Strength Training is a key vital aspect to training for endurance athletes. It is often left out of their training program for one reason or another the most common ones find to be is
- It just doesn’t push me like when I swim/bike/run.
- I didn’t have time to fit it in and strength isn’t a key session.
- I’m not sure what to do in these sessions.
- I don’t like the initial DOMS effect after the first few sessions.
Well there is enough evidence to support that strength sessions are vital and actually enhance your athletic ability.
Lets look at some reasons why you should include these sessions in your plans.
- To improve movement in the joints
Generally we all work, drive or sit for long periods of time each day. This in fact shortens a lot of muscles around the hips,legs and back. This can lead to regular pain, soreness or stiffness, all three of these causing us problems on a daily basis. Regular strength training should include warm up or mobility exercises which mobilise the joints and flush blood around the body, this will improve the way we feel. It will also help to lengthen the muscles in the body which will improve our efficiency moving. Have a quick look at this exercise to see the type of movement that will help.
- To reduce fatigue in our aerobic training
One training aspect that is very important is of course sessions to improve our aerobic fitness. The goal of these sessions are to swim/bike/run at a moderate/easy/zone2/3 (depending on the scale you use) to enhance our body’s uptake of oxygen and making us more efficient to deliver vital nutrients throughout the body. You may well remember certain sessions where in fact you become very fatigued in them. The problem with this is you lose your strong posture, the body allows itself to lose form, maybe leaning forward, or swinging at the hips, or simple tracking issues from hips to ankles. With regular strength training you are recruiting more muscle fibres which help in turn to prolong the fatigue in your body. This will help keep the breathing and heart rate consistant and not raising too much (therefore losing the key benefit of the longer easy sessions) your body becomes more efficient and you will be enhancing your aerobic fitness.
- To be able to produce more power though the body
We have all heard of power to weight ratio’s. Now its fairly obvious that the higher the ratio is the faster you will go. Strength training gets us recruiting more muscle fibres and also helps us track in a more efficient way. If your tracking is out from the hip to the ankle eg the knee falls in and the hip falls out, you are putting yourself at more risk of injury and also losing energy from side to side. Check out the picture of the poor squat below, look at the knees fall in!
Better tracking means more energy going forward and this is the direction we want to go in endurance sports. By simply including strength training you are able to produce more force. With more force comes more power, more power raising your power to weight ratio produces better results. Its not just about long training and reducing your bodyweight!
- To reduce the chances of injury
This applies to all of the above points, the better you become at being able to work with your own body weight, eg like the impact of each stride running, or hill climbing on the bike or swimming form in the later stages of your Goal A race. The less likely you are to become injured. You will be able to absorb the impact better and the muscles will be able to become more adaptable to the pressure. You will become less fatigued which helps to hold form for longer periods which in turn will prevent injuries.
- It adds variety to your training
You would of heard of the saying variety is the spice of life! Well lets look to get you motivated to include this in your training, rather than scheduling that extra session of a long run which may be hard to get motivated to start, add strength training, this adds another element to your training which will help to spur you on to carry on training. Make sure to add it to the schedule and stick to it!
Implementing Into Your Training Schedule
Now this can be the hard part! I’ve always found that strength training will be the first thing to go in training if time is a problem. Here’s a few things to try if it is hard
- Put in a weekly schedule including your strength training, swim, bike, run and of course rest days and try and stick to it. Work it so you can visit the gym before or after work.
- Ask a friend or college if they are interested in joining you. Having someone else to train with means you have a time established to start the session and also adds motivation.
- Find a strength program that works for you. Make sure you are doing things you enjoy.
- Find a personal trainer or strength and condition coach/class so that you have a appointment. Try and make it that the trainer is interested or understands the sports and what is required.
- Encourage the help of a triathlon online coach with experience in delivering strength and conditioning via online tools.