I have competed in triathlon for over 15 years, at various levels. I am by no means a professional athlete, but I do consider myself an athlete. I am also a busy human who tends to spend so much time coaching other people that I neglect my own sessions. Training for 3 sports in a week takes up a lot of time, so the idea of trying to fit in one, or even two strength sessions on top of normal training is near impossible. I’m going to tell you why it is so worthwhile.
Triathlon athletes have to split their focus across a swim, bike and run – three separate sports with entirely different demands on the body. Sure, the ride and run both mainly require use of the legs- but that is where the similarity ends. With such a high variation of demand on the body, it is important that a triathlete is strong through every movement. This is because weakness in any area of the body will result in another weakness somewhere else, and so the cycle is never ending. Have you ever had an injury, which fixes itself, only to expose another? What is happening here is that your body showed you it was weak in some place, and compensated for it (momentary) by sacrificing strength in another area.
If you compete in triathlon, you tend to like the outdoors and training for a purpose instead of simply ‘exercising’; so being in a gym just might be your worst nightmare. But injuries and poor performance are slightly higher on that list.
So why weights training then?
- Injury prevention
If the primary muscles responsible for each discipline are not strong enough for the repetitive nature of endurance swimming, cycling or running, they get tired quickly and easily. Then, other muscles try to help them out, performing tasks that they simply were not made to perform. It’s like your arms trying to do the most work whilst running- they assist, but they should not be doing most of the work. Strength training reduces this issue significantly, reducing not only risk of injury but the impact of current injuries and ‘niggles’.
- Performance plateau
So you have been training for a while, and made some good improvements, and now you’re not getting faster. In order to get each and every stroke, revolution, and step faster across the distance you compete in, you need to be strong and powerful. When you start to plateau, trying to run further or do speed sessions at a higher intensity will not help you- strength training will.
- The evidence
I myself have always been happy with a sub-50min 10km run. Until I started doing my weights training regularly with a good coach; I got stronger and faster, then I just started running fast without even training to do so. I won the QLD triathlon series with some times that I was stoked with, and I can honestly say the only thing I have changed is incorporating gym into my routine.
- Great cross-training for the off-season
This is the easiest time to add strength, as you have time to recover with less load coming from your swimming, cycling and running training. It is important that your strength training involves an aspect of power- fast, explosive movements, as this is what will help you most during your races. Finally, whole body workouts are the recipe for success, keep the reps around 6-8, and move through exercises using a superset regime.
- Fat Loss and metabolismWhilst fat loss is entirely individual, strength training and increasing your muscle mass have strongly associations to fat burning. Usually more muscle means a better metabolism whilst training and resting, so there is an added perk to strength training.
I encourage you to read more about strength training for triathlon and other endurance sports, and if you have ANY questions, send me an email:firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment below.