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For most endurance athletes that look to compete hard and run most of their races in the spring and summer, they are just starting to make plans for the fall and winter in preparation for peak performance next year. Unfortunately, what many forget to take into consideration is how to stay injury-free through these next several months so that they can continue to train with the intensity that they want in their workouts.
They spend hours calculating distances and time spent running, biking, and swimming, while continuing to work 50 hours at their job and trying to cram every last minute of training before the sun goes down. Many think they have it figured out, filled with proper rest and gradual progression of training intensity. Some even add a balanced nutritional diet with every gram of protein and complex carbohydrate accounted for over the day and week. Despite all of this, they still end up getting hurt. Why?

Often they are neglecting one of the most critical components of peak sports performance and injury-free running, biking, and swimming: an integrated functional weight training routine. Many old school runners and past All-American collegiate swimmers cringe at the thought of lifting weights. But, we’ve come along way from the circuit training Nautilus machines that filled many training rooms across the nation, and now use much more applicable functional training exercises to help accentuate our strengths and improve upon our weaknesses.

As a physical therapist, I see running injuries all the time from stress placed on the body and its breakdown due to weakness. Once we get through the acute soft tissue damaged using manual therapy, UV light therapy, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and ice, we focus on strengthening the areas that are weak and stretching the areas that are tight. An endurance athletes’ body needs to be in constant balance. Any change in this and injury results. This is why many people shy away from resistance training. They get tight or feel sore and their mechanics are adjusted. While this may happen initially, as your body continues to adapt, you become stronger and more efficient athlete.

As a physical therapist, I see running injuries all the time from stress placed on the body and its breakdown due to weakness. Once we get through the acute soft tissue damaged using manual therapy, UV light therapy, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and ice, we focus on strengthening the areas that are weak and stretching the areas that are tight. An endurance athletes’ body needs to be in constant balance. Any change in this and injury results. This is why many people shy away from resistance training. They get tight or feel sore and their mechanics are adjusted. While this may happen initially, as your body continues to adapt, you become stronger and more efficient athlete.

Resistance training, be it dumbbells, kettlebells, rubber bands, medicine balls, machines, and even body weight can be beneficial in all sports. The most important feature of any resistance program is that you ask yourself, “What do I want to accomplish?” What are your strengths? And what are your weaknesses? Discuss these with your training partner or have them evaluated by your physical therapist or sports specialist, and together come up with a plan on how to improve upon these things.

The next question I usually get asked after a long sigh in acknowledging the fact that they need to add resistance training is, “How often do I need to do this and how long will it take?” Frequency is usually the most difficult question to answer. Many, do to the already packed schedule you are balancing, can only fit in one day a week for resistance training. While several studies indicate that one day a week will help, I strongly suggest 2-3 times a week to see the greatest difference and improvement. If you can add them to “easier” endurance training days this would be ideal and should not significantly cut into your recovery and rest periods.

Wouldn’t you love to run a hilly course without breaking a significant sweat? Or bike against the wind in the same time that you used to do the distance with no wind? Or how about swim in choppy open water without a wet suit, the same distance, in the same time as it would in the pool? Well, many of you can! Now granted, working on techniques and transitions within the activity that you are competing in should always be the focus of your training making you a much more efficient endurance athlete. But, there is a reason why Michael Phelps, after training several years perfecting his technique, decided to add weight training to his routine. It made him a stronger, faster swimmer (and we all know where that got him!).

In conclusion, my suggestion to you would be this: If you are not already, consult with a physical therapist, trainer, or sports specialist and come up with a resistance plan to fit your needs and schedule. Get started soon, and your spring and summer will be even stronger then before.

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