All parents are encouraged to enroll their children in a variety of sports. Most kids do play a sport at a young age. There are the usual suspects of soccer, t-ball, and basketball. Of course, there are many other sports like gymnastics, martial arts, and flag football. All these and many more sports are available to children at young ages.
These sports provide a lot of physical, mental, and social developmental lessons that will serve them well later in life. That’s what makes sports great. It isn’t just exercise. It raises better men and women.
But it’s only until a person reaches full or near full musculoskeletal maturity that other sports should be competed in. A fully physically developed person can consider becoming a triathlete. The superset of swimming, then biking, and then running is only reserved for well-trained athletes. It is a sport that is very hard on the body and is incredibly exhausting, making the sport highly inappropriate and dangerous for children. Worst of all, no other sport or competition demands time more than triathlon training. It’s essentially competing in three endurance-based sports at once. That requires a lot of time to practice that isn’t feasible nor recommended at young ages.
Time to Train
When I was in physical therapist assistant school, there was a woman in my class who competed in triathlons. Specifically, she competed in the granddaddy of them all, the Ironman. I had and still have admiration for her dedication to her craft. Most days, she had already swam for over an hour before we all showed up for class. While we took our time on our lunch breaks, she would run across the bridge to another state and back. After class, more training. Somehow she found time to eat, sleep and study. She never complained and never really bragged about it. The amount of physical effort and planning is truly crazy, in a good way.
This isn’t uncommon for tri-athletes. They need to train a lot, which takes a lot of time, and somehow they have to wrap that around everyday life. The last thing they need is something else on their plate. And that’s precisely what I’m advocating for.
Weightlifting for Triathletes
Sometimes life isn’t fair. Triathletes need a lot of time to train. Unfortunately, I think most of them need to carve a little more time out. Most swimmers, runners, and especially bikers do not spend much time in weight rooms. Conventional wisdom says to run, swim and bike more to get better at them. While this is true, strength training allows this training to be far more effective. Think of it this way. Running, biking, and swimming raise the floor of your abilities. Even on a bad day, you can expect a certain amount of time to complete a race. However, strength training raises the ceiling of your ability. It increases your potential.
Running is all about how much force you can put into the ground. More force, more speed, and greater stride length. The best way to increase that force is through strength training. Running more will not dramatically increase power, but power cleans in the weight room can! The same goes for swimming and biking. The stronger pound-for-pound athlete will have an easier time propelling forward with each race’s stride, stroke, and revolution.
Reduction in Injuries
On top of increased performance, proper strength training reduces injury rates among distance athletes. Common triathlete injuries are shin splints, strains, sprains, and tendonitis. Strength training is proven to reduce the severity and total likelihood of these symptoms and injuries.
Call to Action
Triathletes are some of the most dedicated people you will meet. However, they are still people, and people are stubborn. Most athletes are resistant to dramatic changes, particularly when it comes to how they train. Most triathletes claim they don’t go into the weight room because they simply don’t have the time. That’s understandable. Weightlifting isn’t as important as getting the miles in on the bike. However, if strength training is neglected, that’s a giant hole left in training.
The saying is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. All triathletes should train in the weight room, even if it’s just a little bit. Once or twice a week. Even if it costs time off running or swimming/bike. Giving up a small percentage of endurance training to swap for strength training can pay huge dividends for both performances and reduce the risk of injury.
There are lots of good programs out there that can give triathletes great bang for their time (and buck) for strength training. I strongly advise all endurance athletes to consider prioritizing a small amount of time and effort into strength training, even if it involves giving up some of their regular training.
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