I want to write this up front.. that the first part of the title of this post is utter and affectionate sarcasm (but I thought it might catch a few readers attention)… Triathletes do not have it easy. Training for a triathalon is an intense challenge of time management, serious effort, nutrition management and rest/recovery and training cycling. It has been said (and is true) that training for a Triathalon (especially the Half Ironman and Ironman, but really any distance Triathlon) is a part time job because to train successfully most are on the road (running or cycling) or in the pool/lake for 15 – 25 hours a week! It is such a commitment that many other things (besides work and the bare necessities) have to be foregone. Relationships have been seriously compromised or lost for some… it is simply an undertaking that cannot be taken lightly and has to be forged with an intense desire. Of course with such a commitment usually comes a just as intense feeling of accomplishment when one achieves such a serious feat at race time! Most of the time a triathlete has to learn one of the sports when training for their first one and this in and of itself presents a unique (and sometimes frustrating) challenge.
But this post isn’t about training for a triathlon (I am not doing that this year and am not sure when I might.. but am following some that are and it is an awesome sport)… it is about the unique challenge of trying to do what I am in my training and how tough it can be to make it work 100%.
To be honest, attempting to train to do my best at an endurance sport (running in my case) while working to get stronger and more muscular in the gym while also training for tower running while also hoping to start training again for grip and steel bending strength.. and how to put that all together in a way that can work and doesn’t drive me batty is one of the main reasons that I started this blog… because while I feel like I do know a reasonable amount about training from my varied and somewhat unique experiences (and like to try and share and discuss what I know while learning from you my readers).. I really haven’t found the perfect answer as to how to put together these somewhat disparate sports into a training week that works for me (physically and mentally). I really don’t know exactly how to do this so as to be as effective as possible in all areas (I am learning and feel like I have a decent overall approach) but maybe together over the long term we can figure this out. It is an interesting and unique challenge because most athletes have one sport that they truly focus on and all other ancilliary work (like core work or stretching etc.) is to benefit that sport, but there are some of us that try to get better at sports that in some ways offer no direct benefit to each other and in a few ways make it more challenging to get better at each individual sport. The nutritional needs are somewhat different too. This also presents a challenge. These needs aren’t as different as some may think (actually more similar than different) but this is the subject of a future post.
So what does the second part of this post’s title mean? It simply means that not only is it challenging to try and train in the manner that I do but it also can be challenging to know what to blog about next. Since this blog isn’t strictly a running or weightlifting or nutrition blog, there are a lot of different areas in different sports to cover and sometimes it is difficult to know what to put out next. Not that I am at all complaining about this (after all I did decide what the content of my blog was going to be :), because it also allows for a lot of variety in my writing and will make it harder to get to the point where I am out of things to write about!
Would I be a better runner if I didn’t hammer away at the gym for 1.5 to 2.5 hours 3 times a week? Possibly… perhaps probably… but I don’t want to give up the gym. It is as much a part of my soul (if not more since I have been a part of the scene for over 2 decades) than running and I just want to look different and feel stronger than I would if I only ran.
Would I get stronger and bigger more quickly and easily if I wasn’t on the road, track or trail 3 – 4 times a week? Yes probably.. but I also feel like the endurance, anaerobic power and fat burning that I am getting running helps my gym workouts and results by allowing me to train longer and stay leaner easier. But to be honest.. I simply love running (most of the time.. there are days I don’t love it like any runner can understand) and the social aspect of it is a very strong attraction because gym work is generally either on your own or possibly with a training partner but running can be a very social sport and great way to be with people. You can talk about a lot of things on a 2 hour run, but you generally aren’t talking about life much in between sets of behind the neck presses 🙂 My recent foray (which I am continuing and look forward to reaping its benefits) into stair climbing training adds another two days (well generally nights after work actually) of training and I am usually doing something else in the morning. I am convinced of the benefits of this training both muscularly and anaerobically (and have detailed that in a previous post) and am excited about adding it into my training. It also is a way to meet new people at work (I sent out invites to the training sessions to my company’s Running Club) and I like that social aspect of it. Finally it has been over a year since I have done serious grip and bending work, but I really want to get back into it. It is something that I am genetically strong in and really enjoy. In the past I have only done this once a week, but twice would be better.. but I really don’t know how I could get two sessions in. And the thing is.. the way I train grip (and with the amount of grip and bending tools that I have.. which I will detail in a future video post) these sessions can take 1.5 hours as well. Geez… as I write this I see why most of the TV shows that I follow are only on Sunday nights 🙂
So here is what my typical week will look like although the running days and gym days sometimes are swapped for different reasons. Sometimes I am better off going to the gym in the morning with the stair climbing at night etc. And this also includes when I incorporate the grip training in:
Monday: AM –> Running PM –> Stair Climbing
Tuesday: AM –> Weight Training
Wednesday: AM –> Running PM –> Stair Climbing
Thursday: AM –> Weight Training
Friday: AM –> Grip Work
Saturday: AM –> Hard and/or Long Running
Sunday: AM –> Longer Gym Work
Looking at it now.. it works out to on average: 4 – 6 hours of running, 5 – 7 hours of gym work, 1 to 1.5 hours of stair climbing and 1 to 1.5 hours of grip work. So 11 – 15 hours of training. An athlete training for an Ironman would generally get in more hours, but still a decent amount and I only get in about 6 hours of sleep a night during the week (a bit more on the weekend).. I mean I have to get other things done right! I actually really do like doing other things besides work, training and sleeping. In fact there I times when I am training when I dream about those other things.. Ha!
I sometimes fit another running session in (and usually do as I get closer to a major race) but getting 4 runs in an 8 day period generally works well for me. The extra leg and anaerobic work of the stair climbing significantly helps me get in better running shape without running more.
So what are the problems that I face with such a schedule (besides the obvious time management issues) and what are the benefits?
One of the main problems I face (especially as my volume gets heavier in either my running or the gym) is glycogen management. It can simply be quite tough to feed my muscles enough with all of this work. I usually feel it the most in my gym sessions the day after an extra hard and/or long run. I just feel weak and exhausted sometimes in the gym and it is because of the amount that I took from myself on the road the day before. I don’t notice much of an issue from a weekday run (until they get up to 9 – 14 miles I guess) but I definitely notice it from the long or fast runs. I notice that I get hit even harder if it is warm outside when I run. It is just so draining that many times my gym work the next day suffers… but at least I am in there giving it my best shot. If I was a twice a weekend runner, the second run would normally be an easy run so I wouldn’t feel the impact of the hard run as much as I do at the gym because I don’t want my gym work to be “easy”. Part of my gym work is doing drills for my legs and Bosu ball balancing (for ankle strengthening and stability) and if I had an especially hard run the day before I sometimes don’t even do them. It is just too hard. There is also the seemingly obvious fact that I would weigh less if I didn’t hit the gym so hard (although its also true that I would weigh more if I didn’t run.. which sometimes I think would be nice) and I do basically buy into that if I didn’t have the upper body size that I have that I might run faster. Yeah I basically believe that… but for different runners there is a perfect weight and for me it would never be really light because I am just naturally mesomorphic and if I got too light I would get weak and would be slower. The shorter the distance the less impact the extra weight has and I believe that for the track races that the extra size and strength probably helps. Since I don’t train legs in the gym (although I would like to do a few exercises for them and that is also the subject of a future post) I don’t have that issue. I don’t think that grip work and bending really has much of a negative impact on any of the other three sports.. so that is good. Since I don’t use my hands or forearms in running or stair climbing (a bit in stair climbing on the rails but it doesn’t take much strength although having a strong grip could help I guess) it doesn’t negatively impact the training for those and I don’t think it also digs much into my overall recovery. What is nice about stair climbing is that it has benefits for running but I seem to be able to run and stair climb and not overtrain even though they use the same basic muscles, it is different enough of a motion that it may actually help recovery by getting more blood to the muscles while not working them in the exact same way so as to over train them.
I won’t go into the nutritional issues that training in dissimilar sports creates, because I will write about that in a future post.
So what are the benefits of adding the gym work, stair climbing and grip work to my running? The most obvious to me is the core strength that I have developed in the gym. There is literally no question in my mind that it has helped me be a better stable and less injured runner. The stability work that I do on the Bosu has improved my ankle strength and overall stability from my hips down and this has improved my stride and helped strengthen my push off. The drills that I do at the gym have also increased my stability and leg power. I have talked about the benefits that I see for my running from stair climbing in a previous post. I didn’t write this then, but I also think that the stair climbing helps my gym work because it is increasing my overall anaerobic power which I can use when hitting the weights. There aren’t many ways that grip training helps my running or stair climbing (I will talk about how it definitely helps my gym work in a future post) but there have been a few times when I can say that having strong tendons in my wrist (which you get from steel bending) has saved me from a possibly sprained or broken wrist during a run. I remember a specific trail run with my friend “The Runivore” where it was really muddy and I slipped coming around a turn and stupidly tried to break my fall by putting my one arm straight
out and caught myself directly on my one hand. It kind of hurt but I truly believe that I might have gotten seriously hurt had it not have been for having pretty strong hands and wrists.
So that is about it for now I guess.. like I said I don’t have an answer as to how to make this all work so that all of my sports get stronger at an ideal pace and maybe I never will but I like doing all of them, feel like there is some benefits from each to the other and need to continue to think about and hopefully learn from your experiences about how to do this better and easier. I have a feeling I will be writing more posts on this subject in the future and look forward to hearing from you on your experiences!
What challenges do you face in structuring your training week and incorporating multiple sports?
Best of luck in your training!
Cross training is essential for my running. I can’t run everyday (knee problems flare up), so I fill in the gaps with cycling, swimming, walking/hiking, and stairs. I structure my running so I never miss a workout, since that’s the most important thing to me. With the others I usually just do whatever I feel like on a given day. It’s kind of fun that way, not having to go by a schedule.
I also think that cross training is essential. I do not believe that the best way to become your best as a runner is to only run. I intentionally don’t run everyday because I believe those muscles need more recovery time. I actually think there aren’t that many that can run 6 – 7 days a week and stay injury free… plus doing other activities makes it more interesting for me.
Walking (especially on a hilly route) is an underrated activity. It uses your leg muscles in a different way than running and being a strong walker can really help out in an ultra.