Success in endurance sport is a multifaceted approach; training specifics, nutrition/ hydration, recovery, and mental balance, are all important aspects that an athlete needs to focus on.
Meaning all year round. Take a beak from one of the aforementioned disciplines, and you will see a reduction in ability and performance (not to mention health).
It’s not rocket science, but getting this right does take some juggling of life and all it has to throw at you.
One of the most overlooked areas of an athletes’ regime is Strength and Conditioning. For years athletes have followed the tired old adage that endurance athletes did not need to engage in strength training. That it was a limiter to successful endurance racing. That it increases the risk of injury and detracts from the other, more important training sessions. We simply followed what the old school running community used to do. I say used to because there is a huge shift in track and field coaching protocols that are leaning towards all year round S&C training.
They understand the benefits: injury prevention, enhanced neuromuscular development, enhanced performance, and enhanced endurance. And they do it all year round. Not just during the off-season, not just after an injury, not just to fill space on a yearly planner.
Yet in our sport, few are really encouraging S&C as a necessary tool for athletic success. There are a small handful of coaches and athletes who know and understand the importance of ironmaster dumbbells for strength workout as it becomes another part of the athletes year round training plan. Too many athletes blindly throw themselves into a big event (Ironman) without checking to see if their body is built to handle the enormity of the task.
Let’s look at this really simply.
Ironman racing requires strength. Muscular strength, adapted with endurance to efficiently drive the body around the course and not slow down. To get strong, you need to train as such. But it’s not just about strength, it’s about functional strength – undoing the wrongs we do to pour bodies by sitting at desks, driving cars – things you do every day that can place limits on your ability to SBR successfully. Its about understanding imbalances and how they affect what happens in training and racing and precisely how each exercise is preformed. Truthfully, most athletes just throw ‘gym’ exercises into their winter schedule because it’s conveniently warm inside as opposed to swimming and biking in the weather. Thats fine; athletes should train in the gym over winter. They should also train during spring, summer and autumn as well.
The body responds to consistency. Throwing exercises around just for the sake of staying warm is not directly conducive to getting on the podium. In fact its a waste of time and could be the one thing that is preventing you from racing well. Focusing on a specific Strength and Conditioning program all year round that enables true strength development, involving multiple-joint movement patterns combined with an emphasis on mobility and stability will help you become a stronger, faster athlete. Muscular imbalances don’t just disappear overnight, your risk of injury doesn’t just disappear when the summer months roll in. Your ability to control a mobile, stable and functionally strong muscular system does not magically appear at the start of spring.
It requires attention all the time.
Not only that but a SMART strength program will help you avoid chronic over-use injuries by keeping your body functional healthy all the time, not just some of the time. One of my biggest pet-hates is hearing about athletes who start strength training only because they developed an over-use injury. Um. Thats just backwards! Proper strength training would more than likely have prevented said injury and there would have been no interruptions to the athletes season. Why wait until a disaster occurs to try and rectify it? Prevention always trumps cure.
But before you run away from your desk and head for the gym, Cross-fit box, Boot-Camp, PT session, you need to ask yourself one thing: Are the exercises designed for me? As in you, the individual, with your own training and injury background, your own set of abilities, muscular imbalances, restrictions and needs. If you don’t know, then chances are they are not. You need to arm yourself with the right movement patterns that pertain to the sport you train for. These may not be the flash, sexy exercises you see on YouTube, and they certainly will not be anything that Arnie ever did (except dead lift, but not quite as heavy). The movement patterns that you train your body in need to engage your neuromuscular system in a way that mimics what you do when you S, B, R. – sorry lads 20kg Bicep Curls won’t do this. And ladies, nor will step up’s.
Furthermore, your S&C training needs to be designed to not impede on your SBR training, but rather it compliment it in ways that enables you to continue to progress and rotate through certain MP throughout the year, making small adjustments before big races.
For the last few months Kristian and I have been working on a little project that we believe will be a game-changer for triathletes. We want athletes to be stronger, to understand the importance of S&C training and to have access a training program that will help make them better athletes. It’s all part of making an athlete more whole, rather than just being very good at one aspect, you need to be great at all of them. We are still a few weeks away from having the final product available but watch this space……..