Bringing Cycling to Your Box

Adding a cycling program.

Lactate threshold is a well-known concept in the cycling program at CrossFit Philia.

“It’s the point in time where that athlete starts to redline,” said Denise Barnhouse, a co-owner of the Box in North Liberty, Iowa. “The best way to describe it is the point in time when you’re in a 20 minute AMRAP and you’re done. You’re looking at the clock and you have a couple minutes left and you’re completely gassed.”

The cycling program at the Box has been around for two years now. Barnhouse, who also runs a triathalon training business, took her experience and brought it into the CrossFit community of her gym, including the lactate threshold.

By having her athletes participate in the test, Barnhouse explained she is then able to determine their zones in various workouts. In order to paint the picture clearer, Barnhouse said taking the lactate threshold test is like finding your one rep max for a lift, and the zones are like weight percentages of a one rep max.

In the programming, workouts are based on zones, meaning each workout is specified for each individual. For instance, one athlete’s threshold is different than another athlete’s threshold. “Instead of being a standardized workout, it’s now become a specific workout,” Barnhouse said.

Many athletes who do cycling don’t stick just to the bikes, however. Often, they are doing CrossFit as well. As such, Barnhouse said it’s important to be aware of that in programming. For example, if on a Wednesday her athletes cycled, on Thursday they will see a lighter option for them in the CrossFit WOD. “Anything in addition to the CrossFit WODs that those athletes are doing, then [Coaches] just need to make sure that they’re scaling those WODs down for those athletes,” she said.

While Barnhouse said giving her athletes an endurance portion to supplement their CrossFitting is great, she explained it’s key to make sure athletes are not putting too much stress on their body, including in the area of nutrition. “Once you add in that endurance portion, if you burn through all of those fats and carbohydrate stores, if there’s not enough on board, then what happens is your body goes into that protein store, which is the one place you don’t want to go,” she said.

On top of nutrition, Barnhouse also advised investing in Keiser Trainers, which would allow athletes to bring in their own bikes that have been fitted to their person. She suggested connecting with a local bike shop, as they can provide equipment at cost or at least with a good deal.

In the end, Barnhouse said the best way to measure an athlete’s threshold is using lactate threshold. With programs and information online, she said one could learn how to implement the test. “If you have one Coach that had any background in endurance, you could use the same endurance program. I could use the same idea when using lactate threshold for cycling as the same lactate threshold idea for running too,” said Barnhouse. “So then essentially you could do an endurance program that covers cycling and running so depending on what the experience is or what the background is for whoever Coach wants to implement that, they can do that.”

Heather is the editor for Box Pro Magazine. Contact her at