By Brian Beatty & Rob Schneider
Optimal training for any activity will follow a periodization schedule based upon the activity ‘season’. Running and cycling in NC allows for a relatively long ‘season’, which presents training challenges in order to provide sufficient recovery, avoid overload strain / injury, and develop a base from which performance improvement can be pursued. The winter months are prime time to work on building basic strength and even adding muscle mass that will carry you over into next summer’s events. A simple way to think about periodization is: Build the body, get it moving efficiently as one unit, train it to perform in your chosen sports, then perform and enjoy, rest, repeat next year.
A generalized periodization schedule could be:
Immediate post-season: rest, recover, cross train (November)
Off-season: base strength, muscle mass, injury recovery, weakness specific training, flexibility gains (December – February)
Pre-season: core strength, build cardiovascular base, build power (if sufficient base strength had been achieved), activity specific / skills training (February – March)
In-season: activity participation, maintenance (core strength & flexibility), skills maintenance (April – October)
Though ‘core stability’ and ‘functional training’ are common buzz words in current strength training concepts, this is the time of year when it is most appropriate to ‘hit the gym’ with standard strength work such as squats, bench, leg extensions & curls, etc. If you had areas in your body that were prone to fatigue, strain or nagging injury during the past year, this is the time to focus efforts on building those areas up. A couple of visits with the therapist, coach or trainer of your choice now to help identify specific weaknesses build an appropriate focus could pay off well all year long.
One other consideration for strength training for endurance athletes is to look for exercise options where you are standing rather than sitting or lying on a bench. An example would be doing standing triceps press downs with a cable column instead of sitting to do a triceps machine. By doing standing exercises, you continue to work the legs, hips and torso to control your motions. We have included a couple of our favorite strength exercise examples: a basic squat and the rotator cuff curl. If you can utilize the proper form, it is hard to beat the basic squat for overall strength bang for the buck. The rotator cuff curl is named for it’s emphasis on using the cuff to control the downward portion of the movement, and can become a staple in any swimmer’s strength program.
Squat: Head up, spine lengthened with extension (arch) in the low back, hips fold deeply as the pelvis and butt move backward and the knees remain vertical above the feet.
Rotator Cuff Curl: the initial lift is the same as a standard dumbbell curl, then as the weight approaches the shoulder rotate shoulder outward and the palm forward so that the elbow lifts some away from the ribs and the arm is positioned to the outside of the body. Lower the weight in a slow controlled manner keeping by rotating the arm while keeping the elbow held in a constant relative position in space until the weight is fully lowered.