Triathlon training is about balance. You need to prepare and train for 3 very different disciplines and there are only so many hours in the day. But it gets worse because to really succeed and give your best effort and avoid injuries there is a fourth discipline you need to consider: strength training.
Strength training is where I struggle most whether it’s in a training block for a triathlon or a marathon or something else. It just seems like it’s the first thing to fall off the plan when things get squeezed. This is doubly true during the season. I’ve found some success using HIIT sessions that combine cardio and weights during the off-season, but I still struggle to maintain a regular strength session within a training block.
Why is strength training important?
As I get older, my times and performances are going to degrade. It’s just a fact. How can I combat Father Time? It’s similar to why I went vegetarian. I need to find additional levers to pull to off-set that aging. A plant-based diet helps me recover faster and fit in more intense workouts. Strength training is another tool in the arsenal.
For me, it comes down to three main advantages:
- Prevent Injuries
This is probably the reason you hear most why athletes should strength train. You need to make your body, your bones and your joints stronger and more durable to compete in endurance events. This takes on an added emphasis for me with my Addison’s where bone density over time is a concern. Hitting the weights consistently can help me avoid additional problems down the road.
- Better Bio-mechanics
The stronger your muscles are the better, and more importantly, the longer your form will hold up during an event. When your muscles get fatigued, form and posture start to get sloppy which can lead to injuries.
- Increase Power
Lifting weights makes muscles bigger. Duh? But it specifically increases the slow-twitch type of muscle fibers. Why is this important? Slow-twitch muscle fibers don’t get overloaded with lactic acid as quickly as fast-twitch fibers so you can hammer longer, harder.
With those three (and my personal bonus fourth one), I’ve been trying to re-commit to strength training this year knowing that I will need it if I have any hope of enjoying the second half of my fall marathon.
I like to use light dumbbells (10 to 15 lbs) or just body weight and go for higher reps and shorter rest. This keeps the workout short, but intense. It also means I can typically tandem this 20 minute workout with an additional easy run, bike or swim.
Do each exercise for 30-45 seconds, then rest for the rest of the minute. Do each circuit 2 – 3 times. Rest 3 minutes between circuits.
- bodyweight jump squats
- split jumps
- one arm dumbell swings
- pistol squats
- dumbbell shoulder press
- planks (traditional / side)
- lateral leg raises
On non-strength days, I try to also do some additional core and IT band exercises in addition to my foam rolling. I specifically do these because I know my core and ITBs are weak spot and I need to strengthen them up not just for the marathon but just to help keep me healthy for running in general.
I don’t do all of these each night (even saying each night is a stretch), but I try to do at least 3 when I work up the motivation to foam roll at night.
- hip raises
- side steps with a resistance band
- monster walks
- alternating arms/leg raised planks
- clam shells
- T/Y/I raises
I may not be quite as consistent as I’d like, but every little bit helps and getting one strength workout a week plus some additional targeted core work can go a long way toward helping correct muscle imbalances that develop over a season, keep you healthy and most importantly make you faster!