Jason Kenny’s Gold medal workout

Jason Kenny, one of Britain’s most decorated Olympians almost gave up on his sport at the top of his game; after winning his sixth Olympic gold medal, he thought this would be his last race. But, after the birth of his first child with fellow Olympian Laura Kenny, Jason has a new lease of life and is setting his sights on Tokyo 2020, bidding to become Britain’s most successful Olympic athlete ever.
You recently said that you have reversed a decision to retire from cycling – why was that?

Just because I’d had enough basically, that was it – I’d actually had enough a long time before the games. I remember, it was in January before the world champs that year and the Olympics but obviously by that point I’d done all the hard work and I was part of a team so I just saw it through and it went really well! I don’t know if by relaxing and accepting this was going to be my last race that it kind of helped me.

When you went out onto the track at Rio, did you think that was probably going to be your last race?

Yes definitely, at that level for sure. I’d told myself at the World Championships “this is my last World Championships”, which I then went on to win. Same with the Olympics, I was pretty serious about going away and after walking away I was looking at future careers, I was really serious.

And so what was it that made you reverse your decision?

I think I just started enjoying it again really. I kept on exercising, there’s lots of things I wanted to do, I wanted to exercise in different ways and that’s what I did. I went swimming, long walks with the dogs, bit of running. But it turns out I’m rubbish at running. I just went out and enjoyed riding my bike.

I started doing more gym work as well because I always thought when I was training before, the gym wasn’t really my favourite thing, it wasn’t really for me. But then as soon as I stopped and I started doing what I wanted in the gym, I really enjoyed it and going and getting stuck in and trying different things. That was it, I just started enjoying it really and before I knew it I was reverting to what I was good at, which is the more sprint kind of stuff and squats and things like that. Before I knew it I was half way back to training and just really enjoying it.

Has the birth of your first child had a part to play in that?

Not really, because this kind of happened while he was still in the oven. It was just a process that I went through. The thing is, I’ve never really had more than two weeks off before and even when I’ve been off, I’ve never really been switched off, I’ve always been thinking about training and thinking about conditioning and things like that.

Whereas this is the first time that I’ve stepped away and just thought ‘that’s it now’ and just got on with the rest of my life. And I think I just needed that refresh.

Tokyo 2020 is still three years off but do you fancy your chances of adding to your medal tally?

Every Olympic cycle gets harder effectively, you can’t do the same again, if we turned up with the same form I had in Rio, it won’t be enough to win. So you always have to be four years better and move on. So it will be difficult for sure.

The questions on everybody’s lips, with the news that you’re reversing your decision, are you looking forward to becoming Sir Jason at anytime?

I’m not sure, I don’t really think about stuff like that to be honest [laughing].

How important for a track cyclist is conditioning to compete at that elite level?

The gym’s really important, I think if you just train what you want to get good at, you’ll very quickly get to a level and find that getting better is really difficult. We’re at a level now where we spent years and years banging our heads against a brick wall trying to get little bit faster. The gym’s one of those supporting things that you can put in to boost your strength and your conditioning to hopefully push you on and go a bit quicker. It’s good for general health and injury prevention because what we do is very much in one position on the bike – lean forward and never stretch your legs out. So it’s good to get in the gym and do the complete opposite and reset that I think a little bit as well for your general wellbeing.

How long do you spend in the gym each week?

I go in the gym two to three times a week. It’s changed over the years, I used to go and do epic sessions and then I striped it right back and just did key lifts and now I’m somewhere in the middle. I’ll go in and I don’t mess about, and I’ll be in there for an hour and a half maybe from start to finish just don’t faff about- get warmed up, get lifting, get a bit of core done and get out. I’ve found that’s the best way to do it.

It’s a very northern attitude to training isn’t it, not faffing about and just cracking on with it…

Yeah that’s it, it’s changed over the years, I used to do epic sessions but I find, you just get good at training and for us the gym’s all about supporting the bike. You want to get the most out of it, as efficiently as possible.

I’m assuming that leg day’s the best kind of day for you. What kind of exercises should cyclists be doing to improve their cycling?

Legs are the things that are powering you on the bike and we don’t do anything else really, or I don’t personally because nothing on my arms is going to make me quicker on the bike. It’s just going to make me heavier and less aero so I don’t do anything but legs and core. I do all the basics – leg press, squats and core stability, it’s just about trying to be as efficient as possible and putting that power down.

Which do you prefer, the track or the road?

I’m better on the track for sure, competing wise, definitely on the track. There’s nothing better than going out on a nice day and riding round the lanes and having a nice café stop with your mates and things like that. But when it comes to racing and getting serious and going fast, you can’t beat the track.

You train up in Manchester, at the National Cycling Centre, who’s got the strongest legs in Manchester?

[Laughing] Not me for sure! A lot of the guys on the squad are really strong at the minute and they squat well over 200kg, around 220-230 quite easily. I’m not sure who’s got the record.

How does that transition into power on the bike? If you can squat more in the gym, does that not necessarily mean that you’ve got a bigger power output on the bike?

You’d think so wouldn’t you, there’s no doubt about it, but thank god it doesn’t otherwise I wouldn’t be very good on the bike. In theory it should do, it certainly increases your potential to use power on the track if you’ve got that underlying strength. But it’s about how you can coordinate it as well on the bike, which some people are just more efficient at than others at.

What would you say is the best piece of training advice you’ve ever been given?

My best advice would be to just make sure that everything you do has purpose. I think a lot of the time people get obsessed about training to just to be good at training. Particularly in the gym, it’s easy because the numbers are there for everyone to see, you think ‘oh I can squat 20kg more than I could two weeks ago so I must be stronger’. It’s quite easily quantifiable by numbers but for us, it doesn’t really matter what you can squat, it’s about how it transfers to the bike, so just try to make sure that everything transfers to what it is that you want to be good at.

What would you say that motivates you?

I don’t know what motivates me, to be honest. I just enjoy.

Is it just a habit thing you’ve been doing for so long or is it just a pure love for cycling?

It is a little bit, I am a creature of habit and I always think of myself as a momentum trainer. I take a little bit of getting going at the start, but once I’m going I just keep going and going and going and I feel like I get better and better. I like the planning and the programming and making use of every second. You always feel like you want more time before a race, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a week out you always want two weeks or a year out, you always wish you had two years. Or a minute away you always wish you had two minutes. It’s just making the most of every second leading up to a race, the mentality starts years away when you’re planning and it’s the same mentality that we still have the second before a race, you’re still thinking what can I do to make sure I’m in the best possible place.

You reversed your decision to stop cycling, but that wasn’t because you’d fallen out of love with the sport?

It wasn’t no, I’d just done it for quite a long time and it’s just like anything I think, if you’ve done it for long enough and it’s something that I’ve lived and breathed for such a long time that I just kind of wanted a change and just kind of be normal for a bit.

How’s your training going to be changed now that you’ve got a little one in the house?

Yes, it’s different. It’s a learning curve, as athletes you’re always learning, always adapting, whether it’s around injuries or how you’ve changed physically for your career. For us, having a little one is a massive change and I think it’s something that we’re still learning about. Learning to be a bit more flexible, so recently, if we’ve not had a good nights sleep, you have to accept that that’s going to affect you training. As much as you don’t want to, and as much as you want to do every single effort it might not be possible if you’ve not slept properly and not recovered properly so I think that’s something that I’m learning about. Also learning about how much you need to sleep basically – it’s a big one! And if the little one’s not well or things like that, that obviously takes priority and our training has to fit around that which is a massive change.

Try Jason’s workout;

THE WORKOUT:

Stretch

Session 1

  • Power cleans, 4×3 reps around 110kg
  • Single leg press, 3×6 reps around 200kg (when we travelled this weight varies between machines quite a lot)

Session 2

  • Squats, 4×5 reps around 160kg
  • Trap bar deadlift, 4×3 reps around 200kg

Session 3

  • Power cleans, 4×3 reps around 110kg
  • Squats, 4×8 reps around 140kg limited recovery