Welcome back for part 4 of this blog series going through different parts of a training plan for endurance athletics. If you would like to find and read the other three components please check them out to catch up with the information presented. Today, I would like to discuss the missed points I see among endurance athlete training plans or just in training in general. This is all along the lines of strength training. Athletes whether they are new and starting out or seasoned veterans seem to let strengthening go to the way side. Whether it is an afterthought or if it is just neglected all together. I CAN tell you this...you will not get stronger by doing your sport (running, biking, swimming, walking, etc.).
Having the appropriate strength in your body to perform your sport is an initial essential and needs to be maintained not forgotten about as your training gets more serious or you have been feeling great through competition. Yes, we all get busy at times with life and work including myself. Weeks when I am really busy I sometimes just neglect that run I had planned for a strength day I missed earlier in the week. Why do I do this? Because if I am not strong then my body will not be resilient and be able to tolerate the forces exerted on me when I run. Everything you do as an athlete should have a purpose. If you don't like strength training, it is a necessity but there are many ways to make it fun and interesting. The reasons I see that strength training is neglected or left out include lack of time as I mentioned above, lack of knowledge of what or how to do it (biggest one I see), and/or fall victim to the general myths about strength training (especially for women). Strength training will not make you bulky and it will not damage your joints if done correctly. The correct part is what most people worry about and therefore if they are unsure...they just won't do strength training. Trust me, if you invested a couple hundred dollars into learning these movements appropriately then you will save yourself THOUSANDS in medical bills later. It's all about the cost-reward to what you want in life and your sport. Safety and form are #1 and sometimes watching a YouTube video may be enough but in other cases not so much. Get checked by your local personal trainer or physical therapist (who are familiar with your sport and what you want to do with it) so that you can get the information that is right for you. Another thing that I see a lot of is there is a lot of body weight training. Don't get me wrong. Body weight training is GREAT especially when you get started but it is not everything. There are some people out there who make their life and careers off of these exercises and calisthenics (body weight and gravity biased exercise). However, these people, like Frank Medrano, have worked for years and many hours a day to get the control, size, and strength that they have. If you have been doing these types of exercises and are still doing the same body weight squats you were doing last year, I hope this post helps you kick it up a notch As I said before, body weight exercises are great. But the basic ones like an air squat are...well...basic. if you are a runner, for example, we are single legged athlete where we make contact with the ground one foot at a time. ONE. FOOT. AT. A. TIME. Therefore, we need to make sure you are doing strength training in a single leg capacity as well if doing body weight training. If you are a swimmer, performing pull ups and inverted rows by pulling self up to the bar and then weight shifting from one hand to the other before lowering back down are just an example of what you can do to make that harder as well. For those who have access to a gym or weighted equipment, doing weight training on top of your body weight activities will be an extra level up in your regimen. Doing weighted exercise will help you to deal with the forces that are exerted on our bodies when we are running or going up hill. From what I remember, I mentioned in other posts that we can experience a multiple of out body weight greater than what we weigh at rest when we run. You need to be able to not only absorb it but be able to bounce back and push off to get to the next step. Therefore, putting on some level of muscle through resistance training will give you a leg up above someone not doing such a task. Now, most of us as endurance athletes train with power meters (if you do not yet then that is okay). For those that do use this measurement as a tool to determine your performance you can understand how POWERFUL it can be (pun intended haha). I know some of you consider this to be Power Training as you are using Power to train, right? But this is not what I am referring to. There is another form of power training that I am speaking to that can be even more powerful than what your power meter is doing for you. Adding power training in what I will say below will improve your power readings while running and cycling much faster than if you just trained harder. Power training is moving a resistance over a given distance in the shortest period of time possible. Think about it in the aspect of your training. As a cyclist, you are a resistance that you have to move your legs against over a given distance (24 miles)...and you want to beat the person in front of you so you do it FAST!!! The same goes for doing it off of your bike. If you are doing a push up for example, this could mean slowly lowering yourself to the ground and then exploding back up to the start or doing a weighted squat by lowering down slow and exploding up from the bottom to the start position. The same can also be said about trying your best to pull a weight off of the floor in a deadlift as fast as you can. Each one of these outlets has a specific purpose in training and will give you very specific benefits. Based on what I said above, you do not need to lift weights like a power lifter or strong man and you do not have to get chiseled out like Frank Medrano to be effective at body weight activities. However, you do want to be strong enough and explosive enough to compete safely and happily in your sport without repercussions before, during, and after participation. The amount of strengthening and power training is based on your sport, the course you are competing in, your specific body mechanics and measurements, and your current training plan. As you strengthen throughout preseason you want to make sure that you are improving over the course of this and then peaking around the time of competition. The same things goes for your power. This may change the rep schemes. As you go from pre-season to competition you want to switch from predominantly strength schemes that range from 3-6 sets of 6-12 repetitions to something that is 3-8 sets of 3-6 repetitions. The closer you get to and when you are in competition season you don't want to be improving anymore but maintaining what you have gained. Additionally, you want your workouts to be short, intense, and powerful to simulate racing conditions but not at full race pace. In some cases like your weight training you may want to go sometimes up to 80% of what you can maximally do but that has to be graded into a training plan that you have either creating with your coach or something that you have fully creating on your own. Let me wrap this up. Both strength and power training are important components of someone's training plan...and they often get missed or are afterthoughts. Both dual legged (armed), single legged (armed), and resistance training should be included in order to cover you based on the sport you perform (don't forget your CORE!). Between pre-season and competition your strength training plans should be different and geared more towards the sport you perform as you get closer to racing season. If you have any questions or would like specific help with your training please feel free to reach out. I would be more than happy to assist in any way to assist in getting you to your goals and prevent injury. I hope you found this an interesting read. Please be on the lookout for the next blog post next week on Plyometrics and Speed training.