I’ve had a few questions in the comments section about how to balance strength training with the rest of your cardio schedule. Others wondered why it’s so important to strength train while working towards a larger goal like a triathlon. I asked Coach Marni to weigh in….
Oh, by the way, Marni (and her husband) finished the Lake Placid Ironman. I’ll be sure to post a link to her recap when she blogs about it, but suffice it to say, she kicked butt. Marni set a personal record and qualified for the World Championships in Kona for the third time! Impressive, right?
This is why I listen to and do whatever she tells me to do.
Okay – here’s Marni’s thoughts on strength training…
Coach Marni says: I am a firm believer that strength training should be included in a balanced training plan for athletes. Even if you’re not working towards a race goal, I highly recommend incorporating strength training into a fitness routine. I have been strength training since I was 11, and I feel it has helped me in so many ways – from confidence with my body (feeling strong as a woman) to having healthy bones (a combination of diet + strength training).
When you are training for an event, time can feel precious. When I work with athletes, my motto is that strength training should enhance your cardio routine, not make you suffer while doing cardio. Of course, any athlete who starts something new may feel soreness the first few sessions. This is why many athletes stop strength training. They don’t give the body a chance to adapt (same can apply to a new cardio routine for a fitness enthusiast – you have to get through those first few sessions to have a breakthrough!). Also, many athletes have the idea that strength training should involve lots of exercises and reps, but it needs to be sport-specific and planned properly to integrate with the rest of the training routine.
I am currently reading this book: Triathlon Science. It has a lot of helpful information on it for strength training and overall training.
Here’s a few general suggestions about strength training:
Overall, to gain the competitive edge and to be consistent as an athlete, you want to focus on the big picture. Yes, improving endurance, stamina, and speed will help you prepare for an event or improve fitness, but so will good sleep, a positive attitude, a good race day game plan, proper use of gadgets and pacing, good nutrition, stretching, yoga, and of course, strength training. Everything helps when it comes to creating a strong, healthy body with a fun, active balanced lifestyle.
I encourage athletes to strength train full body on swim days or lighter workout days, as it takes the body time to recover.
I believe in hip focused work daily, even if it is for 5-10 minutes. Many females suffer from hip- and lower back-related issues that contributes to a weak core and pelvis stability. Here’s a blog post that I wrote on hip strength.
Here’s an blog post that I wrote on strength training and the multi-sport myth.
I went to the International Society of Sports Nutrition Conference in 2011, and here’s a blog post I wrote about what researchers there said about strength training. To sum it up:
To improve endurance, VO2 max, fat burning and increase lean muscle mass, intervals are recommend during cardio training. Strength training, as another component of training, is encouraged but should NOT be done on the same day as intense cardio unless the cardio workout is short (ex. in a study 4-5 x 30 sec sprints w/ 4 min rest) and recommended less than 20 minutes.
Research shows cycling or short sprinting is better on strength training days if you have to do both in one day. However, to maximize endurance, strength training should be done as the primary workout in order to improve endurance (ex. it’s not recommended to strength train in the morning or in the evening and do a separate workout of an hour running or an intense 2 hour group bike ride. You should allow at least 24 hours to recover from intense exercise, like strength training. To increase endurance and lean muscle mass and NOT muscle hypertrophy (speaking to endurance athletes/triathletes primarily) , power lifting is encourage such as plyo’s or 40-60% 1RM (explosive).
This is a lot of info for any individual (athlete or fitness enthusiast) to apply. My suggestion is to keep things balanced: incorporate 1 – 2 sessions of full body strength, focusing on weaker body parts if you are time limited. Completing 12 – 15 reps is ideal – you should feel the burn with 2-3 reps to go. I suggest no more than 6 – 8 body parts in one strength training session, as your cardio routine will also strengthen your body. Again, I always suggest core/hip work daily, which can be easily done at home… in front of the TV.
Happy strength training!