One Massive Mistake Endurance Athletes Make

Your body is always paying attention to any stimulus you give it, and responding with effects aligned with those stimuli. As you increase your cardiovascular endurance training workouts in preparation for your Ironman triathlon, your body responds by increasing lung capacity, increasing stroke volume of the heart, and along with many other adaptations, it even hardens the skin in the areas where your skin is making the most contact with things like shoes and shirts.

If you get injured, and cannot train for a period of weeks, the body responds to your lack of cardiovascular endurance stimuli by reducing your no-longer needed higher lung capacity, your callused skin softens, and amongst other things, your blood volume changes back to pre-training.

Specific stimulus = specific adaptation
Elimination of specific stimulus = elimination of specific adaptation

The must here is stimulus. It must be there or else there is no reason for the body to adapt in that way.

This is as true for muscular strength as it is for cardiovascular performance, or any other physical stimulus you give your body.

If you strength train, your body responds to that stimulus in a variety of ways.

Your body improves its neural connection from brain to muscle.
It strengthens your connective tissue.
It stimulates bone growth, leading to bone density increases.
It increases the amount of energy factories you have within your muscle.
It even makes more pliable the fascia, which lays on top of the muscle and houses 10x as many nerve receptors as the muscles themselves.

Oh, and also, your body adapts by increasing its work capacity and total work output potential, ie, it gets stronger.

Remove the stimulus of ‘resistance against your body’, and the adaptation disappears as well.

Just 2 weeks away from strength stimulus is enough to see a drop off in overall strength, power, and mobility gains that had come from the previous strength program. According to the American College of Sports Medicine’s publication “Primary Care Sports Medicine,” a “swift and significant” detraining effect occurs for athletes after only two weeks of exercise cessation, with a measurably “significant reduction in work capacity.”

For most athletic pursuits, the most important race, event, game, shows up sometime near the end of a season that is months long. The goal is to ‘peak’ for the big event.

‘Peaking’ is different for every sport, but take any sport and ask yourself this, “Would I rather be stronger or less strong at the most important event of the year?”

The biggest mistake I see endurance athletes make is stopping their strength work as their season gets into full swing.

They spent the off-season doing strength work that builds more energy factories in their muscles. They increased the strength & use-ability of their fast-twitch muscle fibers that will assist them when it comes time to power through a hill or chase down a competitor that is 7” ahead of you with .5 miles to go. They built stronger connective tissue that will help them fend off the typical -itis issues that crop off with such a large volume of cardiovascular training. They built a body that lets them to do more work with less effort.

And then they stop sending that stimulus telling their body to hold on to & further improve those adaptations. And the adaptations start fading away. ?Palm, meet face. chart

Endurance athletes need to provide stimulus to their body to cause cardiovascular fitness adaptations. But an equally important stimulus to the endurance athlete’s body is the one that says “get strong” “have power” “be durable” “have mobility around these joints” “have stability around these other joints”. You don’t get those things if you don’t do strength work on a consistent basis.

Stimulus/adaptation. What signals are you sending to your body?

In your race season & concerned about hanging on to your strength all the way through the end? I'm doing something new this month - normally you have to be an in-person or an online client to be in my schedule - but I've been getting a large increase in  folks asking me to look over their program and help them see how and where strength & mobility work can fit in without disrupting key endurance workouts (a valid concern for any endurance athlete). So, I'm opening up some time in my schedule to do 15min phone or skype consults with any endurance athlete who wants it. I'll have approx 30 consult slots available and have reduced my normal consult rate to $15 for 15mins. If you want one of the spots, fill out the form HERE and note on it that you want the 15min consult. Don't leave any stone unturned. Let's make sure your strength & performance output is strong all the way to your "A" race.







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