Off-Season Strength Training

September 28, 2022

As we transition into run season followed by the off-season, this provides a great opportunity to reiterate the importance of strength training. In-season, due to the demands of training combined with career, family life and finding some semblance of rest and relaxation, our strength training sessions are generally what get the cut over swimming, biking and running sessions when we need to miss a workout. While it’s important to give ourselves grace and the flexibility to miss a session here and there, or even a season of training due to greater priorities, it's critical we do what we can to consistently get in our strength training throughout the year. Even if this means rethinking the training program to reduce volume in the swim, bike and run to make room for strength.

The benefits of strength training are endless, from both a performance perspective and an overall lifestyle, quality of life and longevity perspective. Strength training is an essential component to reaching your highest performance in endurance sport. Research shows strength training improves our muscular strength and power resulting in improved performances in swimming, biking and running. Strength training plays an important role in injury prevention, reduces and removes existing imbalances and is shown to reduce fatigue in the latter portions of long endurance events. From a lifestyle perspective, strength training improves and maintains bone mass reducing risk for osteoporosis, improves and maintains muscle mass reducing and delaying sarcopenia (age related muscle atrophy), improves glucose tolerance and improves and maintains free fat mass and resting metabolic rate, resulting in more effective weight management.

Throughout the off-season, we have greater opportunity to enrich all these areas through our strength training. With races months away, we can reduce volume and consistency to an extent in our swimming, biking and/or running, while bringing greater focus to our biggest areas of opportunity and placing a heavier emphasis on strength training. The goal is to build up our muscular strength in the off-season and then maintain these gains in-season.

While strength training is very individual, as are individual goals, you should begin to work towards strength focused weight training, which means lower reps and using heavier weights while continuing to include mobility, stability and functional work. Depending on the individual and the goals, these sessions should take place one to three times per week. Ideally, continue to include plyometric and high intensity interval work one time per week. These sessions are shorter, but very intense and effective. Remember, form is of the utmost importance with strength training. Never sacrifice form for speed or the use of heavier weights. Good technique is the most critical aspect of strength training to maximize gains and reduce risk for injury.

While the off season looks different than in season, the change up in training provides great variety which is good both mentally and physically. If you are not used to strength training, you will find your confidence rise as you grow in strength and become more comfortable using weights. With consistency, you will see the gains and results of off-season strength training in your performances next year.

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