Let’s first address the main reason endurance athletes, in particular, resist strength training: muscle bulk/weight gain and time. Let’s take a look at each individually.
Muscle Bulk/Weight Gain The thought process here is muscle bulk adds weight and weight slows me down. So is this a myth or a fact?
Muscle hypertrophy is largely influenced by the three following factors: • Calories consumed • Strength exercises performed • Cardiovascular training program If one were to perform strength training exercises with the sole purpose of increasing muscle mass, they would eliminate or drastically reduce cardiovascular workouts altogether. This does not fit the profile of an endurance athlete. Secondly, a body builder is consuming large amounts of calories each day to maintain mass. Thirdly, the type of exercises one performs with the goal of muscle hypertrophy are repetitive in nature and focus on one aspect of resistance training: strength. Resistance training for endurance athletes focuses on things such as correcting poor biomechanics, sport replication, increasing power and increasing strength. Further, an important part of an endurance athlete’s performance is strength. Our body absorbs 250% of our body weight on each foot strike. If the muscles and connective tissues are not strong enough to absorb this impact, injury strikes! Time Many runners think it’s not as important to their training as getting out for a run, so they will choose a run any day of the week over resistance training. Is this the right mentality? No! Many runners do not recognize that the reason they are often held back from progressing is due to lack of strength in muscles and connective tissues. The cardiovascular system adapts much quicker than the musculoskeletal system. Therefore, we can find ourselves injured when our heart and lungs are saying, “longer, faster” but our musculoskeletal system does not agree. Resistance training does not need to be a set amount of time during a set time each week. Nor does it need to involve a dumbbell or a bench. Resistance training can be as simple as performing a plank in your living room, a wall sit in your kitchen, or things of this nature. Some exercises will see benefits with weights added, but the point to take away is this: resistance training can and needs to be a part of every endurance athlete’s life.