The perfect combo for endurance athletes

Resistance training could be the key to beating your best.

For many years it was believed that lifting weights should only be reserved for gym-junkies and bodybuilders. That strength training would add bulk to your frame, making it harder for endurance athletes to run faster, and go for longer. But while it might sound counter-intuitive, resistance is more than just good for endurance athletes – it’s necessary.

What is resistance training?

Simply put, resistance training (also known as strength training) is any exercise that improves strength, power, hypertrophy and endurance by causing your muscles to contract against external weight or force.

Now, you’re probably thinking, ‘Ohhhh…weightlifting’. Well, yes - and no. Resistance training is deadlifts and bench presses, but it’s also using weighted machines and dumbbells, as well as resistance bands and bodyweight exercises.

In fact, resistance training above all is about finding balance between strength and well-conditioned soft tissues — like muscles, tendons and ligaments — which supports good biomechanics - helping you move more efficiently and effectively with the least amount of wear and tear.

Cool! But how do I know if resistance training is right for me?

It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking to improve your social sport game, beat your run PB or compete in a 24-hour adventure race, resistance training is beneficial for almost everyone.

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Here’s why and how resistance training makes better endurance athletes:

1. It helps to increase performance – and decrease injury

Runners, cyclists, and athletes that play sports with high levels of agility, sprinting, and sustained endurance, can seriously benefit from adding resistance training to their weekly routine.

While fantastic for cardiovascular and mental health, physical fitness, and just plain fun, these kinds of sports often don’t require enough range or depth of motion, support controlled loading or work a variety of muscle groups. At least not alone.

Adding in resistance training at least 2-3 times a week can help strengthen your muscles and connective tissue which is key for injury prevention. It can improve brain-muscle coordination and power, helping you to run faster, and encourage coordination and stride efficiency, improving overall performance.

Science supports this too. Incorporating weights into your training has been proven to increase your speed and oxygen capacity during exercise (VO2 max). As your muscles get stronger, they don’t need to expend as much energy for you to hit a certain pace.

2.It helps you stay at the top of your game – even as you get older.

Whoa! Shots fired. Look, ageing is simply a reality. And there’s nothing to say you can’t be in your physical prime later in life — just look at Lebron James. But to stay at or reach your peak - then push past it - generally the older you get, the harder you must work.

That’s because as you age, you lose a significant percentage of muscle mass — unless you stimulate it. The best way to stimulate it? You guessed it. Resistance training.

And muscle mass isn’t the only gain. Resistance training is also linked to better bone density, lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure.

3.When you hit a training plateau, it’s easy to adapt – without losing momentum.

We’ve all been there. The plateau. You train and train and train, but you’re not getting the results you’re used to seeing. Or worse, you’re losing momentum.

A plateau happens when your body adjusts to the demands of your workout. By adding variety to your routine through resistance training, you’ll not only get the major health benefits, but you’ll stay engaged with your training programme too – making it easier on those cold winter mornings to get your scheduled workout done.

It’s important to note that plateaus are possible in resistance training too. When you feel your workout getting easier, increase your load or switch up exercises to keep changing, adapting and getting stronger.

But if I’m strength training, my muscles will get bigger – right?

No. Resistance training helps muscles look tighter and more sculpted yes, but the only way you’re going to get big — really big — is if you’re lifting extremely heavy weights like with powerlifting and bodybuilding. But as an endurance athlete (or arguably, any athlete), you shouldn’t be following a conventional bodybuilding routine anyway.

To increase your performance as an endurance athlete, your resistance training should be varied. Although you want to nurture and improve those muscles groups you use the most, neglecting opposing muscles groups can lead to bad posture, shoulder, knee or ankle injuries – which means more recovery, and less training.

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Sweet! Let’s get started.

If you’re ready to start adding resistance training to your routine, there’s nothing stopping you!

You can join a gym, hire a trainer or do your own programme at home or outside at a local park, or take advantage of Ascend Fit's group training that is designed to perfectly support running and sports.

If you want a great workout to get started. here is one I built just for you! Click here to download it