Strength Training, that is training with weights in the gym (or at home), has become more widely accepted in the endurance sport world over the last 5+ years. There are still some hold-outs on the subject of the benefits of Strength Training for endurance athletes, but most athletes and coaches will agree there are valuable benefits to be gained from lifting heavy weights within an endurance sport training program. The intent of this article is not to spew out the benefits of Strength Training (you can read a previous post that covers all those points); rather my intent with this article is to point out the value of YEAR-ROUND strength training and, more specifically, focus on lifting weights within your competitive racing season.
If you’ve gotten this far, I’m going to assume you’re on board with Strength Training (ie. lifting heavy weights for performance gains), at least as part of your off-season training program. The majority of endurance athletes do some form of strength training in their off-season as part of their preparation for their next race season. Then what seems to be very common is many athletes cease their Strength Training program once their more competitive race season begins. The reasons I hear for dropping the strength training modality are often:
- Wanting to spend more time on their primary sport (“get more miles in”)
- Lifting weights makes them slow (“legs too sore/tired”)
- Don’t want to gain weight (“too much muscle”)
- Getting bored with the strength training (“same old routine”)
I’m here to encourage you to not stop your Strength Training once your race season begins. In fact if you do stop, I can tell you you’re leaving performance gains on the table!
You may be thinking, “Whoa! Hold up. You want me to lift weights during my race season?!”
Yes I do! And here’s why…
When you Strength Train for 2, 3 or even 4 months of your off-season, you spend the first few weeks working through the soreness of training the muscles and then you begin to make some gains in actual strength of movement. These improvements to your health & performance as an athlete include:
- Increased muscle fiber recruitment (use more of the muscles you have)
- Increase top-end power (raise the ceiling of your power curve)
- Increased anabolic hormone production (balance the catabolic nature of endurance training)
- Improve range of motion/activation (offset imbalances)
- Improve the overall “durability” of your body