Tuesday, March 4, 2008

triathlon training and weight lifting

I was a bit surprised to find an article in the New York Times answering the question Does Weight Lifting Make a Better Athlete? But there it was in the Fitness section last Thursday.

I'd just been digesting an article over on Men's Health about adding speed to your athletic performance (The Easy Way to NFL-Caliber Speed) so I must've been primed to see the link on NYT.com anyway.

What's this got to do with my triathlon training? Well, for the first four weeks of my program, I'd made sure to actually do the optional strength training sessions (ie, weight room sessions) as prescribed by my program, and then I went to lunch with a colleague who's done a couple triathlons in her day and, to paraphrase, she admonished me for "not taking any days off? you MUST rest!" And so I cut out my Monday (rest day) workout and dropped weights altogether from my regimen as I strove to not wear myself out prematurely.

Now that I've read the Times piece, I'm adding the weights back to my regimen, even though the study sample sizes are small. It just makes sense:

Dr. [Patrick] O’Connor points out that the weight-lifting studies, as is typical in exercise science, are small. And each seems to examine a different regimen, to measure outcome differently and to study different subjects — trained athletes, sedentary people, recreational athletes. It becomes almost impossible to draw conclusions, he said.

That may be one reason why different athletes end up doing different weight-lifting exercises. Chris Martin, a 31-year-old chemical engineer who has an elite racing license from USA Triathlon, the governing body for the sport, works on his entire body. But for his legs, he does exercises like leg extensions using one leg at a time, to correct any muscle imbalances or weaknesses. Mr. Martin, who lives in Lawrenceville, N.J., said he got the idea from coaches and from his own reading.

“Cycling and running are one-leg-at-a-time activities,” he explained. And one-legged exercises “recruit more muscles that help the hips.”

It only makes sense to add weights back in, no? My personal training modification I'll be making is to do my leg extensions one at a time from here on out (I'd been doing both at once before).

On another note, I think I'm just about to break through my weight loss plateau by paying closer attention to what I consume and when I consume it. The proof will come in the next couple days as I see if I am really about to dip below 192 (at last!). I'd better start making progress again if I'm to hit my goal of 180 by end of June. That's three pounds to lose per month!

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