Three Things to Know About Becoming a More Durable Endurance Athlete:
- Strength training builds strength throughout your body instead of just the muscles we use as runners and cyclists.
- Yoga builds strength, mobility, and improves movement patterns.
- Yoga and strength training are complementary to your primary sport and don’t take much training time.
If you want to improve as a cyclists, ride your bike
If you want to improve as a runner, go for a run.
But strength training and yoga will make you a more durable endurance athlete over the long run.
Build the foundation as a durable endurance athlete
To use an overused metaphor, strength training and yoga are the foundation of your training house as a durable endurance athlete. You need strength and mobility to keep yourself healthy and to prevent injury.
As cyclists and runners, we move, primarily, in one direction and use the same muscles over and over.
This makes us very one-dimensional and more prone to injury.
But if you build a general foundation of muscular strength and joint mobility, you’ll not only be able to stay an athlete longer, but you’ll improve your overall performance.
Becoming a more durable endurance athlete helps improve performance
Some research suggests strength training has a moderate effect on cycling or running performance.
There’s some evidence that strength work can increase the size and number of muscle fibers in key muscles like quadriceps.
But strength training does not directly improve cycling or running performance because it doesn’t seem to increase VO2, although it might help time to exhaustion.
And, anecdotally, doing a ton of kettlebell swings seems to improve my capacity to ride hills.
Full-body strength routine
A full-body strength routine that includes hinges, push and pull exercises, core work, and lateral movement will provide the foundation of your training as a durable athlete.
For example, I rarely have cyclists or runners do squats, which primarily work the quadriceps. For the most part, cyclists and runners already have strong quads!
Instead, we do hinges to strengthen the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back to become a more durable endurance athlete.
Likewise, I encourage cyclists and runners to do lateral movements like curtsy lunges or lateral lunges to build the glute medias and minimus muscles. These support our forward motion.
Yoga is the other piece in becoming a more durable endurance athlete
There are obviously other ways to build good movement patterns, but in some sense, why reinvent the wheel.
I use and teach yoga, essentially, for three purposes: to recover from hard works, to build isometric strength, and increase joint mobility and movement. I usually work the strength and movement in one class.
For example, I often use a Warrior 1 pose in my classes because it offers so much for both strength and mobility in building a more durable endurance athlete.
When your front leg is bent at the knee, your quads, hamstrings, and glutes are getting stressed with isometric work. And the back leg is getting mobility work because your hip has to open.
That’s why I incorporate specific breath work into the yoga practice: We inhale and open our hips to relax, then slowly exhale and rotate our hips and shoulders forward.
Research suggests that holding a static stretch (pose) is not as effective in creating joint mobility as more active stretching. That’s why we do the progressive (contract-relax) movement, exhaling deeper into the pose each time.
Keep strength and yoga sessions short
You don’t need to worry about spending a ton of time in the gym or on the yoga mat.
You can do a solid strength training session in less than 30 minutes. The same goes for yoga sessions.
You can even do most of your strength training in yoga classes. The only strength exercise that is good to get in a gym is deadlifts so you can lift heavy weights.
The specific sport strength comes from riding or running, not usually the gym. So most of your time is still spent doing what you love!
Strength and yoga all year
So strength training and yoga form the foundation of your training house to become a durable endurance athlete.
This strength and yoga work happens all year long. You change the amount and timing of the sessions based on your events.
For example, use the pre-racing part of the year to build up a lot of strength in the gym, and use the racing season to do more yoga and movement practice.
The idea is to build durability and resiliency: You want to have the overall strength and mobility to train hard running or cycling.
You take thousands of steps on the road or trail, and take millions of pedal strokes during a ride. Having a solid durable foundation means that repetition will take less of a toll on your body.
Strength work critical for master’s athletes
While this kind of work is important for everyone, it is critical for older athletes to become a more durable endurance athlete.
We lose muscle mass and strength due to aging, and there’s more loss the older we get.
However, we can continue to add muscle and strength, regardless of our age.
Want to know more about what you can achieve?
My purpose with Simple Endurance Coaching is to help everyday endurance athletes achieve their goals with more strength, endurance, and mobility.
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Paul Warloski is a:
- USA Cycling Level 3 Coach
- RRCA Running Coach
- Training Peaks Level 2 Coach
- RYT-200 Yoga Instructor
- Certified Personal Trainer