Friday, March 11, 2011

Integrating Strength and Endurance Training

Yesterday at Grant's Karate class, where the floor is the only seating option, I had to take a deep breath to lower myself to the floor and then later to stand. My quads and glutes were screaming.

I had gone from the "good sore" of the morning that says hey I had a great workout to the "this-can't-be-good sore" that says hey where's the ibuprofen?

We've started re-incorporating leg training into the gym routine - mostly pretty tame bodyweight things at this point, squats, lunges, some curls and extensions. But it's all a giant leap from the near zero leg workouts I got for 10 weeks.

Despite this temporary discomfort, I remain a big believer in the integration of strength training with endurance training for triathletes, especially for those us "master" athletes.  More and more elite athletes and top coaches are endorsing year-round resistance training. For example, Ironman winner and top coach Mark Allen says, "strength, or resistance, training is one of the most commonly overlooked means to improve endurance athletic performance" (See Mark Allen's 12 Best Strength Exercises).  He goes on to say, "All too many triathletes sacrifice strength training in favor of additional swim, bike or run sessions. This is unwise. In fact, a well-executed strength-training program can allow you to carve up to 25 percent out of your swim, bike and run volume while improving performance and enjoying better race-day results. "  Dave Scott is a big proponent too.

I would suspect that the number one reason triathletes cite for not incorporating strength training is a lack of time followed closely by concerns about how to integrate the two without jeopardizing performance.

I hit the gym 3-4x a week for an hour each time.  An endurance athlete could still see benefits from 2x a week but I prefer more. I feel stronger, I enjoy it, and the gym also serves as my athletic community base with many triathletes and runners to provide an infusion of energy and inspiration.

I admit it can be a bit of a tricky business to integrate the strength training with the swim/bike/run plan.  Most of the time things work fine and a bit of residual soreness does not significantly affect training. Rarely it's an issue. We are thoughtful and avoid, for instance, scheduling heavy bench and critical swims on the same day, or a hard leg workout with speed or tempo work. The resistance work tapers before races and ramps up slowly afterward. 

Annnnd I take days off as needed.  Like today - a chance to recover from what I'm sure was a middle-of-the-night elephant stampede across my legs.