Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Strength

Day 2 in Darwin has continued in much the same way as yesterday went, very nicely.

I didn't end up getting to the pool this morning, a last minute change of plans meant that I didn't quite have time for a swim this morning so it was off to the very basic hotel gym instead. I am trying to be a bit stricter with my strength work at the moment, so while the gym was fairly simple, I made the most of it and got the work done.

My renewed focus on strength work is being driven on a few different fronts. Firstly, as I have been paddling more I am finding that strength work is playing a larger part in my training. Paddle boarding, like kayaking, has a huge power element to it, so strength has can make a big difference. Fitness is very important too, but you can't get away without being strong. It is pretty good motivation to get you in the gym.

The other reason for the focus on strength is that I suspect it has been helping my swimming. With swimming technique and fitness would be priority 1 and 2, brute strength would play a smaller part than it does in sports like kayaking, but it does have a place. As I have mentioned before, I have found that while I am only swimming once a week my speed hasn't dropped off that much. I suspect this sustained swimming speed is mostly due to the strength and fitness work that comes from paddling, however, I also think the gym work has been contributing too.

Strength work in the gym is only something I really started incorporating into my triathlon training in the last 12 months or so of racing, but it was something that I wished I had started sooner. All through my sporting career with swimming, rowing and kayaking regular gym work was always a staple. It wasn't until I started triathlon that strength work fell by the wayside, it seemed like there simply wasn't enough time to be in the gym. I kept up some forms of strength work like pilates etc, but there never seemed time to get into a gym. Plus, among a lot of endurance athletes there is a perception that gym time is wasted time. Better off going for a run. I remember hearing Moneghetti speak once saying he spent barely any time in the gym.

However, a lot of studies are now indicating that strength work can be very beneficial to endurance athletes. It helps build power, but more importantly the additional strength helps build resilience, reducing injury and allowing more consistent training, which is key when it comes to endurance sports. The funny thing is too, that once I started incorporating gym time into my program, I found it didn't really detract from the rest of sessions. In fact, fitting in a couple of 40 minute strength sessions per week was fairly easy to do once I made the effort.

There are of course a few provisos that need to come with this. If you are struggling to get out for a couple of runs and a couple of rides a week and you are training for a 70.3 then those specific sessions would need to have a higher priority than gym work. In the end a certainly amount of fitness is required to make it through a half ironman and a certain amount of training is required to get you there. Strength work shouldn't come as an exception to this.

The other proviso would be to get some advice on what strength work you should be doing. I don't just mean advice about technique, which is important too, but also what sort of strength work you should be doing. As I said, most studies indicated that strength work is beneficial, but they also say that the strength work should be targeted to the individual. There are loads of different types of exercises and approaches to doing them, the best person to talk to about which is best is a dedicated strength and conditioning coach. There are loads of good strength coaches around, it is just a matter of talking to one of them.

Time to get to the gym.

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