Look I get it; you’re an endurance athlete so strength training isn’t for you. You’re too busy running, biking, and maybe even swimming already. Plus, you run the risk of being too sore for those workouts from lifting weights, right? And then those darn bulky muscles will just slow you down. But that’s not quite the whole story. In fact, strength training is most likely your missing link, and by incorporating this into your routine you will begin to see there are some very real benefits.
One of the main benefits of strength training for any athlete is injury prevention. While doing long endurance workouts the bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments take a beating. And over time they will begin to break down if not cared for properly. Strength training allows you to progressively load and strengthen these parts of the body in a controlled environment so they can hold up under the demands of your other training. Furthermore, strength work will of course build and strengthen your muscles. And not only should your strength program focus on strengthening the muscles used during running, biking, and swimming; it should also address your weaknesses and any mobility imbalances you may have that will cause improper motor patterns and future injury.
As a runner, cyclist, or swimmer; your workouts are primarily moving in the same direction. Forward. Always forward. These activities do a great job of working the major muscle groups and movers of the body. Everything else, not so much. Strength training gives you the opportunity to work the smaller supporting (intrinsic) muscles that are often forgotten. Every year when I start off-season work with the athletes of BarryS Coaching our number one goal is to build balance throughout the body. We must spend time working the intrinsic muscles, the ones that move you laterally and stabilize the core. The improved posture and stability will work to keep our athletes healthy and injury free. From adding this type of training into their routine the past 2 years I am happy to say the injuries and chronic pain often associated with endurance training has drastically declined across the board.
The benefit athletes are usually most concerned with - becoming stronger leads to faster race times. Yes, you read that right; as you get stronger, you’ll get FASTER. Many times, people have a hard time seeing the correlation between the two but the evidence is undeniable. Studies done on both runners and cyclists show an increase on not just max speed AND power but more importantly on the duration of time they can maintain maximum speed and power. Think of an athlete’s race energy as being contained in a bucket. Every time you take a stride or a stroke you are dipping a little bit out of your energy bucket. By adding strength, primarily in the legs and core, the athlete improves their body’s ability to efficiently use energy and oxygen resulting in removal of less energy from the bucket. This will allow the athlete to push off fatigue and maintain an efficient pace longer.
The final benefit of strength training is improved body composition. This basically means the athlete loses fat and builds more lean muscle tissue. During endurance workouts, the athlete is carrying their body weight for the duration of the activity. In a full weight bearing activity, running, the athlete is supporting 2.5 time body weight per foot strike. Approximately 50% of all runners are injured annually (http://www.run3d.co.uk/announcements/why-do-running-injuries-happen). Strength work can help stave off injury and allow us to maintain a more efficient running gait for longer. Bad weight = fat; Good weight = lean muscle mass. And as a final note on improved body composition, we don’t look so bad in a race kit!
Have I convinced you of the values of strength training? How often should I strength train – off season 2 times per week with a supplemental Yoga class or two each week. As we move into the off-season winter months, training volume shifts to 1. Working on weaknesses; and 2. Base Strength Building. Focus in these two areas will absolutely pay dividends during the 2017 race season.
Starting this month Proformance Fitness will begin base building sport specific strength and functional movement improvement classes. Essentially this is Q-1 of our 2017! BarryS Coaching and their athletes meet at Proformance Health & Fitness from 7 – 8 a.m. Monday and Wednesday morning. We will be working through a program designed to build stronger, faster, healthier, more mobile athletes. If the Multisport specific program sounds like something you may find to be of interest or beneficial to you, please get in touch with Coach Barry or myself.
Proformance Coach & Trainer