even in the same angles as when on the bike. Not even close. Pedaling is a complex movement so an exercise that recruits all of the muscles in the manner in which they are recruited (including angles) on the bike are much more beneficial.


In regards to cross-training:

I spend less time on the bike now (3-4 days a week maximum) and more time in the gym and on my feet hiking and backcountry skiing. One tricky aspect of cross-training, as Joe mentions, is periodization.

Transitioning back into cross-training can be difficult and often leads to soreness, and the realization that the body is imbalanced, out of sync, and not prepared for the activity of choice.

I've struggle with this. Most cyclists do.

Knowing when to take up short walks or runs, or light introductory days at the gym is critical for avoiding the most avoidable injury--the off-season variety.

One thing that has helped me is keeping some very light, non-specific cross-training in my routine, even during the height of my cycling season.

Just some short hikes, super light gym visits, and short swims (15 min.) really help me get back into the late fall and early winter "transition" to off-season cross-training.

This has proven much more difficult and complicated in the past, when I simply did 5-6 days of bike from Feb. to October.

Cycling is second to none when it come to aerobic fitness, but it doesn't do us any favors biomechanically. Just watch the cyclists at your next event walk around the parking before the event!

Keeping just little balance seems to have helped, and not interfered with the bike fitness.

As we age he have to keep one eye on specific "fitness" and the other on general "wellness". Not an easy balance to manage.


Are leg curls and knee extensions good for runners, especially those temporarily sidelined due to planter fasciitis? I get the cycling part but wonder about the running strength workouts. Thanks.

Joe Friel

JohnB - It's always best to do compound exercises whenever possible regardless of sport.

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