Strength training is a component of fitness often overlooked by endurance athletes. The excuse often heard is, “I’ve got limited time to train and don’t want to take time away from my sport.” The irony is that by incorporating strength training into your training program, you can make big gains in your desired specific sport, without even actually doing that activity! The composition of your strength program will change depending on what time of the year it is, but it should always be present for optimal performance. Identify strengths and weakness and which exercises are most effective for your sport and then commit to it!
- Injury Prevention: Resistance exercises strength the bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Repeated movements in endurance sports stress certain body parts, so strength training helps our bodies become better able to endure these repeated stresses.
- Speed: Resistance training improves both muscular strength AND endurance. This allows you to continue to deliver maximum output throughout a workout and delays fatigue, thus making you faster!
- Power: Muscular power is also increased. This is especially important for shorter distance endurance activities such as sprint/Olympic triathlons, 5-10k runs, and cycling races of all disciplines. You’ll be able to respond quickly to changes in speed and then recover from those efforts so that you can do it again.
- Body Composition: Strength training decreases body fat and increases lean tissue. The less unnecessary body weight endurance athletes have to carry, the easier it is on the body.
- Confidence: You’ll look and feel better about yourself if you have a toned, lean, and strong body. This translates into overall greater self-confidence which helps in all areas of life.
- Mental Health: If you go through the whole year without mixing up your exercise routine, you are going to begin to experience burn out. Incorporating different types of exercise can help to keep you motivated. Strength training is also a great activity to do with a friend who has similar goals!
As with any type of training, it is important to listen to your body. When you first begin incorporating strength work into your program, you will probably feel more fatigued during your sport specific workouts. Being consistent is important because your body will begin to adapt to the new stresses. Then you will begin to enjoy all of the great benefits of strength training!