Swim: 0 m/90,745 m
Bike: 7.8/735.9 miles
Run: 6/228 miles
My six-week weight regimen ended last week, and I wanted to take a few moments to wrap up the experience. The twice-a-week sessions were intended to build leg and core strength, meaning my goal was to leave the gym with a wobble (but not a limp). I was following the program laid out in the “Triathlete’s Training Bible,” using heavy weight that was difficult to lift for more than about six reps. As I grew stronger, I increased the weights when I could perform eight or more reps.
What happened: I steadily increased the amount of weight I was lifting/holding/pulling as the program progressed, and I could tell a big difference during later workouts. In the one exercise that might be the biggest determinant of leg strength – the squat – I increased my weight from 195 at the outset to 245 in my last session, reaching close to the upper limit prescribed in the book for a person of my size. I also ended the program being able to perform 90 incline situps while holding a 20 lb. weight on my chest. In some cases I felt like I could have gone just a little heavier, but I was also focused on maintaining good form and, of course, avoiding injury.
What didn’t happen: I didn’t gain a lot of leg-muscle mass, and I didn’t hop on the bike one day and suddenly start riding 5 mph faster than before. Part of the reason is that my legs have been in a constant state of breakdown during the entire six weeks. Not only have I been regularly working the weights, but I have raced twice – a 5k trail race and a triathlon – and have been keeping up with my regular swim/bike/run workouts along the way.
What’s changed: While I don’t necessarily feel bigger or substantially stronger, I do feel better. It’s hard to put a finger on it, but the core work, lunges, etc. seem to have had an additional effect on non-major muscles in my legs and midsection. Those smaller connectors that hold things together just seem tighter (in a good way), and my joints – particularly my hips – feel more secure and solid. I feel like, if nothing else, the weight work has helped strengthen areas that might be prone to injury as I start to ramp up my running mileage in the second half of the year. I’ve also had some pretty fast runs recently, and while that could be a result of any number of factors, I wonder if the weights have played a role.
What’s next: The main goal of the weight work was to increase strength on the bike to make me faster. While I didn’t expect it to have an earth-shifting effect on my speed, every little bit helps. Now that the heavy weight work is done, I’ll be shifting to more intense bike sessions, including speed intervals and other drills. I’ll also try to maintain at least one gym session a week with the goal of maintaining my progress there. The book recommends shifting to slightly lighter weights with more reps during the “strength maintenance” phase, which should continue through the race season. Perhaps after my races this fall I’ll consider switching back to the strength building phase over the winter to prepare myself for next season. For now, it’s time to refocus on the Big Three – swimming, biking and running.