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Back to the weight room

The day before the Muskoka race, a panel of professional triathletes gathered for a Q&A session and perhaps one of the best questions asked was about strength training.

What do these pros do when it comes to strength training?

The best answer came from one of the guys who noted he was too competitive to go the gym and strength train since the amount of weight he would be lifting would pale in comparison to the amount the guys who lived in the gym year-round could lift.

That elicited a hearty round of laughs.

But mostly, the professional triathletes add some strength training in during the off season. Most of them (at least the ones on this panel) disliked traditional weight training. Some opted to do strength building exercises within the three sports, like swimming with paddles or running hills. Everyone did core work and some of the women noted they added pilates to their routine.

Strength building for them was mostly seen as an injury prevention and general health maintenance.

And something they didn't quite enjoy.

So it's a bit off the beaten path when I tell you that I actually enjoyed my past week of off-season training, filled with strength training and drills.

The warning was stark in my training plan. "Remember we are back to basics here," my coach wrote. "The next three weeks will be very boring. Use this time to work on good mental and physical habits."

Granted, I completely complained about the one-legged cycling drills (more on that later) but quietly, I've enjoyed the focus on drills and strength. It might be because it's the first week and the repetition hasn't set in just yet. Repetition is boring. It's supposed to be. It's supposed to be the same simple thing, over and over again, until it becomes ingrained in your brain, or in your body, or both. There's a reason why I can say hello to Marie France and ask how she's doing in French -- because that's how every single French class in high school began.

But to be honest, there's something about the basics that I find appealing. There's something satisfying in that low-level soreness from pushups and bench presses. There's something satisfying in repeating finger-tip drag drills in the pool or surviving five sets of one-leg bike drills. Performing the basics means slowing down. It means being thoughtful about what you're doing. 

It's actually a nice break from trying to hit target paces and zones. It's simple and yet it feels like progress is being made.

Which is something to remind myself while doing one-legged bike drills again today.

It's about slowing down and working on my pedal stroke, about focusing on technique which will make me a faster cyclists once the spring rolls around.

When I take my time in the gym, it won't be about lifting more (or as much) as someone else, but about getting my body stronger and more fit.

There's nothing like drill work to take you back to the basics of sport -- working to become the best athlete you can become, regardless of where that may rank you among others.

And there definitely is something satisfying in that.

--- Amy Moritz
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