Monday, February 1, 2016

Steel Challenge Follow Up

by Justin Daerr

A few days ago Endurance Corner wrapped up the Big Steel Challenge. For one month each winter, we encourage athletes to strength train more than most likely would and log each pound they push, pull, squat, lift, etc. Last year around this time I really felt that strength training was coming to the forefront (more than usual, at least) as a topic in endurance-themed articles. I think that trend is still hanging around particularly when I see sites like T-Nation putting out articles on strength training for long course triathletes and more importantly, Rob Lowe suddenly has a meathead alter ego.

Lifting a specific numbers of pounds is not the end-all-be-all of quantifying effective strength training, but it is fun to create some level of healthy competition because of it. We saw the greatest absolute number of pounds (by an individual) lifted this year by one of EC’s coaches, Jeff Fejfar, who posted 538,817 pounds for the month of December; averaging just under 45,000 lbs/session in the gym with a max session of 100,000 lbs. Might not be scaring Meathead Rob Lowe, but definitely some respectable numbers.

The athletes that posted the greatest numbers had a few things in common:

  1. They had already been strength training in their own training; they just increased their output for the month.

  2. They logged the most time in the gym. Absolute strength was important, but frequency and total time led to the greatest workload.

  3. They backed off their swim, bike, run load in order to allow for the strength load increase. This is a conscious acknowledgement that you cannot do it all (well) at once.

Following the Steel Challenge, it can be tempting to keep it rolling because the strength sessions have likely been the highlight of the training program and it’s hard to walk away from major progress. This leads to the next question of how much more strength training makes sense as the race season progresses. This really is case by case issue and every athlete is going to be different. Last season, I felt I tried to maintain too much strength work and it was ultimately tiring me out, forcing me to cut back significantly. Once I did, I saw better improvement as a triathlete. For other athletes, they have proven themselves to be handle more strength loads all year and might even attribute it directly to their racing success. Additionally, some semblance of strength training might be important to an athlete’s overall health and can be less crucial to their triathlon performance.

If you did partake in the challenge, I recommend following up in three to four weeks time and ask yourself if you feel as though the strength block made any noticeable changes. I typically post this topic to our athlete forum near the end of January and it’s always interesting to hear everyone’s observations. I think it’s also good to assess what your training is actually doing for you.

Here’s to a strong 2015.

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Justin Daerr is a professional triathlete and co-owner of Endurance Corner. You can follow him on Twitter @justindaerr.
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