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How To Integrate Strength Training Into Your Endurance Training Program

Posted by Jason Sissel
How To Integrate Strength Training Into Your Endurance Training Program

Every endurance athlete can benefit from strength training. Whether your endurance activity is running, cycling, swimming, or cross-training events that combine multiple endurance sports, spending some time building strength enhances your fitness and ultimate performance. Before we delve into the details, it’s important to first understand some background info about strength training and endurance.

The difference between strength and endurance

Put simply, strength training targets muscles, allowing them to exert greater force and improving mobility, while also strengthening the skeletal system. Endurance training improves muscular and cardiovascular fitness, allowing exertion to take place over a long period of time.

Peak performance involves combining the two, so that the body functions its best for as long as possible during exertion.

Benefits of strength training for endurance athletes

Even if your goals don't directly involve lifting or weight-based activities, strength training is important. Strong muscles—especially in your body’s core—improve mobility and reduce the risk of injury during an endurance activity. And strength training improves bone density, which is particularly important for runners who subject their body to continual impact.

Furthermore, most sports injuries are related to the damage caused by repetitive stress on the same parts of the body. Incorporating strength training has the side benefit of adding variety and versatility to a workout routine, protecting the body from repeated stressors and increasing overall fitness levels.

How to maximize training time to do both

It can be difficult to find time to add strength training to an already tight training schedule, particularly for people who aren't professional athletes and need to balance work and family alongside fitness goals. But there are ways to incorporate strength training without sacrificing endurance and training for your specific event. Here are some strategies:

In the off season:

The off season is a great time to focus on strength and muscle development, laying a strong foundation for your endurance sport. Trade 30-60 minutes of endurance activity for full-body strength training in the gym twice a week, including weight lifting, pushing, and pulling exercises. Functional training is a fantastic option, as is yoga, palates and cross-training.

During training season:

If you are tight for time as you train for an event, and have to compress your strength training routine, then trade lifting and pulling for cross-training activities that build muscle and endurance at the same time. Incorporate 30-60 minutes twice a week of cross-training activities that are not your primary endurance activity, like cycling, swimming, boxing, or elliptical workouts. Again, functional training, yoga and palates are highly recommended options.

In the lead-up to an event:

If you are tight on time, the weeks before an event is when it's okay to step back from your strength and cross-training, and focus specifically on your endurance sport. This dedicated training time is necessary for optimal performance, and you've already built a strong physical foundation. This is when you will see the results from added muscle strength and versatility.

Full body fitness requires strong and healthy muscles, bones, heart, and lungs. Diversifying your training and workout routines addresses all these needs, and gets you in optimal shape for peak performance when you need it most.

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