Thursday, January 21, 2010


Not sure if you guys have picked up on this, but I'm kind of a stubborn, hard-headed person. I like to go my own way. I like to figure things out for myself. So when every endurance sports magazine and most of the blogs tell me about the importance of strength training for endurance athletes, do you think I listen? I do not!

Truth is, I used to love lifting weights. It was all I did, athletically speaking, in high school and most of college. I hated running. Knew zilch about cycling. And could barely swim. Also, I had almost no coordination and sucked at being a team player. Weight training was sort of right up my alley.

Even two seasons ago, I spent the bulk of my early-season training time doing hang cleans, squats, straight-leg deadlifts, and lat pull-downs with heavy, heavy weights. I made big gains in strength (and bulk). I could feel the power in my legs with every step.

Somewhere along the way, I got to really hate weight lifting. Might have to do with the fact that I work in a gym and frequently spend 10-12 hours a day around free weights, Cybex, Nautilus, Free Motion, and the like. Add to that my general unwillingness to listen to what everyone else says, and you have my current situation: I will do anything to avoid strength training.

However, about a month ago, I started noticing something on my long runs and bike workouts: my legs were getting tired. The quads and hamstrings and glutes would be crapping out, and my heart rate would barely be in the 140s. I was having trouble getting into the appropriate training zone because my legs weren't strong enough to get my heart working.

Now that's probably not all that abnormal; probably most athletes find that their hearts and lungs are stronger than their arms and legs (or vice versa) in the early part of the season, if not for most of the year. But it was a kick in the pants for me. Because I knew that I wasn't putting in enough time in the weight room, at least in terms of the results I want to see this year. So I sat down and (grudgingly) wrote out a weight training plan for myself.

I'm not going to try to convince you that you should lift weights (at least not in this post). If you want to lift weights, you already do, and if you don't want to lift weights, I'm not going to convince you that you should by anything I write (just like I wasn't convinced by anything I read). I will tell you (from experience) that Yoga--even a high-intensity kind like Bikram or Ashtanga--is not going to be enough strength training if you really want to train for your top performance. Anyway, the point is not to convince you of how great strength training is; the point is to give you the workout I do--which is as short and as concise as I could make it--so you can use it, if you want to. If you've never lifted before, find a personal trainer (or a knowledgeable friend) to show you how to do these things properly. Don't go in there without knowing what you're doing; you're too likely to hurt yourself, and then you'll really regret the strength training.

Jamie's IDon'tWannaBeHere Strength Plan

- Hold cables or dumbbells in hands. Don't use a barbell over the back of the neck; loading the spine like that is not (in my opinion) worth the strength gains. Besides, using cables/dumbbells is more work because it's an open kinetic chain exercise (can't lift as much raw weight, though).
- 1 set of 12 at 12 repetition maximum (as much weight as you can lift 12 times)
- 3 x 6-8 at repetition maximum

Straight-leg deadlifts
- These are fine to do with a dumbbell.
- Engage your pelvic floor and inner thighs to help stabilize the sacrum (if you have SI joint problems or piriformis syndrome, this may aggravate it).
- 1 x 12 @ rep. max.
- 3 x 6-8 @ rep. max.

Single-leg squats
- Focus on keeping the knee tracking over the ankle
- Stand on a BOSU trainer or Dyna Disc for more stabilization work
- 2 x 15, each leg

Single-leg straight-leg deadlifts
- Try to keep the hips square to the floor (reaching forward with the opposite hand helps with this)
- Try to keep the hips neutrally rotated
- 2 x 15, each leg

Side-lying leg raises
- Keep your body perpendicular to the floor
- Keep your hip neutrally rotated
- Don't let your leg come forward at all; this lets you cheat by using your hip flexors (particularly the tensor fascia lata) instead of your gluteus medius/minimus
- 2 x 15, each side

Yoga Ass
- Um, this one is sort of hard to describe. Start from your hands and knees. Stick your right leg straight out behind you without letting your back drop. Dorsiflex your foot. Externally rotate your leg at the hip (so it's like you're stacking your hips on top of each other). Then pull your foot forward. Your goal is to get your foot even with your right hip. Keep your arms straight.
- 2 x 30 sec. on each side

Push ups
- Keep the elbows tucked in close to the sides so you nail your triceps, too.
- 3 x 10
(No pic, because I didn't feel like hopping on the assisted pull up machine that day)
Pull ups
- I do these on an assisted pull up machine, but if you're cooler than me and can do non-cheater pull ups I commend you.
- Use an underhand grip to get into your biceps a little more.
- Focus on sliding your shoulder blades down your back, so that you really get the lats.
- 3 x 8

Hand stand
- Use the wall if you need to
- 3 x 4 breaths


  1. Jamie's I Don't Want to be Here Workout...classic.

    Have you ever read Core Performance by Mark Vergstegen? Great book that obviously focuses on core strength, but incorporates weights into the workout. I think it may be right up your alley.

  2. Niiiiice. I never thought about incorporating hand stands in the mix. :) Love the yoga ass, too!!

  3. Does the handstand actually do something or is that for fun? It's impressive, but I'm wondering if you can stay up long enough for it to actually be a strength move. Is that a dumb question? lol...

  4. @Mike I get lots and lots of core work in Yoga (my Yoga teacher is also a Pilates instructor, and she's hardcore about a hard core).

    @Iron The handstands are fun. Yoga Ass, not so much. But it's good for ya.

    @Jasmine Try it! Do 3 handstands, and then pay attention to how your shoulders feel the next day. Mine are always sore after working some inversions. As far as staying up long enough, if I'm against the wall I can stay there for 20-30 seconds. But the main benefit to exercises like this (including things like Plank) comes from the initial firing of the muscles, not from being able to hold the position for a certain amount of time (IMHO).