I finished my final triathlon of the season last weekend and always feel at a loss as to what I should be doing during the off season in order to not lose any fitness but also to improve for the following year’s race season.
I usually stop swimming at the end of September and will resume again in March (I really don’t like doing laps in the pool!) I also switch from biking outdoors to taking spin classes at least twice per week. I do keep running outside as much as possible. When it gets super cold, I head indoors on the treadmill. Last year I did the Polar Bear series to help me stay on track with training and am debating doing the series again.
I read on micoach that during the off season 60% of training should be on strength and flexibility training and the other 40% should be running, swimming, and biking. Cross-training helps improve flexibility and increase the amount of power you’re able to generate. The more power you have, the more efficiently you’ll be able to cut through the water, push off the ground during your run, and pedal on steep climbs. Adding Strength and Flexibility training will improve your performance and reduce your risk for injury.
If you’re like most runners, you’ve resisted resistance training. I think you should reconsider. Recent studies are showing that resistance training strengthens your bones, reduces depression, boosts good cholesterol, helps lower the risk of diabetes and even gives older people better cognitive function. Those are just the health benefits! Lifting weights will make you a better runner.
Muscle is the largest metabolically active organ in your body. Your heart is a muscle as well. Running makes it more efficient at pumping blood t your other muscles. During resistance exercises, your muscles generate more explosive force than they do in cardio training—your heart is no exception. Adding weights to your workouts strengthens your heart in ways that your weekly long run can’t. Your heart becomes stronger, not just more efficient.
Resistance training has been shown to improve running speed. Nobody knows why.
It helps to remember that a runner is a single piece of equipment. Various leg and foot muscles may propel you down the pat, but a supporting cast of stabilizers, diaphragm, shoulder, arm, and neck muscles—all contribute. The first sign of fatigue is a deteriorating running form. When all your muscles are strong, your legs are liberated to do what they do best.
Running coaches emphasize resistance exercises that load muscles in a manner that replicates running—quads, glutes, and hamstrings. These are fine, even if they neglect the rest of the apparatus. For upper body strength begin with push-ups, pull-ups, and crunches. They can be done right from your living room. Many public trails space out resistance equipment so that you can combine strength training and running workouts.
The benefits and variety these bring to your workouts may turn out to be a revelation. But an even better reason to like them is that being strong simply feels good.
What’s your off-season training plan?