Triathlon Champ Teaches Me Important Stuff About Marathon Strength Training


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Andrew Kalley, Triathlon Coach for Full Throttle Endurance team

Miles, miles, miles. I have been a borderline psycho neurotic about logging my miles. This past week I even forced myself out of the house at 8:45 p.m. Monday night in the rain to hit the gym treadmill. And I hate treadmills, so it was no small feat. Sometimes scheduling conflicts force me to sacrifice training days and those have been, nearly without fail, my cross-training days. Note to everyone employing a similar strategy: It's not so good. In fact, according to triathlon champ and Chelsea Piers trainer Andrew Kalley, "It's one of the biggest mistakes you can make." I met Kalley at a marathon how-to panel this week, and he enlightened me on the importance of strength-training for endurance athletes, and why my lack of it could be the culprit causing my left side ankle/ leg pain. "On your long runs, your muscles are breaking down and your joints start to pay the toll. Aerobically you're a champion, but [without strength training] muscularly you're getting weaker." It's not that I didn't know I needed to strength train - the shocking thing was that this little bit I did (gym body sculpting classes) turns out to be the least effective. Says Kalley, "Building strength depends on weight bearing. The goal is to build strength with heavier weights and fewer repetitions. So that weights class at the gym is probably not the best use of your time. For that long with lighter weights and a lot of reps, it's still an endurance exercise." Oops. There go my pats on the back for making it to the "Buff Beach Body" class all summer.

Kalley's recommendations:

1. Focus on a full-body workout, don't split and do an abs/butt or arms/shoulder day - do it all at once

2. For building full body strength, you have to go old school with weight-bearing exercises like squats, lunges, dead lifts, plank holds and medicine ball rotation exercises for your abdominals, lat pulls, chest press, plus free weight exercises for arms, shoulders and back

3. Best case, you'll do 45 min to 1 hour 2-3 times per week with 10-12 exercises per workout and 3-4 sets of each exercise, but even 1 session per week will be beneficial

Kalley also busted the bulking myth, i.e., "If I lift, I'll get bigger and gain weight." "It's almost impossible to gain weight while marathon training," he says. Whew! So I don't have to worry about that half a large pizza (literally four slices of pizza) I ate when I got home from his lecture! Find out more about Kalley here, or go meet him at Chelsea Piers.