2/19/15

Strength training benefits - get stronger, get faster, go longer



When Karel and I were dating in 2006-2007, I remember the first time when I invited Karel to the gym with me to do my plyometric workout. As a cyclist, Karel didn't do much (if any) strength training as he didn't belong to a gym and didn't own any weights at home. All of Karel's training to get faster, stronger and more powerful was on the bike.

Although I met Karel with a fresh "Master of Science in Exercise Physiology" degree, my love for strength training (and knowledge) started when I was around 12 years old, when I started competitive swimming. Our coach wasted no time, even at a young age, for us all to belong to Gold's Gym where we would all do our 30 minute strength workout before heading back to the pool for our two-hour swim  workout. In High School, I continued to strength train and perform various plyometric and band work before workouts and then through college, the plyometric and strength routines became more complex as I found myself also swimming more yards each day/week than ever before.

The most important take away of this all is understanding that my swimming fitness came from a combination of being in the pool AND performing strength on dry land.

Here I am, 20 years later and I still value strength training as an endurance triathlete and it is an inaugural part of my cardio-focused training. 

When Karel did his first plyo session with me back in the day, he had very little balance and stability. Despite being super strong, anything he did on one leg or with a stability ball was extremely difficult for him. Also, he didn't have the upper body or core strength that matched his lower body strength so many of the exercises that required full body was rather difficult for him. Sure, he loved the intensity of the workout but the foundation wasn't there for him to really receive the benefits of plyometrics. I knew that I had to take Karel back a few notches before advancing with plyo's or else he would have gotten injured or experienced too much fatigue that the strength would not yield favorable results with his cycling performance and training.
(telling my crit-racing boyfriend that he needs to start at a beginner level was not easy!)

I realize that jumping off and on blocks or bounding on one or two feet can be a bit intimidating and it is isn't for everyone. But strength training is extremely valuable and it is one of the most effective ways to take your training to the next level all while reducing risk for injury. Considering that training for an event requires us to take risks to gain the competitive edge and injuries are quite high when you are pushing your body day after day, on the same environment (swimming = pool, cycling = trainer or outside, running = track, treadmill, trail, road), strength training is the easiest way to get fitter, faster and stronger with very minimal negative side-effects because you don't have to do it a lot in order to receive huge benefits. 

I often hear athletes saying that they don't have time to strength train despite doing over 10 hours of cardio every week. I hear athletes worrying about being sore from strength training but just love the soreness after a long run or brick session.  Sure, there is certainly a risk for injury if you are overambitious when trying any strength training for the first time and it's also easy to do too much if you are a lover of strength training so that is why it is important to periodize your strength training with your training plan. 

In my next blog I will share with you how we periodize strength in our training plans and show a few videos as well of our recent race-specific strength workouts.