Throughout my whopping three of years of endurance training and competition, the areas where I have knowledge deficiencies continue to show up. The moments are humbling. Here is my “latest” discovery that I put in the category of dumb moves.
My “solid” logic has been to skip weight training. My reasons were “thoughtful.”
- I need long twitch muscles to be an excellent endurance athlete, and that is where I put my focus. Weight training builds up fast twitch, and I don’t use many of those during a race.
- I continue to improve my outcomes by training more in running, biking and nutrition.
- I only have so much time during the day (I have a full-time job, a ministry, a family, a scout troop, etc.), and it was easy to cut out the weight room.
I had the equivalent of a flat earth argument perfected. However, my thinking was missing one element, namely, it lacked evidence that this was the best way to go.
As I took a look at my performances, I saw that I wasn’t getting exceptional results most of the time. No podium finishes at Worlds. Sure, there was King of the Mountain at Nationals, but no first place overall finishes in any of the events around here… just first in my age group from time to time.
As always, my learning began with a moment when I start wondering if my strategy may be wrong. Oh, how my wife loves it when I start with that word “wrong” and refer to myself…Despite never having an “in your face” moment that pointed out what was missing, there was a moment. I came in several minutes behind a guy at Long Course Nationals who weighed 25 pounds or so more than me. He was the same age…so I started reading more, and I challenged by assumptions. Listening to stories and reading provokes some questions regarding my ideas regarding effective training. The more I read from folks whom our community deem to be knowledgeable, the more I concluded that my formula left room for improvement.
In my mind, there existed a disconnect when it came to weight training/resistance training and long-distance endurance training. I believed that weight training was not necessary as an endurance athlete. I most certainly didn’t want to become bulky and thereby slow down while going uphill. Climbing mountains is an art that also doubles as a balancing act. As one gains mass, there is more weight to pull uphill. All things equal, the lighter cyclist goes up the hill faster than the heavier cyclist. Climbing is about maximizing my power to weight ratio…so my conclusion was that a bigger me is a slower me, especially on hills, right?
I have had weight training on my workout schedule in the past, but it used to get very low priority. High-volume endurance training without strength training can easily lead to the wasting of muscle and a much “softer” physique…and I certainly had that after Switzerland last fall.
So, now the evidence is coming back in that all physiques are not equal. Recent learnings now teach me that If I want a lean and powerful physique, weight training is a must. Not only that, I need to treat my time in the weight room with the intensity that I treat my hard bike rides or tempo runs. I got a blessing when I learned that weight training does not have to be a long duration activity; I can knock out a great session in 45 minutes. Now, I attack the weight training with some of the same intensity that I see in my oldest son who loves hard workouts in the gym.
So far, I have seen my weight go up (7%), but I have also seen my running pace sped up, while my heart rate and perceived effort have not. At a recent 10-mile race, my average heart rate was the same as it was a year ago, but my pace was 45 seconds faster per mile than a year ago. That is a big jump! Yesterday’s long bike ride averaged 22 mph for the first 20 miles. I am sure that I was not at 100%, either. The course was hilly (1300 feet of elevation during that first part). Weight is up, but power is up more!
It required a bit of courage to put research to the test, especially research that may prove me wrong. Now that I have put it to the test and am seeing results, I am glad that I was wrong. Sure, the research overwhelmingly claims that vigorous weight training builds lean muscle and significantly increases metabolism, but I didn’t know what how this would manifest in duathlon.
Since starting this experiment, I have found that my pants and shirts are tighter, but my waist has only gained ½ of an inch. I don’t want new clothes. However, running faster makes the idea of getting a few pieces of clothing all worth it.
I encourage everyone to examine their fundamental beliefs. Learning requires the rejection of previous hypotheses!