I am a triathlete. Should I lift weights?
This topic comes up quite often in training sessions with athletes and when Amy and I give talks at triathlon clubs. We get asked about whether it’s a good idea to do “core training,” boot camps, CrossFit, etc. My perspective*, from years of coaching and competing, is that it can play a part in a well-rounded triathlon training program, for a few reasons:
The first reason is pretty simple. Unless you’re a professional triathlete, the sport of triathlon is generally just one part of the athlete’s lifestyle. Home life is another part of it, and home life typically includes yard work, playing with the kids, changing light bulbs and a number of other household chores. Why do I mention these? It’s pretty simple: these activities involve movements that are NOT part of swimming, cycling or running. So, by engaging in a basic strength program that includes some active stretching and core exercises, a triathlete can minimize the risk of injury while performing everyday activities. It doesn’t matter how fit you are for swimming, cycling or running—if you throw out your back when you are doing household chores, you won’t be able to swim, bike or run!
The pitfalls of sitting around
Secondly, it is fairly typical for most people to work at a job that requires them to sit for extended periods of time. Sitting at a desk. Sitting in a car on the way to the office. If you are anything like me, when you sit for any period of time, you slouch or lean to one side or the other. Hip flexors and hamstrings are put in a non-natural position. Doing some mild active stretching or even mild core exercises prior to a triathlon workout is a good way to minimize the effects of these extended sitting sessions. And, a light full-body strength training program can help even out some of the left or right-side favoritism that most of us exhibit in our everyday motions.
I’ll close with a couple of additional suggestions when adding or maintaining a strength program during triathlon training. If you are gearing up for a race, the strength sessions should not be so intense that they negatively affect your triathlon workouts. If you already have a strength routine that you follow, it might be necessary to cut back or make it a lighter full-body workout instead of working the upper body on one day and the lower body on another day. And be sure to find a routine that you will be able to stick with, week in and week out.
*My perspective is based on many years of being an athlete and as a coach—I do not have any formal biomechanical training or a degree in sports science.
Amy Marsh is a four-time Ironman champion, two-time IronDistance champion, and was named the 2010 USAT Long Distance Triathlete of the Year. Brandon Marsh has been competing in triathlons since 1988, and can be counted on to be a top-10 contender in every event he enters. Got a question about swim-bike-run or sports nutrition for Team Marsh? Email them at email@example.com. On Twitter, follow Brandon @BrandonMarshTX and follow Amy @AmyCMarsh.