When you focus on one thing in life and work hard at it, you get better. When you train for one type of athletic challenge and work hard at it, you get better.
If you run long distances, you train your endurance system and become better at running long distances. The same is true for biking and swimming. When you exercise for long periods of time you optimize your endurance capacity. You build up your aerobic energy system, which enables you to efficiently utilize oxygen for the production of energy while you're exercising. You enhance the ability of slow twitch muscle fibers, the tissue that supports this sustained activity, which is fueled by continual energy production.
When you lift heavy weights different things happen to your body. You strengthen bones and muscle, increasing your capacity to do short bursts of high intensity work.You build up your anaerobic energy system which enables you to mobilize great strength and speed quickly from stored sources of energy. You enhance the ability of fast twitch muscle fibers, the tissue that sustains these quick bursts of high intensity activity. (Although once you use this stored energy, you need to rest and recover, like a sprinter at the end of a race).
No athlete uses only endurance or only strength & power. We are all have a combination of these different types of energy and muscle systems.
I had a conversation last weekend, at the Falmouth Road Race, with a two time Olympic athlete who holds multiple distance running records. While we talked about running, we also talked about building strength. He's a world class endurance athlete, but even he, someone at one extreme of the human performance spectrum, recognizes that absolute strength has a role to play in fitness.
After training for and running a marathon with my daughter this spring, I was ready for a change. I'd set aside the resistance training that's part of my normal routine during the high mileage weeks leading up to the race. With the race complete, I was ready to hit the gym again and rebuild my strength and power.
Someone saw me working hard and mentioned that there was a powerlifting competition at the end of August. I said to myself, change is good, and what better way to commit to change than taking on a new challenge. I signed up for my first ever, powerlifting event, which involves lifting the maximum weight possible for the squat, the bench press and the deadlift.
It's been great fun this summer training to expand my capability in something new.
What about you? What challenges have you taken on lately? What changes have you made to expand your potential?
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