If you recall from my first article on training factors I wrote about the Romanian sports scientist Dr. Tudor Bompa and his schema called “The Training Factors Pyramid”. I covered one of the most important training factors in the first article, endurance and listed all the other training factors.
In this article I am going to cover three new training factors. Some of these have been greatly over looked by endurance athletes . So without further delay let’s look at balance, flexibility, agility and how they play an important roll in the training of endurance athletes.
While on the face of it balance may not seem like a very important training factor but balance is what is required for good form when running, cycling and swimming. We as athletes are always finding new ways to hurt ourselves with over training. I suffered from a muscle imbalance that left me with an aching back for a few years. I had to seek out the help of a sport medicine Dr. to straighten out my imbalances. So balance isn’t just about if you can stand on one foot for more than X minutes without wobbling. It’s also about keeping your muscles in balance.
Endurance athletes have a bad habit of just riding or just running or just swimming and not taking the time to address the core. While swimming in itself will address core development, runners, cyclists and multi-sport athletes can really gain huge benefits from implementing a core-training program. Core training plans do not need to take over your life. Just 20-40 minutes 2-3 times a week is often enough to address core imbalances.
I think we as athletes like to talk a good game when it comes to being flexible but just like working on the core are we really stretching enough, doing the right stretches at the right time. I remember when I was studying martial arts as a child, stretching to develop flexibility meant the difference between injury and making remarkable physical adaptations quickly. Then later learned that if I wanted to climb harder and more technical routes as a rock climber I needed the flexibility of a gymnast.
Most endurance athletes seem to give just a passing effort to stretching and usually at the wrong times. I often watch new runners stretch before warming up before a race or cyclists stretch before a race with out warming up and only going through a rudimentary series of stretches as well. I am guilty of this and have gone on to do just fine. So why is this something to concern yourself about?
Stretching will make us more aero on a bike, lengthen muscles and prevent overuse injuries. When using the right types of stretches you can stave off over use injuries. By using static and even dynamic stretches you can become flexible with out the risk of injuring your self when stretching.
Static stretching is a method of stretching by where an athlete will gently and slowly stretch into a joint and muscle group. You want muscle tension not pain. Dynamic stretching is more motion based where fluid movements are used to warm muscle groups. This is sometimes called prehab’ or motion prep’ stretching.
Ballistic stretching is very old school form of stretching and is the kind of stretching where an athlete bounces into the tension. This is a major mistake and it WILL lead to micro trauma to muscle, tendons and ligaments. DO NOT bounce when stretching!
Agility is often thought of as what it takes for an athlete to be quick on their feet. Trail runners as well as many ball related sports require athletes to make several course changes while running and sprinting, AKA: “Fancy Footwork”. Endurance athletes don’t usually think of agility as a necessary training factor.
Instead of thinking about being quick on ones feet endurance athletes need to think of agility as skills development. Such as being able to make split second decisions about passing another runner in a surge or the road/triathlon cyclist who will need to think about the best line to set up for a tight corner or descent. These should all be thought of when looking at your training schedules. These training efforts are often scheduled for cyclists as “Skills Workouts”. While I do not believe that triathletes need to schedule bike cornering once a week but a competitive road racer may need to.
It is imperative that endurance athletes try these moves in practice before trying them in a competitive event. While very few age group runners are going to find themselves bunched up in a local 5K race they should run with others from time to time to see what it feels like to run in a tight pack. Triathletes who have more technical courses where out and back cornering or even descending into a corner is part of their race course need to practice this with their Tri bike weeks leading up to a competition. Road cyclists are always practicing their descending, pack riding and cornering skills to become more comfortable with their competitions.
So while endurance is the critical training factor for endurance athletes I hope you can see that balance, flexibility and agility also play a large part in the success of trained endurance athletes. These 3 factors can be addressed simply by adding group-training activities and solo skills training. I promise you that if you address these factors you will see great improvements in your athletic performances.
As before I hope you found this article helpful and welcome questions and feedback.
Until then have a great week and do something different to improve your fitness.
Have a great ride,