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3 Reasons Why All Endurance Athletes Need Strength Training

3 Reasons Why All Endurance Athletes Need Strength Training

Written by
December 3, 2014
Updated May 15, 2020

Most endurance athletes ignore strength training, but the truth is that taking the time to add strength training to your routine a few days a week has a number of benefits that can help boost your performance.

As a little girl, my dad woke me up at 5:30 A.M. five days a week to run with him. Running, tome, has been just like breathing; it’s just something I do. My first marathon was in 2000 and I’ve been hooked ever since! I love variety, so I gave triathlons a shot. I just ended my 4th season of triathlons.

I tried one sprint distance and one Olympic distance my first season and realized they weren’t really for me. It turns out that I LOVE distance! I made the switch to long distance triathlons. The last three seasons I competed in the half Ironman and full Ironman distances.

My last three races have been my personal best. In the Lake Havasu Half Ironman, I placed 1st woman and 5th overall. Running through the banner was quite a rush! I just finished my 4th full Ironman in December 2012 with a time of 10:38. My last race was the Ironman St. George 70.3 where I came in as the fastest amateur female runner.

I am a proud mommy of three crazy little girls and blessed to have an amazing hubby to support my adventures! Throughout these adventures, I’ve learned many things that have made me a better athlete and have increased my performance.
Here’s just a few of the lessons I’ve learned:

Don’t Set Yourself up for Failure

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked the same two questions: How do you GET the motivation to exercise?, and How do you STAY so motivated to exercise? The answer is simple: find something YOU love!

If you HATE running, is it really a good idea to say, “I’m going to run every day?” You’re pretty much setting yourself up to fail. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a HUGE believer in mastering your weakness and you could grow to LOVE it.

What I’m saying is to find something you can be passionate about! Something that you can be excited to do! Try mixing it up. I get bored just running and I can’t even begin to tell you my passion for running, but running EVERYDAY? No way! That is one of the many reasons I enjoy crostraining; it spices things up a bit.

moNOTony3 Reasons Why All Endurance Athletes Need Strength Training

Say NO to monotony! As the saying goes, “You can’t keep doing the same thing everyday and expect different results.” With any training, monotony can actually be a negative drain on the mind and body, not to mention the negative effect it has on motivation. It’s easy to fall into the trap of “more is better.”

I know, I did in the past (and sometimes still do now) until someone corrects my behavior. When I first started long distance triathlons, I figured longer hours in the pool, on the bike, and out running would make me faster. However, much to my disappointment, my race times weren’t improving. More of the same didn’t get me different results. So, I had to break-up the monotony and change.

The last year my fitness levels and body accelerated by leaps and bounds and I’ve seen better results in all of my races. I’ve been adding in CrossFit with my training. I’ll be honest with you, I’m not a huge fan of weight lifting. I’d much rather be outside riding through the canyons or running on the trails.

But remember what I said about our weaknesses… MASTER THEM! So, I practice what I preach and in the process I’ve learned strength train ing is essential for endurance athletes.

Why is Strength Training Improtant For Endurance Athletes

Earlier this week after my strength training class, I had a gentleman ask me, “Does lifting weights really help my running?” umm… YES! Some people (especially endurance athletes) often shy away from strength training out of a fear it will make them bulk up. Others are intimidated by going to a gym.

But for most people, the reason is simpler: they know one hour of intense cardio burns more calories than one hour of strength training. If you’re pressed for time, it would seem that intense cardiovascular exercise would pro- vide more bang for your buck, leading to a greater weight loss than pumping iron. Right? Not necessarily.

Facts & Research on Strength Training

Now, I’m not a scientist and can’t take credit for this research. To be honest, I’ve attended many seminars and read a lot of training material so I can’t properly give credit to anyone for these facts, but they are taken from years of notes and more importantly years of personal results.

The truth is that taking the time to add strength training to your routine a few days a week has a number of benefits that can help boost your weight loss. Studies have shown that strength training can improve body composition by helping you maintain or increase your lean body mass and can decrease your percentage of body fat, helping you look leaner and burn additional calories. Here’s how it works.

Quick Tips to Spice up your Strength Training

  • ROPES: Builds grip strength, leg power, and works the arms, shoulders and back.
  • PLYOMETRIC EXERCISES: Gives your legs and muscles an intense exercise which guarantees an increase in muscle potential.
  • SLEDS: They look scary. Why? Cause they are hard! You can do hard things!
  • BLEACHERS: Great for agility. Nothing makes me feel more like an athlete than days I’m running up the bleachers full speed!
  • BENCHES/PARKS/PLAYGROUNDS: If you run outside, odds are that you pass parks, bench- es, playgrounds, stairs, etc. Incorporate these into your run. Have a goal to do 50 push ups, or 50 “box-jumps” or dips on benches or 50 pull ups at the park in the middle of your run before you get home. The options are endless.
  • TRAILS: Trails are easier on the joints. Increased elevation which makes a flat road really easy!
  • FRIENDS: I couldn’t imagine doing what I do without friends as crazy as me! Find people that share your interest. My friends hold me account- able and I work harder with others around me.
  • OPEN WATER: The distance of an ironman swim is 160 lengths of the pool. Shoot. Me. Now!! Pools are great for speed work but get out in the open water for your longer swims.
  • NEW ROUTES: Don’t step out of your door and do the same ol’ run around the block every day. Be adventurous!

3 Reasons Why All Endurance Athletes Need Strength Training

3 Reasons Why All Endurance Athletes Need Strength Training

Reason #1. Strength Training builds More Muscle

FACT: Fat burns pretty much nothing at rest, whereas muscle uses oxygen. If you increase lean muscle mass, you’ll increase the body’s ability to use oxygen and burn more calories. More calories burned means more food right? No brainer for me and my love for food

Reason #2. You’ll Be More Efficient with Strength Training

Strength training can help you run longer, faster, and more efficiently. Fact is that runners who add three days of resistance training exercises to their weekly program increase their leg strength and enhance their endurance.

Obviously, runners with better endurance can run longer and burn more calories. You’ll also be able to recover faster from those long runs because strength training makes your body more efficient at converting metabolic waste into energy.

Reason #3. You’ll be Less Injury-Prone with Strength Training

When you increase your strength, you’ll also increase your joint stability and reduce your risk of repetitive stress injuries. Incorporating moves such as squats, single-leg hops, and core work into a workout can not only prevent lower-body injuries, but improve performance as well.

Leg exercises are particularly important when it comes to reducing injury; they strengthen muscles around the knees and hips

  • two areas that often cause problems for runners. Breaking up the monotony and adding strength training to your program will ultimately increase your performance not only in training but also on race day. Change your routine and you’ll change your performance.

Sample Strength Training Workout Week

3 Reasons Why All Endurance Athletes Need Strength Training







3 x 1600m at 5:32 pace
(1 minute active recovery between intervals)

3 x 10 minutes @
223 watts, 5 minutes @ 50%

11 miles @ 6:50 pace

7 x 100 T-Pace -:01
: 15RI–100 easy–4 x 100 T-Pace -:03
: 15RI–100 easy– 4 x 100 T-Pace -:05
: 15RI– 2 x 300

500m :20RI
400m :20RI-
300m :20RI-
200m :20RI
2 x 300  negative split :30RI—-

BIKE: Ride steady for 120 minutes @ 160 watts
RUN: Transition to RUN right away. Run 8 miles @ 6:35 pace

3 Rounds:
20 KB Situps
20 Pull-ups
500m Row

– 8 x 50 :20RI – 500m T-Pace + :06 :15RI-
– 2 x 250 T-Pace + :02
: 15RI—-
500 T-Pace + :05 :15RI—- 5 x 100 T- Pace

20 min AMRAP
10 Pistols
15 Pullups

80 min @ 175 Watts

Deadlift 5x5x3x3x3
DL: 155# & Box Jump: 24”


Ashley Paulson has a full time job as a mother of 3. She is a certified instructor in many disciplines. When not out training, you can usually find her at any number of gyms teaching classes as an endurance coach. Training and fitness is not only a passion for her but a lifestyle. She is a 4 time Ironman finisher, over a dozen half Ironman’s and 26 full marathons. Fol- low her adventures on her blog at: and on Facebook at:
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