In this post, I’ll play the role of the hypocrite.
You see, I have grown to enjoy the sport of distance running, so this topic is right in my wheel house. The problem is, I don’t do as much strength training as I should. Thankfully, at work I tend to do some body weight exercises every day, which are great, but I seldom plan for a good workout on my own. And I haven’t had a good 4-6 week strength training program in years.
So this will truly be a post of “Do as I say, not as I do” advise. And hopefully it’ll be good enough that I might actually start incorporating weights into the mix too.
We are continuing our series on the importance of strength training for all types of people by looking at those that compete/train in long duration endurance events. So, we will be focusing a lot on runners, bikers, and triathletes, who all should know the benefits of strength training, but aren’t often found in the gym doing any weight training. While I understand the mindset of “I need to be logging miles/laps in order to improve my turnover/speed/endurance/etc.”, there are some very good reasons to skip a run/ride/swim and hit the weights once or twice a week instead.
3 Reasons Lifting Weights Will Improve Your Performance in Endurance Events
- Fewer Injuries–Endurance events, by definition, involve repeating the same movement patterns over and over again, sometimes for multiple hours. This same repetitive stress can very easily lead to overuse injuries to your muscles, bones, or joints. Strength training helps to build your muscular strength up to help counter balance the routine degradation of muscle tissue that takes place every time you do a long bout of training or competing. Stronger muscles help to decrease the strain placed on your tendons during activity, which will help to decrease the likelihood of developing tendonitis, which can be a real bear to any distance athlete. Your musculature can also help absorb some of the stress that your bones have placed on them, which can decrease the instances of stress fractures.
- Give Your Body a Break–While it can be hard to convince some runners that running every day is bad for them, it really can be. By substituting an endurance training day with a strength training day, you are still able to work all of the key systems of your body as it pertains to physical activity, including cardiovascular and muscular, without placing that same repetitive stress-load that you get from doing another run/ride/swim. And this break will not only help to protect you from injuries as described above, but it can also provide a spark to help make training less monotonous and more exciting. Doing the same routine every day, no matter how much you like the activity, gets old. Add a little weight room routine once or twice a week, and your body AND mind will likely be saying thank you.
- Fade Less/Kick Stronger–Did you know that the reason Usain Bolt is the best 100m sprinter in the world isn’t that he is faster than everyone else, it’s that he slows down more slowly than the rest of the field? You see, in a sprint event, you attempt to maintain top speed as long as possible, but physiologically you are actually slowing down as you near the tape. In an endurance event, the physiology is slightly different, but the effect is still the same. If any of you are like me, you’ve had instances in training/competition where you were right on your target pace for 3/4 of the distance and just could not maintain it to the end. Strength training can help with this. Strength training is in and of itself an anaerobic activity, but by lifting appropriately for your goals you can help to train your muscles to function better as they fatigue and near their lactic acid threshold, which is pretty much what happens at the end of a long race or training session, especially if you are really pushing it. It is these strength training sessions that will go a long way towards helping you achieve that PR you are chasing, instead of coming up just short.
While it may sound at least a little bit counter intuitive to add strength training to your routine if you are an endurance athlete, I encourage you to give it a shot. The effect that a good cross training session will have on your performance is immeasurable, and after you make it a regular part of your routine I’d be shocked if you aren’t seeing a noticeable improvement in your endurance training.
If you are interested in starting a strength training program, but aren’t sure what exercises to include, send me a message with your question and I’ll give you some specifics. But if you know what you should be doing, and just haven’t been, stop with the excuses and get on with it already.
- Reminder–Don’t Forget Your ‘Other’ Muscles–This is fairly common for a lot of people that are training for a specific purpose, instead of just striving for overall health improvement. It is easy to get caught up in what you are training for, develop tunnel vision, and forget about some of your other muscles. For example, if you are a runner hopefully I’ve encouraged you enough to get into the gym for some squats, lunges, and step ups. But don’t forget to add in a few upper body exercises as well, like pull ups and push ups. You may overlook it, but when your arms are swinging for a few hours while you are completing a marathon, a strong upper body will absolutely help you maintain good posture and form for the duration of the run. Failing to train the rest of your body will render the training you are doing for your prime movers (hammys, glutes, and quads) less effective. And of course, don’t forget to train your core. All power, stability, and stamina comes from your core, and if you are weak there you have no chance of performing at your highest level.
What kind of strength training exercises do you include to help you perform better in your particular event? Let me know in the comments! Any benefits of strength training that I failed to mention? Let me know those too!