Weight training for IM

How do people fit in weight training with IM training?

As it's my off season at the mo I thought I'd have a go at building some strength before i start training properly for Outlaw after Christmas.

At the mo I'm doing 2 weights sessions a week plus a pilates and a running-orientated strength and conditioning class, but even with this my legs are usually tired and it's affecting my cycling and running.  I'm prepared for this and it doesn't really matter at the mo - i'm playing the long game. 

When Outlaw training starts, I was going to drop it to a once a week maintenance weights session. I understand this will need to be a pretty max session to stop all the gains I'm hoping to make before christmas ebbing away.

But am wondering how/when  to fit in a weights session so that it doesn't compromise all the other training. Seems a bit mad to put it in on a recovery day or a legs-free day because I wouldn't be recovering. 

What do other people do? Other than pilates and the running-orientated S&C i've not done weight training as part of an IM programme before but I know my legs are usually tired so am wondering how to fit in the weights.

I'm 49 and tend to take a long time to recover.  IM training in the last two years has tended to build up to average around 13 or 14 hours a week, excluding pilates etc.


  • "What do other people do?"


    seriously - I don't do weights for tri but then I'm of a build that doesn't need any more muscle.

    I think you need to make a distinction between weights and conditioning. weights in most peoples mind are for building muscle strength and often size, but that's frankly wrong. what you should be doing is improving the condition of the muscles you do have so when you use them in the swim, bike or run, you see improvements in speed and stamina. adding bulk generally adds weight and unless you're a matchstick, isn't needed. conditioning will improve strength without bulking.

    I will do some conditioning reps in the gym perhaps before or after a swim, and I also do pilates for core strength and flexibility. this will be done over winter and probably not more than once a week, and for less than 30 mins

    you can of course do some of these exercises at home using hand weights, kettlebells, medicine balls and combining these with some pilates exercises. it's often easier to fit sessions in at home - 30 mins say when you wake up or get home, or lunchtime even
  • I work in a carp location where there is nothing to do at lunchtime, but use the small gym downstairs......... I also have a strict lunch hour so a 40 min session is all I can do.

    I do one day core, one day ashtanga yoga, one day functional legs stuff (squats, lunges etc etc) and maybe one day traditional weights, (a la going long)

    I happilly drop any of these if other stuff comes up, (ie I am not precious about it)

    I have tried morning or evening 'strength sessions', ie before or after work, and gave those up rapidly - I just ditched them when I got tired..... image

  • All my weights stuff is pretty specific targeting weaknesses like my core so a lot of that sort of stuff, Also light multi rep stuff to try to increase the non existent flexibility in my shoulders

    Some arm stuff for the bike and the swim but tend to leave the legs out of it as can get them a good workout on the bike and the run so can actually do weights on a "rest" day without compromising leg recovery

    Perhaps yopu should do a bit more ironing and suchlike .......car washing,gardening, cutting the grass with a manual mower turning the mangle, blacking the step........ all help towards the strength and toning

  • I was wondering the same thing.  I've just had a PT at the gym work out a core strength / conditioning programme for me to do twice a week, and i'm doing this in lieu of the ywo weights sessions my BT winter training plan tells me to do.  I said i'm doing triathlon, so the focus was on stability and conditioning, and there are quite a few ab exercises too.  Not using any weights, all done using TRX bands so using bodyweight, or on the mat /using medicine ball.  Realistically I can't see how i'll keep up that twice a week when 20 wk IM prog starts, but i'll hope to do one session min.  I do two pilates classes a week at the mo too, but that'll drop to one. 

    I really missed a trick by doing core stuff this year, and had tons of back problems to boot, so hoping this will help. 

    Sorry, i've not actually given you any decent info on how to fit it all in Henny, as i'm wondering that myself, hahaha

  • thanks chaps.

    I think i'd prob find the physical time to do it - it's more a case of ... when in the schedule do people do theirs so that tiredness from the weights sesh doesn't interfere with the quality of the next workout - or two.

    Blobbers you are naughty. although during the summer i did try, once, cutting the grass without the motor drive thing to help the bloody thing move. We have a hilly garden and about half an acre of grass. I didn't do it a second time. Chiltern 100 was easier.

    FB - I def don't want to build bulk.  The exact opposite if anything. I'm wanting (having followed a lot of Friel/Gordo stuff but not their weights stuff because, frankly, I thought i was doing enough anyway, as you say) to build strength so that when i come to start upping the volume etc for Outlaw i've got more strength and firing muscle fibres to apply to the training.  If i'm going to push a pedal, I might as well push it with more power per stroke without trying - if that's what weight training will give me.

    Also, i'm thinking - if you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always had.  i've done two IMs now with not much improvement in overall time in the second. My bike was much better, it's true, but it was a lot of hard work for 5 mins PB. So I thought, why not do something different this time?

    Maybe as i get stronger i'll not be quite so hammered after each session so it won't be an issue. image

  • you should let me mentor you......image
  • Never heard it called that before


  • i try to fit some bits in around the house, i know im very lucky and have my own multi gym and weights room etc, so when my kids are in the bath or whatever i have time to target one or maybe 2 muscle groups. Whenever i have 20 minutes free I usually choose a muscle group that im not working that day and try to do a couple of different exercises for that group consisting of 12 -16 reps with 2 warm up sets and 3 working sets.

     i dont know if you know but normally the groups to pair together are back and biceps or chest and triceps ( and work the biggest group first = back before bis and chest before tris)

  • Henny i was going to say how about doing it after a swim, but then thought how about after / same day as a bike or run, and the day before a swim, as it mightnot matter so much if your legs are a bit knackered for swimming as much as it would for biking etc?  or is that rubbish?!

  • Henny, I did some weights last year and am doing some at the moment as I haven't started IM training yet. I follow Fink's program and I did it on the weekdays where I only had one other session. So for example in week 1,  I would get up and do the 45 minute brick session in the morning and at lunchtime I would do a weights session. I fit the other one in with the short run session he schedules on Fridays. As the training ramped up and those sessions got quite a bit longer, I ended up ditching weights in the last ten weeks or so. I just didn't have the time or excess energy to do more than what was on the training plan. Don't know if it was right, but it was what I did!
  • I only do upper body weights, my legs don't need it. You can always find an odd half-hour to fit in some lifts, targeting different muscles like DK said above. Unlike FB, I don't of course have a naturally strong build and I've found as I age it becomes more and more important to keep strong. I do core exercises as well but not as often as I should! Have to add, I actually really enjoy weight work.
  • thanks Orca.  So do you think the weights helped towards your enormous PB?

    Lee - yes  that makes sense except my legs would prob be tired from the bike or run so doing weights on tired legs seems tricky - and, I'm guessing a bit here, not as effective. Tired/stiff/tight muscles are more likely to get injured.  

    I should think it's all going to come out in the wash.  i'll be stronger anyway and will just have to do a damned good warm up before lifting.  Got to sort out the discrepancy between advice from the s&C course I did in the summer (as coach coaching it rather than doing it) which said do a single weekly max session to maintain strength levels when training.... and Friel advises a less-than-max maintainence programme.  Think I'd tend to go with Friel but we'll see.

  • I do a fair amount of core strengh work..plank etc as i find it helps my back, but no weights as such as i can't find the amazing amount of cash all the local gyms want to charge me to get in.
  • I became a wall of hunky muscle from Ironman training anyway.
  • Not sure i want to be a wall of hunky muscle, Cam image. Stronger and injury-proof would do!

     Ultra Ironwolf wrote (see)

    I only do upper body weights, my legs don't need it.
    Just to be devils advocate, Wolfy, if weight training is a way to prevent injury, do you think perhaps your legs DO need it?  I mean, my legs are like bloody tree trunks - not at all lady-like - and I certainly don't want them any bigger - but if it keeps me injury-free and stronger, it seems like a good idea. Just wondering if it would help your knee/groin etc?
  • Weights don't mean bigger lift a smaller amount but more reps
  • TRTR ✭✭✭

    AH - strength training doesnt have to be weights, it can be soprts specific (and maybe more relevant) eg big gear bike work, hill reps, sprints on the bike. And hill reps or hilly routes for the run............however if you do go down the weight training route, do as many compound (multijoint) exercises as possible, and give the pec deck a miss!

    I'd do the sports specific approach if I were you, you want to be functionally strong at the disciplines involved in triathlon !

  • I really don't enjoy weights, but off season I take them like medicine and do them because I'm told it's good for me. image

    Like Orca once M. training starts my coach puts weight sessions on single training days. So turbo am, Weights/core pm, but again once the hours ramped up I dropped the weights. There's only so much energy and time to go around isn't there?!

    I had my first session back in the gym today and I can feel it already.... I'm such a wimp! image 

  • Thanks Hope.imageMakes sense and is the sort of useful info I was after. How many sessions a week do you do when IM training starts?

    TR - thanks for that.  Good point.  Yes - plenty of very sport-specifc weights as prescribed by Friel (eg lat pull downs with hands as wide as handlebars on the bar). Sadly my knees hate hill reps running but you're right - i could do something specific on the bike.

  • TRTR ✭✭✭
    AH - you knees might adapt to hill running though. I dont do hill repeats, but I run some long hilly drags. You could build soem of these in.The downhills are good for building quad toughness too. You could do some lunges and bodyweight squats at home. One legged squats are a good one, as they use stabiliser muscles too.
  • I find the gym stuff best for core / flexibility.
    I really enjoy functional stuff as TR suggests - its strength, stability, endurance al in one....

    (i do a warm of 2-3 * 15 of
    • reverse lunges,
    • superman squats,
    • lunge with opp wrist to ankle, (ie twist - vey hard to initialy stop falling over!)
    • heel flicks,
    • then lunge/stretches)  

    then the main set of 2-3*15 of

    • lunges, ( with free weights, 12-> kg),
    • bulgarian lunges (with free weights, 10kg) coz they are soooo hard, 
    • box squats
    • lunge -> knee drives
    • swiss back jackknifes

    I find this realy tough and it shags my legs for 2-3 days at the start, but gets easier as the weeks go byimageimage

    I do some traditional weights, but don't think its that effective - more for conditioning really

    I do find cycling hils,  / big gear work / intervals / just riding hard effective in improving leg strength....  (however this is just a low % of riding otherwsie you get to fried)

    I also think long runs help in getting the muscular endurance to just keep going on the run - I didn't do that many last year and suffered....

  • Artful Hen wrote (see)

    Thanks Hope.imageMakes sense and is the sort of useful info I was after. How many sessions a week do you do when IM training starts?

    I did 2 a week for as long as I could.

  • thank you all. You all speak gooood sense. And it's all good stuff - just different approaches.  i'll def include the functional stuff - spose I always have really. Just wanted to see if the weights might give me something extra.  Bloody hell, if it helped Hope get round IMW it must be good!

    OC - i don't know what half of those things are but will look them up.

  • AH, I don't know whether the sterngth gained made a difference to the PB but it can't have hurt. I actually did it in an effort to reduce my body fat percentage. My weight was OK but my body fat was a bit high, (still is but it's not as high as it was) that was one of the main reasons for me but I'm quite sure that reducing my body fat was a big contributer to my Regensburg time. I also like weights and have a gym both at home and at work so it makes it easier for me to fit it in.
  • Thanks Orca.  I often have to remind myself that instead of lusting after a lighter bike I ought to just lose some lard! that will have to wait until after Xmas. I'm in my 'fallow' period at the mo ... imageimage
  • AH - sorry been busy.

    Not sure anyone has answered the when question.

    You need to decide what your limiters are.

    For me leg strength isn't the limiter so if I was doing weights it would be down the order of priority. In which case I would stick them where they had least impact on my most important sessions. Endurance doesn't seem to be a limiter for me either so speed and pace/endurance are my limiters. Therefore from a running persepctive my important sessions are intervals and tempos with the LSR in third place.The leg strength would be firmly last. Very similar for the bike.

    So I would want to be most rested for the tempo/interval workouts and wouldn't do leg strength before these key workouts (same or previous day). I may however do it the day before a LSR.

    However if double dipping on workouts the main focus for all of us is sport specific and therefore it would be the second workout of the day/session. The cardio gets the full treatment with the strength training getting what you have left.You don't get full benefit from the strength training but you get most of it. Reversing it wrecks the sport specific stuff which unless you are very weak (you are not) would be the wrong focus.

    I generally ignore weight training for legs but do stick in a quick upper body workout post interval/tempo run. I would avoid doing this on a day when I was swimming the next day - but a leg strength session would be fine the day before a swim. Takes <15 minutes.

    I superset everything. No breaks, no rest, and use a Push/Pull to work different body parts, so in theory the chest is resting from pressups whislt I do pull ups.3 sets of each pair

    Seated Row/Miltary Press
    Pull Ups/Pressups


    So that is me: what about you?

    You are a girl (a nice one but a girl all the same). Therefore you are not likely to have the same leg strength as a man, this is a general comment and I've never seen you do a leg press or a squat so can't comment directly. Therefore you may place more focus on strength training.

    What are you other limiters? This will help you prioritise the other workouts and rank the strength training accordingly. 

    Hope this helps.


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