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Do These 2 Things to Improve Durability for Endurance Athletes

If you want to improve as a cyclist, ride your bike

If you want to improve as a runner, go for a run. 

But strength training and yoga will make you a more durable endurance athlete over the long run.

Do These 2 Things to Become a More Durable Endurance Athlete

Build the foundation for durability as an endurance athlete

To use an overused metaphor, strength training and yoga are the foundation of your training house as a durable endurance athlete. You need strength and mobility to keep yourself healthy and prevent injury.

As cyclists and runners, we move, primarily, in one direction and use the same muscles over and over.

This makes us very one-dimensional and more prone to injury.

But if you build a general foundation of muscular strength and joint mobility, you’ll not only be able to stay an athlete longer, but you’ll improve your overall performance.

Improving durability helps cyclists and runners increase performance

Some research suggests strength training has a moderate effect on cycling or running performance. 

There’s some evidence that strength work can increase the size and number of muscle fibers in key muscles like the quadriceps. 

But strength training does not directly improve cycling or running performance because it doesn’t seem to increase VO2, although it might help time to exhaustion. 

And, anecdotally, doing a ton of kettlebell swings seems to improve my capacity to ride hills. 

However, there is more evidence that strength training gets you stronger in general which can prevent bad things from happening to you with injuries and overuse stress.

Full-body strength training program to improve durability

A full-body strength routine that includes hinges, push and pull exercises, core work, and lateral movement will provide the foundation of your training as a durable athlete.

For example, I rarely have cyclists or runners do squats, which primarily work the quadriceps. For the most part, cyclists and runners already have strong quads! 

Instead, we do hinges to strengthen the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back to become a more durable endurance athlete.

Likewise, I encourage cyclists and runners to do lateral movements like curtsy lunges or lateral lunges to build the glute medias and minimus muscles. These support our forward motion. 

Yoga for cyclists and runners helps durability

The other key piece in building a foundation of fitness and good movement is yoga

There are obviously other ways to build good movement patterns, but in some sense, why reinvent the wheel? 

I use and teach yoga, essentially, for three purposes: to recover from hard work, to build isometric strength, and increase joint mobility and movement. I usually work the strength and movement in one class. 

For example, I often use a Warrior 1 pose in my classes because it offers so much for both strength and mobility in building a more durable endurance athlete.

When your front leg is bent at the knee, your quads, hamstrings, and glutes are getting stressed with isometric work. And the back leg is getting mobility work because your hip has to open. 

That’s why I incorporate specific breath work into the yoga practice: We inhale and open our hips to relax, then slowly exhale and rotate our hips and shoulders forward. 

Research suggests that holding a static stretch (pose) is not as effective in creating joint mobility as more active stretching. That’s why we do the progressive (contract-relax) movement, exhaling deeper into the pose each time.

Keep strength and yoga sessions short

You don’t need to worry about spending a ton of time in the gym or on the yoga mat. 

You can do a solid strength training session in less than 30 minutes. The same goes for yoga sessions. 

You can even do most of your strength training in yoga classes. The only strength exercise that is good to get in a gym is deadlifts so you can lift heavy weights. 

The specific sport strength comes from riding or running, not usually from the gym. So most of your time is still spent doing what you love!

Strength and yoga all year

So strength training and yoga form the foundation of your training house to become a durable endurance athlete.

This strength and yoga work happens all year long. You change the amount and timing of the sessions based on your events. 

For example, use the pre-racing part of the year to build up a lot of strength in the gym, and use the racing season to do more yoga and movement practice.

The idea is to build durability and resiliency: You want to have the overall strength and mobility to train hard running or cycling. 

You take thousands of steps on the road or trail, and take millions of pedal strokes during a ride. Having a solid durable foundation means that repetition will take less of a toll on your body.

Strength and yoga critical for cyclists and runners over 50

While this kind of work is important for everyone, it is critical for older athletes to become more durable endurance athletes.

We lose muscle mass and strength due to aging, and there’s more loss the older we get. 

However, we can continue to add muscle and strength, regardless of our age. 

And there are always improvements in both cycling and running with strength work.

Three things to consider to improve durability

  1. Strength training is critical to maintaining and building muscle mass.
  2. Yoga keeps our joints mobile and helps you focus on breathing.
  3. The stronger and more mobile you are, the more training stress you can handle!

Want to know more about what you can achieve?

If you liked this article, please share it with others.

I support a limited number of cyclists and runners achieve their goals with more strength, endurance, and mobility. 

Contact me or sign up for Virtual Coffee so we can discuss your goals, ask questions, and talk about making your endurance training more effective, fun, and Simple.

You can also opt-in to receive my weekly blog posts about what works in endurance sports. 

Paul Warloski is a: 

  • USA Cycling Level 3 Coach
  • RRCA Running Coach
  • Training Peaks Level 2 Coach
  • RYT-200 Yoga Instructor
  • Certified Personal Trainer
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