So you’ve gotten the message that strength training has multiple benefits for endurance
athletes, and that the off-season is an ideal time to focus on a strength training program. But it’s winter. It’s cold. It’s dark. Your bed is exceptionally warm and cozy. You have big goals for next season, but right now that seems so far away…
I get it! Last week I was headed to my outdoor strength training session when it started snowing. While that seemed like a great excuse to turn around and pour myself another cup of coffee, I went anyway. Was it the most effective strength workout I’ve ever done? No. It’s hard to do kettlebell swings with frozen fingers. But I got to commiserate with my lifting buddies about the level of crazy we were showing that day, and we all left feeling glad we got it in despite the conditions.
Studies have shown that for strength training, consistency is the most significant indicator of strength gains. More important than the variety of exercises or the amount of weight or number of reps, consistency is key. This makes sense, since we know the same holds true for endurance training – it is the consistent and repeated stress of training that leads to adaptation. The principle of progressive overload doesn’t work if you are not consistently overloading.
And yet many runners and triathletes struggle to incorporate strength training into their endurance training. In fact, it’s a bit of a running joke in the endurance world that we seem to have such an aversion to the gym. So what’s an idealistic athlete to do?
Spend some time finding a strength program that works for you. Whether it’s a program with bands that you can do at home, a group class, a structured program that you do at the gym solo (or with a buddy), or sessions with a personal trainer or physical therapist, you are more likely to stick to a program when you feel like you know what you’re doing.
Once you find a program that works, be consistent. Schedule it into your week just like you do your endurance training. Remind yourself why strength training is so important (Correct imbalances! Prevent injury! Maintain lean muscle mass! Increase power and speed!), and remember that the work you put in now during the off-season will be the foundation on which you stand during the upcoming season.
Sometimes just showing up is half the battle. Make consistency a priority – keep showing up, snow flurries be damned.