Coming from endurance athlete background I naturally do a lot of running, cycling, swimming, skiing, and other movement. You can already stay fit with doing only that, but if you want to get even better results and faster times, strength training is crucial.
I don’t like the word cardio, as it’s heavily misused and misinterpreted, but for the purpose of being simple, let’s use it.
Cardio vs. Strength training
The problem is that cardio and strength training are mostly seen as two opposite directions and if you’re focusing on doing one you are not allowed to do the other.
In reality it’s not the case. You need to lift heavy to be able to run very fast and you need to run (or do any prolonged movement activity) to develop your cardiovascular system and your heart. Strong heart and cardiovascular activity allows your body to recover faster, not to mention that after a certain threshold excessive muscle-building activity without proper cardio activity damages your heart and results in serious health troubles.
The real challenge is to combine both strength training and cardio into a single training regime that fits your needs – be it running/cycling/swimming faster and further, getting stronger, or just looking bigger/smaller/leaner. It’s definitely more challenging that focusing on one side of the coin, but gives much greater results.
Overall, it’s not rocket science. There are only 3 types of strength training that you can do which are: explosive, power or endurance strength training. Depending on your needs, you should give priority to one or another, but never use all of them at once (or in the single workout).
This involves maximum weights in sets of 1-2 repetitions and very long rest times between sets. It requires much less recovery time than the power work, but strength gains are much faster. However, this type of training requires more regularity and gains will diminish if not performed on a regular basis.
This involves somewhat medium weights (around 80%) in sets of 6-10 repetition and a medium rest interval. This one is good for muscle growing and gains are more permanent than explosive work. The downside is that recovery time is quite slow and will require a couple of days off for a muscle group.
This involves light weights and sets of 20+ repetitions and almost no rest whatsoever. As you might have guessed from the title it’s perfect for muscle endurance. It has a fast recovery period and in case of morning training you can already have a next session the same afternoon. Exercises usually involve own body weight.
My strength training regime
I like to combine things and do my strength training in blocks with an emphasis on power training in winter months and explosive and endurance work in summer.
The main reason is that in summer I do a lot of running, cycling and open water swimming every day, so I need a very fast recovery time. Often I have a second workout the same afternoon.
In winter months when the mileage is lower and the weather outside is not always the best, there’s more time for proper strength training and recovery. By proper, I mean that I can focus on 6-10 repetition sets and don’t worry about having sore muscles for next couple of days.
That’s that. In summer I usually take 1-2 days in a gym per week and in winter it may be 2-3 (can be more if I feel like having more body weight exercises and when it’s cold outside). I also always combine strength training with interval, recovery and steady running/swimming/cycling sessions to keep me excited.