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    Strength training for runners & triathletes

    Strength training for runners & triathletes

    Brought to you by Inspire Athletic

    Strength training for both triathlon and running has become a big talking point over the last few years.   Both sports are endurance based so it means a lot of repetitive movements are done to perform those sports.  I am writing about the benefits and how to and best apply strength training into your triathlon or running programming.

    What are the benefits of strength training for endurance-based athletes?  In this blog we are looking at athletes that swim bike and run.  These sports involve the use of varying muscles to perform, a lot of repetitive loading which can cause overuse injuries.

    Below are the five main benefits of strength training

    1. Injury Reduction not prevention. Strength training can aid in injury reduction (I will not say prevention as this is individual and has many other factors involved).  Commonly most injuries in these sports are effectively over use injuries.

      In swimming we see shoulder issues associated with the rotator cuff.

      Cycling presents issues with lower back problems, knee and hip issues which in some cases are due to poor set up or fitting.   

      Running is where we would see the biggest issues develop.  Achilles, knee and hip problems generally due to overuse but most often due to poor strength in the required areas.  Of the three sports running is the only one that has impact so there are factors that need to be considered in areas of mobility and stability to be able to stay injury free.
    1. Helps with mobility and muscle imbalances. A well-structured strength program will include exercises which look at improving and/or restoring mobility and with muscle imbalances in the areas that require it.  With the nature of swimming and cycling being forward posture disciplines our thoracic spine becomes stiff.  In cycling our hips become stiff and immobile.  In running our ankles stiffen up.

    2. Develops neuromuscular function and musculotendinous stiffness (this being very important in running due to the stretch shortening cycle involved).

    3. Mental strength and fatigue resistance this one can be individual, but if you feel strong your mental outlook will be more positive.

    4. Muscle loss - as we age we lose muscle, so strength training allows us to maintain muscle.

    How do I implement this into my training?

    I must stress before you undertake any strength training program I advise that you get assessed properly of your movement patterning as this will allow the correct exercise application to be planned with correct regressions and progressions.  This should be done by a trainer with knowledge in movement, more importantly a strength & conditioning coach.  The traditional gym assessment is checking your blood pressure, so make sure you don’t get this type of assessment.  You can email me and I can send through an assessment protocol in which you can send me a video of the tests.

    The best time to undertake strength training is during the off season and base periods of your training.  The off season is a great time to address those imbalances, mobility and strength issues.  The base/build period is when you can develop some strength.  The specific/in season strength training should continue but primarily as a maintenance measure. 

    What exercises should I be doing?

    The best way to apply the strength training for triathlon and runners is simply to look at the areas that require strength to perform the sport and to also identify the weak areas.

    In swimming, as it is primarily an upper body discipline, we need to include exercises that involve the upper arms & back areas (lats, rhomboids, pectorals, triceps). These exercises need to primarily movement focussed not isolated. Swimming also requires a strong core to be able to hold a good position in the water.

    In cycling which can be very quadriceps focussed and at times glutes are used in climbing and out of the saddle, so we need to utilise leg exercises that are more knee dominant focussed, which means the load is on the quadriceps.

    STRENGTH SESSION – Bilateral heavy load

    Running is often discussed as a glute dominant discipline yet recent research has shown the lower leg complex of the gastrocnemius and soleus (the soleus being no.1) as the main proponent of propulsion in the running gait.  The glutes are still required but not as much as the soleus as many have been told.  The glute area still plays a big role in creating stability though in the running gait particularly on landing/impact. 


    In terms of programming if you do two strength sessions a week - one should be primarily strength with heavy load and bilateral exercises with some accessory exercises (these are exercises with have benefit regarding movement and carry some cross over effect regarding muscle imbalances). The other session should focus on unilateral exercises which challenges stability.  Below are two examples of programs.

    It is very important that the sessions are focused on execution not overloading.  You are as only as strong as you are moving in the correct manner.

    Strength Session - Bilateral heavy load
    Warm Up –
    5 minutes of any cardio based exercise
    Foam Roller – legs, glutes, lats
    Mobility work – ankles, hips, thoracic spine
    Activation – mini band lateral walk, swiss ball hip extension

     Inspire Athletic Strength Set


    Warm Up – 5 minutes of any cardio based exercise
    Foam Roller – legs, glutes, upper back
    Mobility work – ankles, hips, thoracic spine
    Activation – mini band lateral walk, swiss ball hip extension

    Inspire Athletic Strength set 2

    Calf raise

    Weight selection is an individual dependant.  Firstly technique must be optimal before load should be added.  A good trainer should be able to know when to progress or regress an exercise.

    Gym –
    Using a smith machine or a leg press machine perform a calf raise
    Home – can be done body weight or using a weight vest
    Why? – develop calf and soleus strength for propulsion and achilles loading

    This is smith machine example. 
    Inspire Athletic Calf Raise
    Using a mat/step, stand on edge so front half of foot is on it.  Drive up through big and second toes to nearly full extension, pause and then slowly lower under control.

    Do not roll to outside of foot if so shows lack of big toe mobility and strength. Single Leg is done on one leg

    Romanian deadlift
    I am using this exercise rather then a conventional deadlift as it is easier to perform and carries less risk.  A conventional deadlift requires excellent technique and mobility to perform correctly.  For an endurance athlete the Romanian Deadlift is a safer but still a great option

    Why? – Posterior Chain Strength
    Inspire Athletic Romanian deadlift
    With the bar in front of you. Core engaged, thoracic spine locked down.  Hinge over pushing your hips backwards.  Only go as far you can maintain a neutral spine (flat back).  Pause and then drive back up driving hips forward. 

    Inspire Athletic Romanian deadlift
    The load should be felt in the lower glutes and hamstrings if done correctly. Important that you gradually load this focussing on execution rather than weight. Single leg version is done on one leg.

    SQUAT – various options depending on skill level
    For this blog I am going to suggest the box squat is best and safest alternative regarding risk versus reward.

    WHY? – develop strength and power through the hips and core strength
    The box squat.  Set up the squat area which a box, step at a height to your current ability.
    Inspire Athletic Squat
    Ensure your core is engaged. You break at ankles, knees, and hips and drop down to the box whilst maintain a chest up position. Ideally you want the shin and back angle to be the same.  Touch the box and then drive back up. 

    Inspire Athletic Squat

     * Note if you lack ankle mobility use some small weight plates
      under your heels. The single leg version is best done with a  
      trailing leg.

    Single arm cable row
    WHY? – Upper back strength, thoracic extension, quad stability

    Inspire Athletic Single arm cable row
    Using a cable machine or resistance band. 

    Standing in a split stance, with leg forward and right hand on cable handle.  Keeping chest up.  Pull through maintaining stable hips and using rotation of the thoracic spine.

    I have created some videos demonstrating the sample exercises mentioned in this blog. Check out the Inspire Athletic Instagram page to view the videos.

    Thanks for reading and get strong to finish strong.

    About the author
    Andrew Garwood is a qualified personal trainer based in Melbourne, Victoria. Andrew has worked in the industry since 2007 and covers a wide range of clients. He is currently enjoying focussing working on rehabilitation and sports conditioning.  Andrew’s experience and background includes all distances of running, extreme challenges, duathlon, triathlon and multisport races. To get in contact with Andrew drop him an email at



    Kick start your Spring training with these tips

    Kick start your Spring training with these tips

    With the days getting longer and warmer, many of us will begin to get outside and start exercising more. Getting started, or restarted, can be the hardest part of the entire process so Team Inspire has some tips to help you kick start your spring training.

    Take it easy

    Don’t do too much, too soon. Often, after a Winter training hibernation, people try and get straight back into the same amount of training they were doing last Summer. Wrong. This can lead to injury and/or burnout. How much exercise you should start with depends on the level of fitness you have maintained over the break. If you have done not much at all, aim for around 50% of last Summer’s regime and see how tired and/or sore you feel during and after the session. If you are quite tired and sore then you’ve probably done too much, too soon. If you recover well or are only a bit sore then you’re on the right track.


    The 10% rule

    When you have determined the right level of exercise to commence your Spring training there is often a temptation to increase the load quickly to get back to where you were but this can be dangerous and detrimental (injury/burnout). A great rule of thumb is only change one training variable - weight, reps, rest time - at a time and by no more than 10%. Try 5% first and see how you go.


    Get some help

    Starting or restarting your Spring training alone can be hard - getting some help can be crucial in finding the right training and a sustainable routine. Who can help?

    • Enlist a friend or family member as a training buddy
    • Join some group session at a local gym, a running group, a cycling club, a swimming group, a multisport tri club
    • Engage a professional - a training coach, a personal trainer, a strength and conditioning coach


    Find your groove

    When you do anything over and over, it becomes a chore - think mowing the lawn or ironing! So, it’s important to exercise doing something that you enjoy. Love the gym environment - go there. Love the great outdoors - run, bushwalk, paddleboard. Love some company - join a cycling bunch ride. Work out what you love to do and turn that into part of your Spring training routine. And, pop in some variety while you’re at it - they do say variety is the spice of life, right? Vary your routine or your activities from week to week or even every few weeks you could throw in something completely different to your normal routine.


    Think short and long

    Setting both short and long-term goals will help you stay motivated throughout your Spring training, right into Summer. Short-term - think about what you are aiming to achieve in a specific week or month. Eg. run three times in a single week. Long-term - think of a single big goal. Eg. running a marathon, finishing a triathlon.

    *Disclaimer - we are not qualified personal trainers but we do train daily. Please seek your doctor’s advice before commencing any exercise program.

    Balancing triathlon training, work and life

    Balancing triathlon training, work and life


    How can you train for three triathlon disciplines, compete/participate in triathlons, work and have a life? Oh, and have all of it without suffering from ‘triathlete guilt’?

    Time is a challenge for most triathletes. Training is time-consuming and all of our lives seems busier than ever. So, while it might not be difficult to find the time to get some exercise each day, the time to train properly and do everything else can be tricky. Below are the top tips from Team Inspire so you can better fit your training into your hectic schedule and reduce your triathlete guilt.


    Every single one of us seem pressed for time and yet we all have time for our highest priorities - right? Before you do anything else, think about what’s really important to you. What sacrifices are you willing to make for the sake of your training? Conversely, what are you not willing to sacrifice?

    There’s no right or wrong answers here - there are just your answers. This is designed to help you identify the activities in your day or week that are not as important as your training time, allowing you to cut back or even eliminate them. As an example, the time to make a shopping list, do a shop, prep and cook might be more trouble than it’s worth so maybe it’s time to investigate a healthy, home delivered, prepared meal option. Maybe the time to mow the lawn could be better spent training - bring in a lawn mowing service.


    Create a schedule

    Sit down and write out what you do and when you do it in a typical workday. Look for any waste or excess that can be addressed to create more training time. Suppose your schedule reveals that you currently watch two hours of TV in the evening. Why not cut that back to 90 minutes and squeeze in a 30-minute workout? Do you wait in the school pick up line moving at a snail’s pace when you could park further away getting pick up done faster and get an extra run or walk in too?

    Create a new schedule with the waste and excess cut out and the extra training time added, and then stick to it!


    Be consistent

    Consistency is the most important characteristic of an effective training regimen. So if you don’t always have time for what you consider a ‘full workout’ every day, then at least try to do more than nothing every day.

    Many mistakenly believe that a 20-minute workout is not worth the bother, but it is, especially if you crank up the intensity or use the time to work on an otherwise neglected aspect of your fitness (technique, strength, etc.).

    Save the big workouts for weekends or other days when you have less time pressure, and on the other days, just do something.


    Get creative

    Triathletes have found many creative ways to fit training into a tight schedule. Ride your bike to work. Invest in a treadmill and run on it in the evening while your kids play or do their homework nearby. Take the family to the pool and swim while your partner watches the kids, then switch places and let your partner have their turn. Same at the park (for a run) or on the bike-track (for a ride)!

    You know what they say: Where there’s a will, there’s a way!


    Create an understanding with your partner

    Time spent training can be a major conflict issue in couples where one member is an endurance athlete and the other is not. As with every potential source of conflict in a relationship, the best ways to minimise partner training time resentment are communication and compromise.

    Sit down with your partner and talk openly about the time you spend on your training. Let them know that spending quality time with them and working out are both important to you, and you wish to balance the two in a way that makes you both happy. Describe your idea of a fair balance and then invite your partner to describe theirs. Be willing to give a little and don’t shy away from asking your partner to give a little too. You could also invite them to train with you!

    The result of this process will be a mutually agreed upon set of expectations that will prevent conflict in the future.

    If you both train - take it in turns - alternate outside training days so the kids are not left alone and you get equal time to do distance training.


    Take a seasonal approach

    There is no need to train at peak levels year-round. You can have great success by training hard for six months each year (mid-spring to mid-autumn) and doing low-key maintenance training the rest of the year. In the off-season you can devote the time that is freed up by your reduced training load to other priorities that are neglected somewhat during the other half of the year - those DIY projects perhaps? Devoting extra time to these other priorities during the off-season will enable you to put training first without guilt or consequence in the warmer months.

    Focus on quality

    So before you even look for ways to increase the quantity of your training, first increase its quality. A high-quality training program is well-rounded. Often triathletes make the mistake of doing too many similar workouts. Book a session with a personal trainer specialising in triathlon training to get some expert advice on making the most of the training you are doing.

    Balance is an essential characteristic of effective triathlon training. It’s also an essential characteristic of a healthy lifestyle. We hope these tips will help you better balance your training and the rest of your life.

    *Disclaimer - we are not qualified personal trainers but we do train daily. Please seek your doctor’s advice before commencing any exercise program.

    Photo by JC Dela Cuesta on Unsplash

    Gear you need to get started in triathlons

    Gear you need to get started in triathlons

    Thinking about getting into triathlons - congrats - there’s nothing else quite like it. You’ll swim, you’ll ride, you’ll run - but you’ll need some gear to get started.

    As time goes on and you become a tri-tragic (it happens and we’re proof) you can gradually build your stash of tri related gear over time. Here’s our tips on what you need to get started and what you can live without (for a small time anyway) by discipline:


    Getting started/training:

    • A pair of goggles
    • Swimwear (togs, bathers, swimmers, cossie, swimsuit, budgie smugglers or DTs depending where you live in Australia)
    • A swim cap – it’s a good idea to get used to wearing one as they’re compulsory in events and it’s also good hygiene when using public pools
    • A drink bottle 
    • A towel 

    Wish list:

    • a second pair of goggles is always worth having in your kit bag – there is nothing worse than your goggles snapping just before you start a training session (yes we’re talking from experience here)
    • anti-fog goggle cleaner
    • fins/pull buoy/paddles/kickboard – most public pools will have some equipment you can use until you buy your own. These swimming aids are commonly used during training to practice swim drills.


    Getting started/training:

    • Bike – this should be in good condition and the right size for you to prevent injury
    • Running shoes – if using flat pedals
    • Helmet - be sure to get it from your local bike shop, which generally carries brands that have passed standardised testing for safety
    • Cycling apparel
    • Socks (personal preference for triathletes when cycling- some do, some don't) 
    • Sunnies – essential to keep the glare out of your eyes, not to mention any flying bugs or debris from the road
    • Hydration and drink bottle 
    • Anti-chafe balm such as Body Glide (not essential but you will thank us later- we promise) 

    Wish list:

    • Bike shoes for clipless pedals
    • Nutrition – depending on length of ride 
    • Bike computer
    • A road bike - if you’re used to using a mountain bike this will feel like you’re riding on air!
    • A time trial bike – for the super speedsters


    Getting started/training:

    • Runners – good quality and well fitting. It’s worth having a professional shoe fitting at a sport shoe retailer prior to purchasing to determine what kind of feet and stride you have
    • Socks - the right socks are essential for comfort and reducing the chances of getting painful blisters
    • Headwear - there’s lots of different types of headwear available for triathletes, include visors and caps 
    • Sunnies – for keeping the eyes free of debris and looking cool in your race photos
    • Sports bra – essential for the ladies
    • Singlet or t-shirt 
    • Shorts
    • Nutrition 

    Wish list:

    • Speed laces – these assist to ensure you have super-fast transitions and also they won’t become unfastened mid-run (win win)
    • Race belt – you’ll need a good quality race belt to keep your number secure during the run leg of a race 

    Extra stuff:

    It’s no surprise a triathlete requires quite a lot of equipment to get started -we are taking part in three different sports! In addition to the items mentioned earlier there are a few extra bits which you could add to your expanding range of tri related paraphernalia;

    • a tri-bag – look for a bag with plenty of pockets and compartments to keep all of your gear separate
    • the idea of a triathlon is to get from start to finish in the least amount of time, and changing from swimwear to bike apparel to run apparel during transition eats up that time, so using a tri-suit allows you to wear the same outfit from start to finish. Races can be won or lost in transition - fact! Tri suits are either a one piece suit or are two separates (top and shorts).
    • a multisport watch specific to triathlon is a useful piece of kit if you’re into statistics and monitoring your progress throughout training and events.
    • a heart rate monitor – some of the newer multisport watches have a heart rate monitor built into the watch so you don’t need a separate device (that fits around your chest). A heart rate monitor is particularly useful for endurance triathletes.
    • Timing chip strap – we are proof that ankles can be chafed and cut using the standard timing chip strap provided by the race organisers, just remember to remove the chip at the end of the race! 

    Some of the most important items which you can’t buy come from you – guts, determination, confidence, strength and belief. Now practice that finish line pose – celebrate your achievement and start planning your next race!

    Team Inspire xx

    Photo by Wayne Bishop on Unsplash

    Inspire Athletic - The story so far..........

    Inspire Athletic - The story so far..........

    Welcome to Inspire Athletic's first blog. Since launching our web site, it's safe to say that as we write this we are filled with a mix of excitement and terror. We hope to give you a little insight into how Inspire Athletic was born and the people behind Inspire Athletic.

    Inspire Athletic was born in July 2016, after both my wife and I were well and truly bitten by the triathlon bug !! We were introduced to the sport by two of our closest friends, who recommended we come down to our local triathlon club in Manly for some running/biking training. We had no intention of doing a triathlon so swimming wasn't even on the radar, good job really because as a "pom" we have the natural ability like the majority of people from England to really suck at swimming - unless your surname is Brownlee anyway (any English people reading this who can swim and have been blessed with natural abillity we salute you).  At this time my best mate Neil was training for his first full Ironman in Cairns, I thought he was damn right crazy, I mean who would pay to swim 3.8km, ride 180kms and run 42.2kms just for the fun of it. Well at least you get a t-shirt and towel. 

    From that point forward our lives had changed completely, triathlon was now a big part of our lives. It's funny how you look back at key points within your life and wonder how your life can change so much by a few simple words from a friend. One of the best parts about tri life is that it gives you heaps of opportunities to lose yourself within training and forget about all the rest of life's pressures, like work/school pickups/ house work etc. For me my triathlon introduction came at just the right time in my life as I seemed to be putting too much focus on my work life and not enough on my family and friends. If you are reading this and you haven't tried triathlon yet, do yourself a favour and get your self down to the local tri club - it will surprise you how friendly and supportive everyone is regardless of level/fitness. 

    Expo Credits
    Another one of the triathlon joys come in the form of post race "expo credits", wow who would have thought you could spend that much on triathlon gear in one go !! Needless to say we have bought heaps of gear over the years and through this trial and error approach we have come to the conclusion that good quality gear that is comfortable for you with a style you like is a must !! This was why Inspire Athletic was born, we wanted to supply a brand of clothing/apparel that we people would come to trust and believe in.

    Our selection process for products is pretty simple:

    • Do we love the product?
    • Do we use the product?
    • Is the quality great?

    If we can't find products that match or exceed the quality/comfort standards we set for ourselves then we will source brands that we love to use including

    • Compressport
    • Headsweats
    • Feetures
    • Saltstick
    • Body Glide

    As Inspire Athletic grows as a brand we will continue to keep adding exciting new products to our range. We are introducing some great new products to our range over the next few months.

    Meet the Team
    Founding members of team Inspire Athletic - Steve & Nicola

      Team Inspire

    Fun facts time

    Steven’s faves…

    Food: Pasta, especially spaghetti bolognaise
    TV show: Sons of Anarchy and Game of Thrones
    Movie: Swordfish or any of the Fast and the Furious movies
    Leg of a tri: Bike
    Runners: Hoka Vanquish 2
    Bike: Trek Speed Concept, although I do love my Cannondale Caad 10
    Songs to train to: Anything by the Foo Fighters
    Current goal: Ironman Busselton in December 2017 (my first full Ironman alongside Nicola) – all tips and tricks most welcome!

    Nicola’s faves...
    Italian/Thai/Chinese – too many to mention!
    TV show: Currently Orange is the new Black and Australian Ninja Warrior
    Movie: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, I also love the Despicable Me movies
    Leg of a tri: Run (and yes it’s because it’s nearly the end)
    Runners: Hoka Vanquish 2
    Bike: Has to be my first road bike – Specialized Ruby Expert
    Songs to train to: Holding out for a hero, Bonnie Tyler or All Fired Up, Pat Benatar (I’m an 80s tragic)
    Current goal: Ironman Busselton in December 2017 (my first full Ironman alongside Ste)

    Thank you for taking the time to read our first blog and welcome to our Inspire Athletic family !!!

    We’d love you to share your stories with us on the socials and become part of the Inspire family, check us out on Facebook and Instagram.