Strength is the foundation of nearly all physical and performance goals. When you’re feeling strong, you’re able to go faster, right? Most of us generally look at any activity that isn’t centred around moving our legs, as a waste of time. However, should we put more importance on our general and core strength? Our ambassador and 16X Ironman finisher Nick Rose talks us through his new strength building programme, which will be the first in a series of blog posts documenting his Ironman Barcelona training. Read on to find out more.
Testing the road
With the race season already underway, I started with the Manchester Marathon last weekend. I don’t run many standalone marathons, so it was a new experience in race preparation for me. The weather was good and my nutrition worked as I completed the race feeling strong. My next ‘new’ target is to gain some core strength to facilitate a stronger race season that will culminate in Ironman Barcelona in October.
A new approach to strength building
I should have tried this many years ago with more vigour, after all strength that increases all round core stability can only lead to good things when your sport involves running a marathon after a 2.4-mile swim and 112 miles on the bike. When all body form seems lost after the first two disciplines in a triathlon, you really want your core to be able to support you adequately for the long run.
I would say that the nonspecific (triathlon) sport training normally takes a back seat, and is the first set to be dropped when the time is short. From reading positive write ups on how strength training was making a big difference in friends’ results and training, I knew I had to board the strength building bandwagon.
The return to the gym
The gym isn’t everyones best friend that’s for sure. The fear of the unknown is a big factor for some, looking silly in a gym full of pumped up weight lifters maybe?
For me, having someone hold your hand through the exercises and show you how to do them correctly has bridged the gap, a key factor in people not taking this up is finding the right person and having the courage to book an appointment not really knowing what to expect.
Through word of mouth I found myself driving to meet my instructor at UTS in Hoylake on the Wirral last Thursday. I don’t mention the name to plug them really as I have no affiliation to the gym, but they deserve the credit for the ease at which I experienced, and the way I was guided through the sets of exercises that I will be following for the next 6 weeks.
After an initial chat about medical history, previous and upcoming races, and my experience in and around a gym, I was put through a number of basic tests to determine my current physical ability and health state.
One, two three….squat
Then came the squats, a staple guide on assessing posterior chain function apparently. I have done these in the past and was confident I was showing him how it was done. My form wasn’t horrendous, and there was certainly no derision, in fact the opposite. Corrective action explained and a few more squats using the right technique actually made me feel like I had learned something immediately.
Moving onto the Swiss ball roll out was where I feel a plan was starting to form in Colin’s head. I consider myself to be an able triathlete. I have some good race results and can get through an Ironman in the top 3-5% of finishers, however, my core tells another story. What was quite apparent from the failed ‘Swiss ball rollout’ was that the strength around my core is woeful compared to how I perform.
Once through the assessment phase, Colin was able to write up a training schedule for me to work on my strength over the next 18 weeks. I aim to carry on the blog and show some improvements throughout the summer in the lead up to my Ironman Barcelona challenge in October. At least we already know I can’t do any rollouts, but I’ll hopefully be able to see some tangible improvements in the coming weeks.
Excuses, excuses. Why are they so easy to come up with?
One of the things that I used as an excuse for not doing strength work was the equipment needed. If you have access to a gym this can be easily sorted. Personally, I have recently left mine, so I don’t have weights in the house or a bench to use. Considering my current ability, I’ve been told I won’t be using any weights for at least the first 6 weeks and maybe longer.
My whole plan revolves around a Swiss ball (£9 from Argos) resistance bands (£11.99 from Amazon) and a suspension trainer (£40+ from ebay). This totals just over half what I was paying a month on gym fees, and I can now do this in my garage, and apart from the Swiss ball, I’m able to take this with me when working away from home. Great news for me as I mentioned before, time is an essential commodity I am short on.
Think you’ve got what it takes? We think you do
Strength forms the backbone of what we aim to deliver on race day, and it can also prevent from those niggly little injuries by maintaining correct posture later in longer training sessions. As I get older I find that maintaining the ‘softer’ skills around body form can deliver a better return on my training than pounding out 15 hours a week, and taking longer to recover each time.
Have the courage to just book an appointment, I totally recommend word of mouth as this is what worked for me, and just going to see someone who can actually show you how to do the exercises properly. Having this assessment on your ability gives a starting point to improve from.
Take the time to get to know your body
There should be an understanding as a cyclist or triathlete how important your core is to good form and greater results. As you get older this is even more apparent. I had the good fortune to find an instructor who was not only knowledgeable but extremely helpful and made things very easy to understand.
Over the next 18 weeks I will be making an effort to do 2 sessions a week and improve my overall fitness through targeted strength training. I might not be coming back to you with stories of great gains, but I expect as a minimum a better understanding of what I’m able to achieve through focusing on the elements that combine to get me to the finish line instead of just raw power.
Now I just wish I had started in October !
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