When we are so busy with the three sports that make up triathlon it is easy to forget or overlook the benefits of strength training as part of your program. With fall coming up - traditionally known as the "off season" - now is the time to consider hitting the gym on a regular basis. Here's why:
1. To Improve Strength (Obviously)
"Strong core, strong body" as my own strength trainer likes to remind me. Endurance sports are great, but adding a little strength to your body will definitely benefit to you performance wise. Strong lats means stronger swim pull. Stronger legs mean more cycling oomph. Training sports alone won't always give you the edge that having a little more strength and power will. Give it a try this fall; join a gym, join a group strength session, or go to a boot camp. I guarantee you that if you strength train on a regular basis this fall you'll reap the benefits by spring.
2. Muscle Balance (Correcting Imbalances)
Many of us spend much of our day sitting at our desks and on our computers. This type of activity (inactivity may be the better term) can create all kinds of muscle imbalances. A weak back muscles/tight chest muscles, week glutes/tight hip flexors, or a weak are some of the most obvious imbalances. Each of these imbalances can affect how well you move, your posture, or your technique in the pool, on the bike, and while running. Strength training can help balance your body out by tightening stretched muscles, relaxing tight muscles, and improving your stability and mobility.
3. Beating the Aging Process
"Use if or lose it" isn't just a motivational poster quote; it is a fact. As we age, we begin to lose muscle mass year after year. Without stimulation and challenge our bodies begin to atrophy at quite an alarming rate. While endurance sports can definitely go a long way in improving your health, continuing to challenge your muscle groups with a strength program will definitely help slow down the aging process. Use it or lose it; be active and mobile into your 60's, 70's, and 80's that choice is always yours, and strength training is the one thing that can have a massive impact on your lifestyle decades down the road.
4. Athletic Improvement
Being strong in all the right places is without a doubt the right way to improve athletic performance. This is true for age group athletes and elite athletes. Power in your upper body and core help to drive yourself effortlessly through the pool. Power in your core and legs help to push yourself up steep hills on your bike. A good posture, strong core, and strong lower body muscles can push you round the track for speedy interval sets. Being stronger and having a balanced frame can't help buy improve your athletic ability. Check out the training plan of any elite athlete, and you'll see some form of strength work there. It may be specific to their sport or it may be a more general strength and power program but it will be there. This makes me think that if strength is good for the best of the best...it must be good for the rest of us.
5. Reducing Injuries and Improving Recovery
This is a little tricky since being stronger can't guarantee you will never get injured. HOWEVER, it can reduce the damage done, or help you stay injury free. If your body is balanced and your muscles are firing as they should then you will reduce the risk of certain types of injury such as over use injuries. Often times, smaller muscle groups will take over the work of larger ones that not doing their jobs. Strength training can help reduce that and ensure your larger muscle groups are working hard as they should be. A strong body is one that can right itself quickly and re-balance itself easily after a trip. For example, any trail runner will understand that the "Weeble-wobble ability" is important. If you have sore shoulders while swimming, technique may be an issue. However, what if your lats (that should be working) are weak or your core is not very strong? Think of the added stress placed on those tiny shoulder muscles and attachments. Strength training not only builds muscle it also leads to stronger more stable joints and attachments further reducing your risk of injury. Being fit also benefits you while you recover from an injury. Having a strong body and core makes mobility during the recovery process easier. As injuries take time (which means a period of reduced training) you have a little more strength/muscle to rely on as you wait to begin your programming again. As a fit athlete you also move blood and oxygen around your body better than someone who is sedentary or who has a weak muscle structure. Anyone who has seen A Second Chance the Janelle Morrison Story will know that being a fit and strong athlete probably helped save her life.
Those are what I'd consider my Top Five reasons to strength train. As for what kind of strength training is best that is completely up to you. Some like to hit the gym for an "old school" type workout, some love CrossFit or SealFit types of training like K44Fit, others prefer TRX or similar group sessions. No one type of strength trainingis right or wrong, what we need to remember is the most important thing is that you are doing some form of strength training on a regular basis. We don't have to grow old gracefully we can instead fight it all the way with a strength and conditioning program!
Need a strength program? Visit our website, we offer 12 week online strength and conditioning programs. Each custom created for you with your triathlon training in mind. Video samples of exercises, specific sessions for your specific needs. More info: firstname.lastname@example.org
Looking for a great class to attend that is both fun and challenging? Check out K44Fit a TriStars partner. Adapted to all abilities these classes take place throughout the week at different times and locations. Let Scott know you are with TriStars and get an extra class FREE when you buy a block of 10 sessions.
Written by Coach Lindsey Millar , NCCP Certified Triathlon Coach, Ironman Certified Coach and BCRPA Certified Personal Trainer.