Endurance Athletes: Welcome to Strong Season

Pete Hitzeman

Managing Editor and Coach

CrossFit, Cycling, Endurance Sports, Running

Fitness, strength and conditioning, endurance sports, offseason, competition training

 

What a year it’s been! You’ve trained smart, raced hard, and checked a couple more items off of your racing bucket list. You even stood on the podium once or twice. Along the way, you made new friends, chalked up a couple new event PRs, and hoisted more than a few post-race beers with that glow of satisfaction that you only get from competition.

 

 

Now your big fall race is in the rearview mirror, and you have a funny feeling, as you stare at the medal rack on your wall and ponder what’s next. It’s a mixture of dread, fatigue, and apprehension. You have some ideas of your goals for next season, but they’re too far away yet to provide real direction in your training. What’s more, you’re just tired, mentally and physically. Your joints ache from months of abuse, your muscles are tight and sore, and the thought of launching into another training cycle ranks somewhere between cleaning out your gutters and watching C-SPAN with your extremely opinionated and slightly racist uncle.

 

But hey, those goals aren’t going to reach themselves, are they? So you resign yourself to yet another winter of drudgery; sweating on the trainer, slaving away on the treadmill, swimming Sisyphean lap after lap at the indoor pool. Somewhere in the back of your mind, you know it isn’t going to work. Just like every year, you’ll be bored to tears by December, and between family gatherings, and travel, and the general hustle of the holidays, you’ll find a way to get distracted, fall off the training wagon, and gain those 15 pounds you have to crush yourself to lose every spring.

 

Or, you could skip all of that. How about this year, you drop the routine of offseason suffering and make the winter your Season of Strong.

 

Brace Yourselves, Back Squats Are Coming

We all know we should be doing strength training. The bad old days when we worried that bigger muscles would slow us down are over, and all the science now points in unison to the advantages of resistance training for endurance athletes.

 

But during the season, how the heck are you supposed to fit it in, especially if you’re a triathlete? You’ve got your 9-5, and then you have to food prep, take care of your family, mow the lawn, maintain all your gear, and squeeze out enough time to do tempo work, interval training, and all those time-consuming base miles. Where, exactly, are you also supposed to cram in several sessions a week of strength work?

 

In the winter, that’s where. Once you’ve parked the bike or hung up the running shoes in the fall, pick up the barbell (or the dumbbell, or the kettlebell) and get crackin’.

 

Get Strong, Stay Sharp, Slay the Competition

You already know all the benefits of a well-constructed strength program, from correcting muscle imbalances to increasing ranges of motion, to preventing overuse injury and increasing overall power and movement economy. The even better news is that focused work during the offseason creates a base of strength that is quite easy to maintain even through the peak of your endurance training.

 

You won’t be as strong in June as you were in January, just like you aren’t as fast in January as you were in June, but that’s okay. A seasonal approach to your physical development allows you to peak when you need to peak, heal when you need to heal, and avoid burnout.

 

That last point is perhaps the strongest argument for hitting the iron while the snow flies. Endurance sports are mentally demanding in a way most other sports aren’t. Taking a few months to do something else will keep you from getting fed up with the thing that’s supposed to bring you joy. You’ll come out in the spring strong, refreshed, and hungry to attack another season on the roads, trails, or in the water.

 

Your Best Race Season Starts Now

Don’t sweat the loss in endurance or conditioning you’ll experience while you spend a few months building strength. Those capacities return in weeks, and the season is plenty long enough to get back to where you were, and then some.

 

If you’re not sure where to get started, there are dozens of basic strength programs you can follow here on Breaking Muscle. Our very own Shawn Gerber specializes in strength for endurance athletes. If you need help with the movements themselves (and if you’re like 99% of endurance athletes, you need all the help you can get), seek out a coach or trainer so you can get the most from your time.

 

Nobody ever said, “I wish I didn’t make so much power.” Get off the hamster wheel this winter, get under something heavy, and get ready to have your best off-season ever.

 

Use #strongseason to show us how you're getting ready for next year. And stay tuned for more ways to make this your strongest winter ever!

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