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The Blind Spot

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TOO OFTEN IN MY PRACTICE I SEE FILIPINO ENDURANCE ENTHUSIASTS, SPECIFICALLY TRIATHLETES OF BEGINNER AND INTERMEDIATE LEVELS, EITHER NURSING AN INJURY AND/ OR UNHAPPY WITH THEIR PERFORMANCE. I catch them during the middle of their pre-season training or at their off season. I discover, after asking them to describe their training program,  that they utilize pre-set, progressive, volume based training protocols for cycling, swimming, and running from a large group-based class they enrolled at, or from the Internet. Triathletes who hire coaches would do so only for skills acquisition and technique improvement in order to increase their performance.

As a physical therapist and strength and conditioning coach, I find this discovery quite alarming for my Filipino patients and clients because they are missing out on so much performance enhancement and injury prevention. I believe there is so much potential that can be exploited if they knew what intelligent triathletes are doing. This “blind spot”, when filled in, will result in breaking personal records and the feeling of being able to tackle the day
right after crossing the finish line.

The blind spot I see is Str ength Training. As stated in Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning (fourth edition), it is included in the list of special issues incorporated with aerobic endurance training. Although there is limited data to support effects of strength training or resistance training in aerobic endurance athletes, some studies say that doing strength training together with endurance training can also be beneficial in terms of handling injuries. Strength training also improves sodium-potassium pump (mechanism that aids muscle soreness), and endurance recovery (T. Ferriss, 2010).

Let me share another concept – moving the aerobic line. This is a strength training method focusing on increasing a person’s speed (as in running) without decreasing oxygen supply in the body. Endurance sports utilize aerobic energy system where more adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is produced. ATP is like a power house which supplies energy to the body. When one’s running, cycling, or biking becomes anaerobic or oxygen restricted, a person
gets energy supply from stored calories in the body. But usually, anaerobic processes cannot support high intensity trainings such as in triathlons because anaerobic energy system is less efficient in producing body fuel or ATP. Therefore, it is important to utilize aerobic system (or to “move aerobic line”) to remain aerobic at a higher speed and longer distance which can be supplemented by strength training.

To support this, here is an excerpt from Mark Allen’s “12 Best Strength Exercises” written by Mark Allen himself in a fitness and lifestyle website: “I was introduced to a top strength coach, a woman named Diane Buchta. She led me through an entire season of weights, focusing on building overall body strength and, eventually, muscular speed. The results were dramatic. In the first full season, I used the program described below, I won the Triple Crown of Triathlon: the Nice International Triathlon, the Zofingen duathlon and the Hawaii Ironman.”

In conclusion, strength training is vital for all level triathletes. Seek a competent and caring strength and conditioning coach to help you reach your optimum potential, prevent injuries, and enjoy your sports for the long term.

-By: Armando Bajacan Jr. PTRP, PT, CSCS

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