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How to Transition from Winter Strength Training to Spring Endurance Training

article by Carson McQuarrie

As athletes move further away from winter, their training often shifts to emphasize endurance over strength. This is an important component of periodized training, and a natural evolution of athletes’ interests as the weather improves. However, it can be difficult to find balance in that interim phase on the way to dedicated endurance training volume.

By focusing on the controllable in planning your training, you can create a transition that allows your body to adapt while moving into your desired phase of training. One way to cover your bases is to start with following the four focus areas, which comprise the FITT Principle: Frequency, Intensity, Time, and Type of exercise.

Frequency

Frequency is typically thought of as the number of times a specific intensity or type of exercise is performed. Frequency can be applied to the transition from strength to endurance in terms of how many times a type of exercise will be performed in a given week. This might look like:

  • Reducing strength training from 3x/week to 2x/week.
  • Increasing endurance training from 3x/week to 4x/week.

Intensity

Intensity is thought of as the amount of energy exerted during a given workout. Intensity can be applied to the transition in terms of the amount of weight lifted, the amount of force exerted on a lighter weight, or running and cycling at a percentage of threshold heart rate and/or power, respectively. Decreasing intensity in strength training and increasing intensity in endurance training may look like:

  • Decreasing from performing eight repetitions at 8 RM to performing 12 repetitions at 12RM.
  • Decreasing from performing eight repetitions at 8RM  with one second during the eccentric phase to performing eight repetitions at 8RM with two seconds during the eccentric phase.
  • Increasing from performing a one-hour run at 70 percent of threshold heart rate to one-hour at 80 percent of threshold heart rate.
  • Increasing from performing a two-hour ride at 65 percent of threshold power to two-hours at 75 percent of threshold power.

Time

Time as it relates to strength training and endurance training may seem simple at first but requires some nuance. For example, time in regards to strength training is not measured by the total amount of time spent at the gym performing load-bearing activities, but rather total volume, in the form of the number of sets or repetitions. In regards to increasing endurance training, it’s more simple. Time here can simply refer to increasing the duration of time of each workout at a given intensity. For both strength and endurance training this may look like:

  • Reducing the number of exercises at the gym from 6 to 4 thus eliminating ‘x’ number of sets and repetitions.
  • Reducing the number of sets of each exercise while maintaining the number of repetitions per set.
  • Increasing the number of minutes running spent at 75 percent of threshold heart from 60 or 90 minutes.
  • Increasing the number of minutes cycling at 70 percent of threshold power from 90 to 120 minutes.

Type

Type refers to the type of exercise, in this case being between strength exercise and endurance exercise. It’s common to think that a cyclist or runner should decrease emphasis on weight training and increase endurance activities as their goal event gets closer. However, strength training can and should continue to prevent injury and maintain efficient movement patterns. Kettlebells, resistance bands, or bodyweight moves can maintain strength while phasing out the winter’s heavy lifting.

Remember, there is no “perfect” way to design a transition. A transition that may work for someone else may not work well for you. Keep the above principles in mind, and you’ll be able to create an effective and sustainable transition for your individual needs.

 

Carson McQuarrie is a dedicated athlete and coach who specializes in ultra-distance cycling and plant-based nutrition. For more information on Carson’s coaching services, or to schedule a coaching consultation with him click HERE

 

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