Is weight lifting beneficial to endurance athletes? Does it translate to speed, or simply result in added weight? While there really isn't a simple yes or no answer, a quick response might lead you to believe that they are simply not necessary. The better question to ask, however, is can lifting weights properly help you achieve your PR this summer? The answer to this on the other hand is a resounding "Yes!" Now I am not saying to stop running and take up weight training. Rather, that supplementing your running with some weight training, especially in the early season will benefit you in the long-term, especially when everybody else is battling injury. Okay, so what type of weight training you should be doing?
The off-season is a great time to start a weight-training program. As all athletes know, it is important to take a little time off at the end of each season, before starting up again with a base building phase of training. This base phase is a great time to work some "max" strength weight training into your overall program, to develop the lean muscle mass that will serve as the basis of your infrastructure. This will help to keep you injury-free, and off of the couch. Specifically this regimen should include two or three weight training sessions at the gym each week. It is important that the chosen exercises are specific to running. There is no need to focus on bench pressing three hundred pounds, or bicep curls, if you are planning to run a marathon in six months. Be smart about the time spent in the gym and use your time effectively. Thirty to forty-five minutes each session should be all that is necessary.
As the season progresses and the training plan transitions from the base phase to the build phase, the focus on strength should move from building maximal strength to converting that muscle into speed. Weight lifting can continue at this phase of training but the type of weights that you work with should become more sport-specific/functional. No longer should you be "maxing out" on the amount of weight lifted. At this point, your strength work should focus on maintaining strength, rather than building it.
Certainly as with anything, the need to strength train varies for each individual. Typically, older athletes will benefit far more, as they have a much more difficult time maintaining lean muscle mass. Women over 45, and men over 50 should consider this as a primary focus of their training, just as important as aerobic development. While younger athletes can afford to skip out on some of their strength training, with less risk, these older athletes simply cannot. The often heard claim that with age comes increased injury is true, but does not have to be so. There tends to be a very strong correlation between aging athletes who do NOT strength train, and increased injury. Many, many athletes can avoidmissed training time, simply by spending time in the gym!
A good weight-training program is beneficial to both younger and older athletes, alike. If done in conjunction with your yearly athletic goals, a consistent plan can help you to remain injury-free throughout the entire season.
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