DOES IT MATTER WHERE YOU STRENGTH TRAIN?
We all have our preferences when it comes to our training; indoors vs. outdoors, treadmill vs. trails, group session’s vs. going solo. The same goes for strength training in that we are all motivated in different ways. Yes, sometimes you need to do the sessions that you don’t enjoy so much, but generally speaking for training to be effective, enjoyment is key for motivation.
The majority of us are ‘time poor’, and we need make sure training fits in with everyday life and family, rather than ruling it. What we must remember is that when choosing a strength training approach, however different the environment or method, we should all be aiming for a similar goal – to develop stronger and healthier bodies for everyday life, as well as performance.
Believe it or not strength training (especially for endurance athletes) doesn't have to be in a gym. We've outlined a few of the places that you may chose to work on your weaknesses. But it's down to your personal preference which one will be most effective for you....
HEAD TO THE GYM
Do you need to be training in a gym to adhere to a strength program? This question is similar to asking whether having an office is the most productive work space. For some we simply need to separate work and home life in order to get the job done. The benefit of training in a purpose built facility is that of structure and purpose, as well as having a wide variety of equipment available. The range of equipment and weight allows us to add intensity and can save you from having to invest in your own equipment however the money that is saved there is spent on annual gym fees.
What's more, for gym training to be effective you need to stay on track. The gym can provide a great social environment and the opportunity to train with others but focus is essential if you want to gain anything from the workouts. Intensity, rest intervals, technique and structure need to be prioritised over sending Snapchats or checking Facebook. Ideally when you head to the gym, you need to walk in, get the work done and get out so you can recover properly through rest and nutrition.
STAY AT HOME
The motivation to train at home can often risk being pushed aside for other more pressing matters like housework, catching up on emails or watching TV! But for those with enough self-discipline training at home can be the best way to implement strength work into an already hectic lifestyle.
For athletes who are short of time, work long hours and have little mouths to feed, the “home gym” has become a realistic and convenient option, and we've made it even easier with our all in one StrengthForEnduranceKIT. The work can be done effectively and efficiently with a surprisingly small amount of equipment, as experienced Physiotherapist and Triathlon Coach Alex Price explains: “Setting up something at home is great because strength work needs to be done regularly and consistently, and for most the travel to and from a gym just isn’t possible. So the ability to do it at home, after dinner, half an hour here or there without having to travel away from their family is ideal.” “When a ‘time poor’ triathlete normally wouldn’t be able to fit it in, from a consistency standpoint it can be of real benefit. For some having it at home doesn’t always work as they like to have training separate but that’s just the mental side of things. From a practical perspective, in my opinion you really don’t need many fancy tools to get an S & C workout done. This way is affordable. Even if it’s not the best equipment money can buy, doing something is better than nothing.”
Training outdoors provides an opportunity to be physically active in a constantly changing environment. The more challenging the environment, the harder the body is going to have to work to sustain an efficient work rate. If you live in a country that is blessed with good weather for the majority of the year, who doesn’t want to be outside making the most of it! Changing temperatures, altering surfaces and surrounding stimuli can place both physical and mental demands on the athlete, which can help them enormously come race day. Getting out in the fresh air eliminates the common restrictions indoor training can have i.e. space, other gym users and a costly monthly membership.
Strength Coach Jarryd Bates of Pro Movement is a strong advocate of training outdoors. “I believe you should train in the same environment you race in, to be accustomed to it.” “I think you gain more from being outside, there’s no limitations at all, all exercises and areas of the body can be worked, if you know how to use your body. Training outside helps as you are going to be competing outside - so it gives you the opportunity to get your nutrition on point and to hydrate. Athletes who train inside and then compete outside (especially in this country) get a shock when they get out in the heat.” But Bates who is accustomed to working with the likes of Jan Frodeno, agrees that extreme conditions need to be considered with the individual in mind, “Depending on whether you are doing the sport for health and fitness or for your next contract will determine how far you push your body, it needs to be done in a safe way. It’s so competitive out there, if you are willing to spend as much money as people do on new wheels for their bike, why wouldn’t you try to push yourself in your training environment.”
Whether your strength work finds you in the gym, at home or outdoors, all have their benefits. This is a choice that you need to make so discuss it with your coach and decide which option fits in with your lifestyle and individual needs as an athlete. Money, equipment and time should not be an excuse for poor health, there are a variety of ways you can strength train to enhance movement, make you more resilient and prevent injury, so act now before it’s too late.
* The article was shortened from our original submission for Australian Triathlete Magazine.