Friday, December 20, 2013

Effective Strength Training for Triathletes and Runners

Many triathletes and runners understand that strength training is an important component of fitness, yet so many do not understand how to execute this type of training. They may think that any type of strength training is good when in fact they may be doing very little to improve in their sport.  For example, a simple leg press exercise may seem sufficient to strengthen certain muscles such as the glutes and hamstrings yet the single leg squat would in fact be more beneficial to the athlete. Why is this? The single leg squat is a functional strength exercise that engages multiple muscles (glutes, hamstrings, calves, hips, abdominals, back) and planes of motion, whereas the leg press machine only allows the athlete to move in one plane and isolates the specific muscles being used (i.e. glutes, hips and hamstrings).
The woman above is doing the plank jacks
Functional strength training is accessible to athletes anywhere. A gym can be helpful but is not needed. Simply put your body is a gym and its own resistance is the only needed tool. Certainly you will want to add some additional tools such as a stability ball, resistance bands, etc.
 Below is an example of a functional strength workout that can be performed at home or at your gym.
Warm up: You should warm up for 2-3 minutes with some dynamic stretching before you begin any of the exercises. You can do some simple butt kicks, toe touches, jumping jacks, leg swings, etc just to get your heart rate elevated and help warm up the muscles to reduce the chance of injury.
Following the warm up you can repeat the series of exercises below anywhere from 3-5 times depending on your schedule and comfort level.
1. 12-15 reps squat and reach with stability ball (hold the stability ball out from your chest as you squat and in by your chest as you stand before the next rep)
2. 12-15 reps of single leg squats on each side (do one cycle on the first side then alternate so you are getting an even workout on both sides of the body)
3. 12-15 plank jacks (begin in a high plank and jump your legs open and then together for each rep)
4. 12-15 russian twists with med ball or dumbbell (seated with your feet up and back leaning towards the floor, move the weight from side to side, count both sides as 1 rep)
5. 12-15 lunge and reach with med ball or dumbbell (starting with your right side, do a lunge to the right holding the weight and bring the weight up overhead to that side, alternate sides after each cycle)
6. 12-15 woodchops with med ball or dumbbell (holding the weight in your hand, swing your arm up in a chopping motion, switch sides after each cycle)
7. 3 x 30 seconds of steam engine (hands behind your head or neck bring your right elbow to your left knee and alternate to other side with left elbow to right knee)
8. 3 x 30 seconds of mountain climbers (begin on hands and knees and jump your legs forward and back one at a time)
9. 12-15 hip circles (lying on your side, bring your right leg up and do a circle motion with your leg, switch sides after one cycle)
10. 12-15 bicycle crunches (lie on your back as you would for a simple crunch and then as you crunch in, bring your right elbow to your left knee and then immediately switch to your left elbow and right knee and back and forth through each rep)
Cooldown with 1-2 minutes of stretching

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

What I'm up to this "Off season" & Moving Into the Season

Well it's the off season for the next 4-6 weeks or so. From there it's time to build up the endurance for an exciting and tough season starting off in February and March with some trail racing, a half marathon in April, marathon in May and diving into the triathlon season with a 70.3 in June, some other races and the big 140.6 in September! I'm looking forward to moving ahead because I am not really a huge fan of the off season and I am super excited to finish my first 140.6!!

So what am I up to now? Strength work including TRX, yoga, kickboxing and lifting as well as masters swimming with Liquid Lifestyles Liquid N'durance. My typical weeks now consist of a couple short 45-60 minute runs and a long run of 90-120 mins, a couple shorter 45-60 min bike sessions and a weekly long ride of 90-120 mins along with a 90 minute swim session and 2 or 3 45-75 minute strength sessions for a total of around 8-10 hours a week.

I plan to add a second day of coached swim practice after the holidays so I can maximize the gains here since this is really where I need the most help. Additionally I am working on some dietary changes and trying to get my weight and body composition in the right place for a successful 2014 season.

As the early season approaches I will add in more running in prep for the early season races and the marathon. I expect to be running at least 5-7 x weekly during this phase as well as maintaining 3-4 sessions with the bike, 2 swims and 1 or more core sessions. This is lots of hours of training, which means I can drink more tasty IPAs and Stouts of course ;)

So, lots of fun stuff going on now and working on my strength and swim and excited to ramp up as we head into 2014! What are you up to now and what are you goals for next year?

Monday, December 9, 2013

That's a Wrap, Last Race of 2013...Good Thing We Brought the Yaktrax!

It's official - no more races until February of 2014! Last Saturday I wrapped up the last race of the season, which was a 5 mile trail race in Munroe Falls, Ohio. It was very cold morning on the Indian Springs Trail complete with snow and ice, which made for a tough race!

Shot of the field where the race started, brrr!
Steve and I had both planned on ending the season with a trail race so Ohio Outside's last race of the year seemed like a good one. We got up early & drove the hour or so to Munroe Falls, picked up our packets and did our usual prerace warmup. Good thing we brought the yaktraks! On our warmup mile it was icy, snowy and slippery and the yaktrax really were needed for safety and speed.

Feeling good on the 1st trail loop
The race start was at 8:30am and we were anxious to get going and get warmed up! The course is actually a little less than 5 miles and consists of little jaunt through a field and then a 2-loop (2.2 course on the trails). My first mile was 7:48 - just about where I wanted to be. Miles 2, 3 & 4 all came in around 8:20-8:30 pace so my pace had slowed (probably due to the cold, slippery conditions and running in cleats) and my final .7 mile wrapped up faster around a 7:30 pace for a final time of around 39 minutes - good for 3rd overall female. I had been in 1st for the whole first loop but was passed when I stopped to tie my shoe. Later I was passed again and then a third woman had passed me but I was able to regain my ground there.

It was a tough day physically and mentally for me. My body just didn't want to race in the cold and I felt like I started to come apart a little around mile 3-4 but I hung in there and ended the season in a good place. Steve had a tough day as well and twisted his ankle at the beginning of the 2nd loop. Despite the pain he was able to stick it out for 2nd in the 45-49AG.

Enjoying a post race beer with lunch in the race glasses!
After the race hot coffee and apple cider were provided along with cookies and hot soup as the athletes hung around for the awards. Ohio Outside gave us the option to choose an award or choose to donate to the Akron/Canton Foodbank so both Steve and I chose the latter. We got cool beer glasses as our race souvenir! Now what can be better than that...besides the beer we had after the race!

Thanks to Ohio Outside for a great race! If you haven't done one of their races I highly recommend giving it a go next season!