When I was a kid, I wanted to be strong like my dad and older brother. Our backwoods house was 100% heated with wood, logged from our own property, and we needed about 25 face cords of wood to get us through the long winters. Then in the Spring we would make maple syrup. Add another 10 face cords. All or most of the wood came from our own property so the complete process of felling, limbing, bucking up trees, then hauling, splitting and stacking would take all summer and fall. I think I missed a couple more hauling and stacking sequences. And none of that soft junk-wood either, this was 100% Northern Michigan hardwood. Although my dad was probably content to do this all himself (“he who chops his own wood is twice warmed”), when we were old enough to walk and carry he enlisted our help.
Despite healthy amounts of daily physical work I was a wiry kid, unlike my brother Yaro who would crank out 1000 push ups a day on the weekends (10 sets of 100) and/or 200 pull-ups, 20 at a pop. When I was 11, my dad had a solution. He took the handle of an old splitting mall, drilled holes in each end and suspended by ropes from the ceiling. That was our pull-up bar. To get stronger he suggested I do 2-3 sets of 12 each night before I went to bed and chase it down with a tablespoon of peanut butter and a tall glass of whole milk.
I never did achieve levels of freakish strength like my brother, but I realized that compared to the enduranceathletes I did have some innate strength and balance. A mantra I have used many times before big races is “my strength is my strength.” Having that foundation of strength has been an asset throughout my multi-sport career, but also something that needs to be nurtured and addressed from time to time. The past few years especially I have noticed a paradox near the end of a long season. Just as endurance performance is peaking, absolute strength is often at a seasonal low. This becomes pretty obvious my first few times back in the weight room. I’m not sure if I am just becoming more aware of it now, or if the prospect of my 40th birthday approaching has me hypersensitive. Regardless, after a long season of racing for 10 straight months, I must confess, I feel weak.
Coaches can debate the importance of strength training throughout the competitive season, but most agree that a solid 16 weeks of strength training during the off-season is important. The extent of strength maintenance beyond that may depend on several factors such as age, body type, mechanics, and athletic background. In 2018 I will hit the big 4-0 and along with my pledge to begin manscaping, I also plan to continue strength training throughout the 2018 season. Your strength is your strength. Look for more tips in the coming months on exercise selection and periodization of a strength training program.