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Vegan Strength Training for Triathlon


Despite yesterday’s perplexing MAF test, my real conundrum consists of how to transition into a three-month strength training phase. Since I have been experiencing success with the Maffetone method of low stress, low intensity, purely aerobic training, I am at a bit of a loss about how to proceed. In his Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing he explains that all strength training should be considered as anaerobic, and therefore potentially damaging to increasing aerobic fitness and fat burning metabolism. Since endurance events rely almost exclusively on aerobic energy, strength training is less important. As I understand it, this is because aerobic endurance relies on the slow twitch muscle fibers and strength training recruits mostly fast twitch fibers. So, in essence the wrong muscle fibers are being trained if endurance is the goal. Maffetone explains on page 122:

“Some feel the added muscle gained during lifting will protect them from injury. But it’s the aerobic muscle fibers that perform this task much more than the anaerobic fibers. Others feel weight training improves power, which it does. But this power is not used nearly as significant (sic) as aerobic function in endurance events.”

So why am I risking it?

I fall into a couple of exceptional categories:

  • Age:  I am now at an age where maintaining muscle mass with strength training may outweigh the risks
  • Aerobic Base: I have completed six months where nearly all workouts were purely aerobic. I cut back on racing.
  • Ski season: While I am not as dedicated to alpine skiing as previously, I know from experience how helpful the gym is.
  • Racing: What? Despite what Maffetone believes, I believe that in off-road racing there is greater need for power than racing on the road.

So, I am willing to risk it. The conundrum is how to design a workout that will increase strength without interfering with my aerobic development, since I still have a long way to go, as clearly shown by my MAF test.

The Plan:

Today I trained basic movements: lower body thrust, upper body push, upper body pull, crunch and back extension. It looked like this:

Chest Press 2×12

Lat pull-down 2×12

Leg Press 2×15

Crunch 2×20

Back Extension 2×12

I tried as hard as I could to keep intensity and volume low. I know my joints will be sore for a while as I adapt. I want to do the minimum possible that will still get gains. I am trying to apply the “less is more” philosophy to the gym and avoid the injury and burnout producing “no pain no gain” mantra. So, I’ll hit the gym again this weekend and change up the exercises, but keep the same template. Knowing whether I am on the right track will come from watching my HRV and my MAF test result in two weeks.