There's a lot of talk among triathletes, runners and fitness enthusiasts about "getting lean" or improving body composition. In the minds of many, a lean, toned body is the desirable body composition because......?????
This is what concerns me. As you fill in the blank, many people strive for a certain physique by restricting calories, opting for drastic changes in the diet (without consideration for long-term outcomes of constant nutrient deficiencies or excessive intakes) or engaging in unnecessary "overtraining". Perhaps your intention is to give it your all to train for the upcoming endurance event, to get in the best shape of your life and to "clean up" the diet, but often, athletes get caught up with the hype of "looking good".
In my mind, what's a lean body if you can't do anything with it? More so, if you have a little jiggle in your wiggle (or run :) but consume a balanced diet and find yourself consistently improving, what will it take to lose those last few "stubborn lbs"...and is it really worth it?
I do agree that gradual weight loss for those who partake in athletic events (particulary endurance sports, anaerobic sports and multi-sporting events) is a fantastic thing for your health and body, particularly for those who are obese or overweight. For the more weight you carry as you engage in physical activity, the more the body is taxed to perform during a given amount of work. Lucky for me, I don't discriminate as a coach (and dietitian) and I don't believe that body image is the priority in achieving personal health, fitness and performance goals. I love working with people of all fitness levels (and sizes) and I believe that getting to the starting line of an athletic event is one of the most amazing things you can do for yourself and your self-esteem...then, after you cross the finish line, the sky is the limit.
You see, cardio is becoming more and more "easy" for our population. Although the Ironman distance only welcomes a select few who choose to participate in a 140.6 mile event (and the marathon is also an elite club for those who want to cover 26.2 miles by foot), it seems as if the human body is finding it "easy" to adapt when training for long-distance. This doesn't surprise me as the body is designed to move but when you throw in unbalanced diets, too little emphasis on quality training and LIFE (little sleep, stress, etc.), the body is constantly being worn down and as a result, injuries, overtraining and weight gain (yes, I know that many people struggle with weight gain while training for a running or triathlon event, let alone a 140.6 mile event) appear out of no where.
So, with your efficient body, how about considering making your body more metabolically active? Considering the short-term benefits (listed in the article) along with the long-term benefits of preserving bone density (thanks to many many years of wear and tear due to your love of triathlons, running and weight-bearing activity), I think everyone could benefit from lifting weights, resistance training, body-weight movements and/or using machines.
Also, if you consider the cost of high-volume, weight-bearing activity, on top of possible diet restrictions in an effort to lose weight, I highly, HIGHLY advise you to meet with a registered dietitian to discuss the current weaknesses in your diet which may affect not only your current performance and body composition goals but your long-term health.
I hope you enjoy my latest article from the TRAIN section on Iron Girl.com
Multisport Myths Explained-Strength Training
By: Marni Sumbal, MS, RD, LD/N
Do you consider strength training to be a critical component of your fitness routine?
There’s no discrepancy – a well-designed, periodized training plan has its benefits, such as an increase cardiorespiratory endurance, hypertrophy of muscle fibers, an increase in the size of mitochondria, an improvement in economy and efficiency, gains in lean muscle mass, an increase in stroke volume, an enhanced rate of gluconeogenesis, strengthening of ligaments, joints and muscles and most importantly, an improvement in overall health. However, if you consider yourself to be a “normal” athlete, it is likely that you have muscle imbalances, weaknesses in form or significant flexibility issues, thus contributing to your performance as a motivated athlete.
Strength training is often on the backburner for many cardio-enthused athletes. However, strength training plus cardio training should not be overlooked as an essential part of year-round athletic/fitness training. The same muscles that allow your body to move in your sport of choice must be conditionally strong, powerful and flexible as they move in an acceptable range of motion.
The purpose of strength training is very similar to cardio training, albeit to many, it may not be as fun. In order to get stronger or faster, one must tear down muscle fibers (catabolism) in order to make them grow (anabolism). Because physiological adaptations require ample recovery and time, gains in muscular strength also require time.
Some of the many benefits of strength training include:
*An increase in metabolism secondary to an increase in lean muscle mass
*An increase in self-esteem, power and speed
*Stronger bones and a preventative measure in the process of aging
*Better balance and coordination
*Natural release of endorphins
*Increase in flexibility and range of motion
*Increase mental and physical stamina
To get you excited about strength training, consider that the same “push” that drives you to finish that last interval on the track, to sprint to the wall during a swim speed set or to finish strong in the last 15 minutes of a tempo bike ride is also required as you lift weights. If you are seeking gains in endurance and sprinting performance (who isn’t?), strength training is an effective workout to help you improve performance without requiring a bulk of your time in order to reap results.
To help improve neuromuscular characteristics (Mikkola, 2011) and to enhance endurance capacity by improving the proportion of muscle fibers and gains maximal muscle strength (Aagaard, 2010), it is recommended that you abide by the following suggestions:
1) Start slow and gradually work your way up in the weight you are lifting. Depending on the phase of your training plan (as underlined below):
Base phase: 2-3 sets of 15 reps – feeling the “burn” around 10-11 reps. Rest 1-2 between sets.
Build phase: 3-4 sets of 10 reps – focusing on “explosive power” during the concentric phase (when the muscle is contracted) and “relaxed” effort in the eccentric phase (when the muscle is stretched under a load). For example, squatting down is the eccentric phase and pushing yourself upward is the concentric phase. Rest 30-60 seconds between sets. It is recommended to incorporate a “recovery” week into strength training just like you would with cardio training and to experiment with plyometrics and circuit training.
Peak phase: 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps – focusing on controlled movements, moderate weight to feel the “burn” around 13 or 18 reps. Rest 60-90 seconds between sets.
2) Work with a trained and experienced professional to evaluate form and to ensure a varied strength training program.
3) Maximize your time – many athletes prefer a full body workout of 4-5 upper body and 4-5 lower body exercises. However, if you are crunched for time, you can alternate upper and lower body, every other day of the week. Allow for 30-60 minutes of strength training, including warm-up, rest intervals, stretching and core/hip/lower back-specific exercises, 2-3 times per week. Still considered about trying to squeeze it all in? How about skipping that last mile of your run, the last 300 yards in the pool or last 15 minutes on the bike to “make time” for a little strength work?
4) Maximize your routine – depending on your triathlon or running schedule, you may opt for machines to assist in movement on an “intense” training day or free weights on a “lighter” cardio day.
5) Optimal nutrition - stay hydrated during the workout. After the workout, focus on quickly repairing damaged tissues with an optimal balance of recovery protein and carbohydrates, prior to your post-workout meal. Two easy post-workout snacks include 8-12 ounces of non-fat milk (or non-fat yogurt) or 7-23 grams of a high-quality protein powder with a piece of fruit.
Always check with your physician if you are starting a weight training/training routine for the first time or are returning to exercise after an extended break (ex. injury, burnout, etc.). Just because you call yourself an athlete, does not mean that you can jump right in to lifting heavy weights, engaging in cross fit or trying out an intense plyometric routine. Start slow and enjoy the journey!
For 10-at home exercises, visit http://trimarni.blogspot.com/2010/01/day-13-strength-train-2-3-times-per.html
Mikkola, J. et al. (2011). Effect of resistance training regimens on treadmill running and neuromuscular performance in recreational endurance runners. J. Sports Sci. 29(13); 1359-71.
Aagaard, P. and Andersen, J.L. (2010). Effects of strength training on endurance capacity in top-level endurance athletes. Scan. J. Med. Sci. Sports. Suppl 2:39-47.
Marni Sumbal, MS, RD, LD/N
Marni works as a PRN Clinical Dietitian at Baptist Medical Center Beaches, is the owner of Trimarni Coaching and Nutrition, LLC and provides one-on-one consulting at Spa Me in Jacksonville, FL. Marni is a Registered Dietitian, holding a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology, is a Certified Sports Nutritionist (CISSN) and holds a certification by the American Dietetic Association in Adult Weight Management. As an elite endurance athlete, she is also a Level-1 USAT Coach and a 5x Ironman finisher. Marn is a 110% play harder and Oakley Women ambassador. Marni enjoys public speaking and writing, and she has several published articles in Fitness Magazine, The Florida Times-Union Shorelines, Lava Magazine, Hammer Endurance News, CosmoGirl magazine and Triathlete Magazine, and contributes monthly to IronGirl.com, USAT multisport zone and Lava online.