An athlete's function is one of those things that is taken for granted until it is not working properly. If you have ever had an injury, no matter how big or small it was you will know what I am talking about. When your body cannot not function properly no matter how fit you are, your performance is not going to be good.
Most endurance athletes that I meet focus solely on developing their engine (fitness) it just comes with the territory. There is no point having a massive engine in a rusted out old car. As soon as you get it wound up on the open road things are going to start falling off and breaking down. For you to achieve your peak performance you need your body's function to meet your engine capacity.
An athlete's function relates to their mechanical function, muscle balance, posture and their ability to move and live as a human being. If you have poor posture, muscular imbalances, lower back pain or do not have adequate core strength to stand properly, then as soon as you start training hard in complex movement patterns such as running, kayaking, cycling and swimming you will start overloading certain muscles, tendons and joints through poor movement patterns, increased training loads and you will become injured.
Now I know that you will be thinking that you do not have the time to add in extra training sessions or you may hate the gym training and would rather be outside in the elements.
The first thing is that these sessions do not have to be long. I always come back to getting the biggest possible result from the smallest possible change. So if you are struggling with shin splints, knee pain or lower back issues then put your emphases on these areas rather than deciding to have a full body overhaul. These problems can often be fixed with a couple of focused 10 -15 min sessions per week. If you do have more time however then being proactive with your functional strength development is going to pay dividends in you later training phases.
Secondly if you are one of those people who do not like the gym then that is fine. You do not need lots of big expensive machines to perform good functional training. You can perform highly effective functional training at home with minimal gear such as a swiss ball, barbell, rubber tubing or band and a kettlebell or dumbbell. For those people who have the excuse that they would rather get outside and train instead of doing strength indoors I always say that if you do not spend a bit of time inside working on this now then you will be spending a lot of time inside missing out on training later with an injury. Remember that this functional strength training is designed to enable you to spend more time outside training hard when it really counts.
Who benefits the most from functional strength training?
- Those with reoccurring injuries and niggly pain during and after training or racing
- Those who have hit a plateau with their performance
- Those who have been in their sport of greater than 5 years and have not done any functional strength training
If you tick any of these boxes then the $7 cost of the Performance Temple FUNCTION handbook which includes a comprehensive functional strength training plan for endurance athletes is going to be money well spent.