Strength training has incredible potential to amplify your training and it should ebb and flow to complement your cycles of training. Without question, progressive and strategic year-round strength training is a critical ingredient to maintain health and to make seasonal progress. Let’s dive into why this is such a vital component of a well-rounded training program.
- Become Resilient. Strength training provides the physical preparation for your body to withstand the stresses of sport-specific training. Endurance training requires a lot of physical stress over time, and having strong muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments will allow you to handle that stress over time. Through an intelligent, progressive strength program, you will become resilient which will set you up for success.
- Be Ready to Race. It’s physically demanding to absorb the stressors of competition. Your race day is the most physically demanding day of your training cycle, however, it takes smart preparation to show up healthy and to perform at the level you are aiming for.
- Create Ideal Movement. Very few athletes have perfect movement patterns to begin with, and the harder we push ourselves the more difficult it is to achieve optimal movement patterns. By repeating certain movement patterns on a regular basis, it will prevent poor or unsafe movements when under fatigue. Most injuries in endurance sports are “overuse” which means that the movement pattern was just a little wrong during the many repetitions over days, weeks, months, and even years. But strength training is there to remove many of those small, but frequent, stressors on the muscles, tendons, and joints.
- Introduce Diverse Movement. Strength training involves maintaining the basic ranges of motion that we need in every joint of our body. Unfortunately, our daily lives keep us in a pretty narrow and very repetitive form of joint motion. The diversification of strength and mobility training will make sure our joints go through all the complete ranges and thus keep us functioning smoothly. When our joints are moving correctly that usually means our muscles are doing their intended jobs to keep us efficient and safe.
- Cross-Train with Intention. Strength training complements the sport-specific work you do. When the sport-specific work is hard, the strength training allows for complementary, diverse cross-training that is a bit lighter and used to reinforce posture. But when sport-specific training is lighter and less frequent, strength training can be more intense and trigger your muscles in a different way. This intentional variety in physical stimuli is critical to maintaining season-long health.
- Become Faster. Strength and conditioning work can make you a faster athlete. Using the concepts of strength, stability, mobility, and proper movement patterns season after season sets you up to do harder, longer, and faster workouts. If you do harder, longer, or faster workouts, then assuming all else stays in line, you will race faster and effortlessly cover more ground.
In viewing strength training as an enhancement of our yearly endurance training process, we find it is not simply an add-on or just for injury prevention. It's one of the important ingredients that keeps you moving forward on your athletic and life journey. If we stick with strength training in the long haul, and avoid being derailed by what we see as “more important work,” we will learn that progressive, intentional strength training will reap massive benefits that will serve us now in racing and training hard, and also in the future for lifelong health.