Sunday, December 7, 2014

Doing the Heavy Lifting

Last season I admit I wasn't very attentive to my strengthening routine.  While I had a long, PR-filled season, I know I left a lot on the table in terms of performance.  My leg strength was just not there.  Not even close.  I waited until my last big race was over at the end of September and set a target of early October to resume weight training.  I developed a basic routine based around equipment I had at home (kettlebells, jump rope, plyo boxes, TRX, medicine balls, etc) and got started.

It didn't take long (1 workout) to see just how weak my right leg was. I had a lot of work to do. I focused on single and double leg strengthening.  I worked on making myself symmetrical (right vs left equality) for both upper and lower body. My left side has always been the weaker side overall, but I want to change that this offseason.

Once I felt like I was making gains/muscle hypertrophy (~2 months) I headed into the gym for the heavy weights.  Now, you won't find me on a smith machine or any machines at the gym. I strictly use free weights, (barbells loaded with plate weights and dumbbells).  I perform compound movements (multiple joints at once) that target muscle groups instead of working out a single muscle.  Machines serve me no purpose and limit/force you to move a certain way.

I have a few influences that I follow from material that I've read over the years. It's nice to finally put it all together.  My program is basically 3 days a week of focused work (2 at home, 1 at the gym).  I also squeeze in some smaller workouts during the day at work (a set of squats or dead lifts here and there with a patient). I keep my 3 sessions short, less than 45 minutes. 

I can finally see my workouts paying off. On my long run yesterday, I felt my right glute muscle engaging every time I wanted to push off. I can maintain good running form longer into a run before I start breaking down.  When I have been racing, I am able to maintain my pacing over the distance of the race - there is no pace drop off.  I am much less sore and fatigued at the end of a run. I am getting the leg and core strength back to support myself when I run. On the bike, I am finding it a little easier to maintain a higher power output during my workouts.

I am on a recovery week this week, so after that I will ease into plyometrics to help build power/speed to go with my strength. This week I'll write up a basic program for myself and implement it soon.

It's exciting to see what changes this will bring to my training and racing next season, but I can see results already. My plan is to keep up with the strengthening throughout the season.