HIT THE GYM! How an Hour Per Week of Strength Training Could Help Get You A Fast Time In The Nations Tri
Author: Jeff Horowitz
Getting a triathlete to do strength work is usually a lot like trying to get a child to eat brussel sprouts. It’s no mystery why: you didn’t get into tri in order to spend more time in the gym. Given a choice, you’d rather spend more time outdoors. But if just two 30-minute sessions in the gym every week would make you a stronger, faster, more injury-resistant athlete, you’d call that a pretty good deal, wouldn’t you? Here’s how to get the most out of the least from your time in the gym:
Watch Your Numbers. You’ll get the most relative benefit by doing two sets of every exercise you do. More work won’t add significant fitness gains, so don’t waste time doing unproductive work. Aim to do 12-20 repetitions of each exercise; this will give improve not just your strength, but also your muscle endurance. This high-repetition format will also help you avoid packing on the muscle mass that comes from doing fewer reps with heavy resistance.
Alternate Body Parts. If you look around the average gym training floor any time of day, you’ll rarely see more than 10% of the people there actually doing an exercise at any given moment. Most people are sitting around waiting to recover from their last set. This is wasted time. Even though some muscles might be tired, there are always others that are ready to go. Keep busy and move the workout along by alternating between pushing and pulling exercises. That alone will get cut 50% off your gym time.
Do Complex Movements Instead of Simple Movements. Aim to get as many joints involved in each exercise as possible. The more joints involved in an exercise, the more muscles recruited. So choose cable rowing over simple barbell curls, and squats instead of leg extensions.
Destabilize Yourself. Any time you have to struggle to stay balanced, you work your core muscles. These muscles are your powerhouse and your safety net; by keeping them strong, you’ll be able to push harder in training and racing, and also avoid bad form that results from an imbalance in strength. So whenever you do a standing exercise, alternate standing on one foot, or stand on a wobble board or BOSU. Or whenever you do a dumbbell exercise on a bench, try to do it instead on a stability ball.
Invest In Your Education. If you’re not familiar with a gym, consider hiring a personal trainer to show you how to use the equipment while maintaining proper form. Spending money on a trainer is usually cheaper in the long run than spending it on doctors.
Jeff first fell in love with endurance sport almost a quarter century ago, when he chose the Marine Corps Marathon as his first race. Since then, he's run over 150 marathons, including at least one in every state and on 6 continents, including Antarctica. He's also taken up ultramarathoning and long distance cycling. His swimming is a work in progress; it took him a while to realize that when people said he swims like a runner, it wasn't a compliment. Jeff is the author of "My First 100 Marathons: 2,620 Miles With An Obsessive Runner (Skyhorse Press, 2008) and is the Mid-Atlantic editor of Competitor Magazine, He is a coach and personal trainer, certified by USAT, USATF, RRCA, USA Cycling, and AFAA. He also is a member of the Clif Bar Pace Team, and loves being a brand ambassador for The Nations Tri and the Washington DC Triathlon.