Do endurance and multisport athletes need to be in the gym?

If you are training for triathlon, your standard training week is already going to look very full having to train for 3 different disciplines. If you’re training for the Rottnest swim or a marathon, there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to fit in training around work. However, if you’re not fitting in any strength training in your program, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage.

There are a few reasons why strength training is integral to making sure you cross the finish line of your event.
Firstly, without adequate strength you are at a higher risk of injury. When you are running, your calf muscles absorb 60% of the shock that goes up through your legs. If you haven’t got enough strength in the calves to absorb the shock, it has to be absorbed elsewhere which can lead to injuries. If you are swimming without adequate strength in the shoulder muscles, you are prone to getting rotator cuff tendonopathy. One may argue, “hill sprints or intervals in the pool will get me stronger”. Yes, it will. But the physiological changes with training against a resistance for specific parameters (5-12 reps of 3-6 sets) is unmatched when compared to other training regimens for getting improvements in strength. Additionally, the body follows the path of least resistance – it preferentially works the stronger muscles – strong muscles get stronger, weak muscles get weaker.

Secondly, the stronger a muscle is, the more reserves you will have to draw from during the race. If you have prepped your body with ensuring your muscles have adequate strength and endurance, you will get a lot more out of your body then if you are purely relying on the muscle strength built up during training. Get stronger to last longer!
Thirdly, having strength improves your technique. Let’s use the female long distance runner as an example here. Females typically have weaker hip stabilising muscles compared to men. This results in their knee dropping in more when they are running. Especially if you add a hill into the mix, inadequate strength can really affect your technique which will affect the efficiency of your stride/stroke, using up excessive energy and slowing you down.
When it comes to adding strength training to your already busy training program, you want to make sure you get your money’s worth. It’s not just about going to the gym and hitting up a few random machines and thinking that will do. Getting a personal and sport specific program to focus on your weakness is the best way to ensure you get the most out of your time in the gym.
So, if you have just read this and think you need a hand setting up a strength program to help you achieve your peak, give us a call at Ascend Physiotherapy.