Do you train in the gym as part of your triathlon training? What is your strength and conditioning program providing you as far as mobility and freedom of movement in order to create a better performance?  

"Why would you spend time in the gym when you can spend time in the pool swimming, on the bike or running out on the road? Every hour you spend in the gym is another hour lost on the training track right?...

... and then there's the body builders who lift weights, and those dudes are massive! I'd like to see them run a 33min 10km. Weights make you bulky and when you have extra body weight it slows you down. Not great for triathlon performance."

Bodybuilders often lead the way as far as weight training research goes and are often the most promoted in strength and conditioning circles. There are so many modalities in strength and conditioning that need to be considered and while bodybuilders have done so much for the industry; a good strength and conditioning or sports performance coach understands the difference between bodybuilding for hypertrophy and strength training for sports.

Beyond size and strength is the fitness component of Specificity and how movements in the gym can enhance the movements you perform in triathlon. One example of this is to think of the body composition a rock climber. Think of how "big" they are... think of how "strong" they are.

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Here are 3 things to think about if you don't already include strength training in your program:

  1. Let's focus on running for this example. If you just ran and ran and ran. Sure you'd get better at running but at the end of the day, you haven't considered movement efficiency. Would you be as balanced or strong? On the stability side of training, start by thinking of your bones as floating objects inside a web of myofascia (muscles and connective tissue) ... if you were running often, your joints would almost be "crunching together" with less stability around the joint. Then you add impact from the foot strike which adds a distribution of force like a shockwave through the body, and when you have bone-on-bone friction, it's never a good outcome. 
  2. Then you get told to "stretch". So you're potentially pretty weak, with unstable joints, and you'll probably sit down, bend over and hold a stretch for an extended period of time. So it's increasing the elasticity of the joint without increasing stability. There's no load, there's no stability requirement. You're stretching the muscle, stretching out soft tissue and opening up an unstable joint. 
  3. You might have postural deficiencies where you're hunched over for example, which decreases the space on the front side, and opens up the back side. One side might be "tighter" or "glued-up" or "gunked-up" and your movement will be restricted. You've had a stressful day, and that stress brings an accentuated poor posture, so you go for another run... and work your way towards another injury.

So training in the gym is not just about the strength, it's about conditioning your body for whatever it needs on the day, and to get more form your swim, bike, run training or performance. Opening up movements that are restricted will open up pathways that generate more power. Aligning your posture to set yourself up for a full day on the road. Releasing restricted areas to give your joint more space to function optimally, and strength training to provide strength and stability. 

The cross training effect from mobility and stability training can be beneficial purely from an emotional side as well. It helps with recovery and rest, and you're not putting your body through the same stress stimulus over extended periods of time. 

So theres a quick snapshot of my thoughts on why strength training is just as important, as regular triathlon training. 

Make sure you check out part two of this blog trilogy where I will talk about micro & macro cycles, and how the different components of fitness can align with the training cycles of your triathlon program to enhance the outcomes of human physiology to boost the focus on each training cycle.