Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Weighty Issue

This is all pretty simple stuff so my apologies if you learn nothing new from this post. But if you are reading this information for the first time – think about it.
A subject close to my heart, weight training for the female athlete today has a positive image prior to the greased up “ladies” prancing around on a stage competing for who’s gonna pop their veins first! Don’t get me wrong I have nothing against these “athletes” it is just a body type and a sport of sorts I do not aspire to.
I understand substituting a run for a weight session may not burn as many calories, but the gains earned by putting a little time in at the gym are ENORMOUS. I am talking about the added POWER, STRENGTH and ENDURANCE that weights can help you find. Your muscles will keep on working for you while you sleep and recover. Muscle increases your metabolism meaning your body becomes more adept at calorie burning even when stationary. Muscle also weighs a lot more than FAT, so weight gains should never be looked upon as a negative.
The gym has been a place of solace for me for over 17years. It is the one area that has remained a constant with the type of training altering depending on my sport of focus.
My coach introduced me to the gym many years ago to help my badminton. I started to learn about strengthening my legs to help get those fast-twitch muscles amped and to build my quads to support my terribly painful knees to help me perform better. Now it is a fact I was never the best badminton or squash player. But, I was very quick and this came from training fast twitch muscles in the gym and on the court with speed work (aka shuttle runs)!!!
After my rotator (shoulder) muscles went on holiday, I had to leave the gym alone. Rest, physio, running and riding was the only training I was allowed for a period of 3+months. Many of you whom I train with have ailments that you train with day in and day out. It’s hard, it’s painful and we know it will never fully get better unless left alone, but we don’t because the empty void is too much to bear. I didn’t enjoy giving up racket sports, the gym & swimming but I didn’t have much choice.
After the all clear was given my focus was recuperation. I had been suffering for over a year and was intent on moving forwards not backwards. Once I started back in the gym it was great to get back but agony starting over. So conscious of tearing the shoulder again I devised a training plan to work every shoulder muscle, the back and arms very gently and very slowly. 6months away from what you love is nothing compared with what many others have to go through, but had I not stopped, surgery or never being able to start triathlon could have been the outcome.
So why weight train for triathlon? It gives me A LOT of confidence, I believe increases endurance, helps me maintain a strong posture on the run and substantially decreases chances of back discomfort on the bike plus it will ultimately provide me with the power that I hope will come into effect when my swim technique finally improves!
In the old “fatty” days I could be found everyday pushing weights long before it became fashionable. Today because of the demands of training for a multi-discipline sport I have reduced my sessions to twice a week, and I find this is just perfect. The books and magazines say 20 minutes 3 times a week is a good goal to target. I guess it depends on your aims. I treat the weight training session for exactly what it is. It is not a cardio workout and I am never tempted to divert away from what I went in to do. My two sessions a week, one on Tuesday and one on Friday each take a solid 60minutes. I don’t dilly dally; I go in do my thing and go out and usually back to work!
I really feel it is important for girls to get into this. As you get older bone density decreases and for ladies doing long hours in endurance training we are prone to fall under the FAT (Female Athletes Triad) . This is a condition whereby the period cycle of some athletes slows, becomes irregular or stops completely due to low body fat and or high training levels. If this happens(I have and do suffer from this) you could be losing precious bone density, so while weight bearing exercises won’t put you back on track with your periods they will help to fight osteoporosis. It is also good to note that Vitamin D and C supplements and plenty of pure protein should be included in your diet.
Some girls I chat to don’t incorporate weights into their training because they don’t like it – end of story. Well we can’t “LOVE” every aspect of training. Nothing is as fun as getting on the bike. I don’t particularly love swimming but I am trying to teach myself to love it, because I know I will benefit in the long run. Training is all about doing everything you can to make yourself stronger, faster and healthier so think of a weight program as part of the deal. If you don’t do it then in my opinion (and it is just an opinion) you must accept you will be missing out on performance.
Since the start of my Ironguide plan the weight program is still included. But it is also an optional rest day (afternoon)! To take off some of the intensity from my arms I have reduced the sets from 4 of to 3 of and so far so good. Detailed below is a training plan that I try to execute twice a week. It is rather intensive but I don’t see the point of getting changed and “fannying” around in the gym for 20minutes. I stick to it and then lay off one week before a race to let the muscles fully recover. *Note: this is what I have been doing – however it may change!

1. Pulley Row: 3 sets x 12 reps of overhand grip, 3 sets x 12 reps of underhand grip
2. Lat Pull Down: 3 sets x 15 reps starting at 26Ibs (warm-up) ending at 33Ibs
3. Triceps Press: 3 sets x 15 reps starting at 40Ibs (warm-up) ending at 55Ibs
4. Triceps Pull down: 3 sets x 12-15 reps starting at 5Ibs (warm-up) onto 7.5Ib
5. Bicep Curl: 3 sets x 15 reps starting at 10Ibs (warm-up each hand) onto 15Ibs
6. Chest press fly into Shoulder Press (free-weights): 3 sets x 24 reps starting at 5Ibs (warm-up each hand) ending at 10Ibs. 12 reps fly into 12 reps press
7. Lower Back: 3 sets x 24 reps 12 x overhand grip into 12 x underhand grip. Using 35Ib/40lb curl bar overhand works lower back, forearms and triceps, underhand grip works lower back and biceps
8. Core: 5-8min constant Abductor exercises
Note: You may notice I am not doing any leg weights. With a dodgy knee this is something I am very cautious about and also high resistance riding on the bike is helping to build the legs equally well.
This training plan is something I have devised for my personal use and my thoughts are merely a reflection of a subject I feel strongly about and are blogged purely for you to maybe think about it. Don’t comment me back telling me you have thrown your back out! If you haven’t weight trained before – GET ADVICE FIRST!

For more information check out this link, primarily aimed at beginners it makes very insightful reading with tips for everyone in every area of the sport with a great detailed section on weight training for triathlon.


小夜@saya said...

thanx, emma 4dis nice article =)
+1 to weight training =D

Mich said...

100 % agreed. I started to realize without weight training my swim is just stagnant there and it's hard for me to improve as my upper body strength is weak. Got to start it soon.

Keat Seong said...

good one emma... this not only apply to the gals, but guys as well...

Jennifer said...

great info...thanks emma

Denis Oakley said...

Really good. Thanks Emma.I've always hated gyms and never done any weight training but I've found Tri-Power to be really good as it periodises the training into base, build and peak periods and then tells you exactly what exercises you should do each day. Pictures are included.

Emma said...

Hey thanks for your positive feedback guys. I know I can/am long-winded but if my waffle helps just one person then my job is done :)