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How to add a strength component to your endurance training
on February 6, 2010
Before I get to what Brendan Brazier's Thrive Fitness is, let me start with what it isn't. It's not a diet plan: Thrive, Brendan's first book, already went there. And while I consider Thrive to be somewhat revolutionary in its comprehensive treatment of the vegan diet for athletes, Thrive Fitness isn't going to change the way we look at training.
What Thrive Fitness is, however, is an answer to the question "How should I incorporate strength training into my current endurance program?" This is a question I've asked myself a lot, wondering at what point the risk of injury outweighs the potential for strength gains. Brendan's answer takes the form of a set of workouts, to be done at a gym or at home with minimal equipment, that can be laid on top of one's current running, cycling, or swimming schedule.
Though a few guidelines for cardio workouts are given and some special attention paid for those brand new to running, most of the focus regarding endurance and cardio workouts is on what to eat before, during and after them. About twenty "sport-specific" recipes (energy gels, energy pudding, energy bars, pre- and post-workout drinks, sports drink, etc.) are provided, including several original versions of what eventually became Brendan's commercial Vega line of products. What's more, by incorporating new superfoods, several of the recipes in Thrive Fitness are nutritional improvements over those given in Thrive.
My favorite part of Thrive Fitness, though, is what makes it unique in a sea of other fitness books---the focus on energy, sleep, stress, and non-physical benefits of exercise, such as creativity, active meditation, and the effects of endorphins. I found that reading about these added perks, rather than the standard fat-loss, muscle-gain fare of other exercise books, motivated me more than anything has in a while to hit the gym or to get out for a run.
So would I recommend Thrive Fitness? To complete exercise newbies, no. To accomplished endurance athletes who are happy with their current strength-training regimen, probably not, though useful insights could be gleaned from the aforementioned section on the non-physical benefits and the "Fuel for Fitness" chapter, including the training recipes. But to those who have run a marathon, a half, or even multiple such events, and are looking to take their fitness to the next level by adding a strength component to their training, absolutely. Thrive Fitness provides that component in a flexible manner that can serve as either a training overhaul or a simple tune-up, whichever is desired.