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Add a little strength

The fall and winter months can be frustrating for triathletes. Cold, wind and rain can put a real damper on a training schedule.

You could curl up on the couch, watch reruns of this month's Ironman on ESPN and wait for the weather to clear, or you could hit the gym and get those muscles primed for the spring season.

Don't be afraid of weights. A little strength training will enhance your performance, whether you are a runner, swimmer, biker or triple-sport enthusiast. Just keep your workout light and varied.

Simple calisthenics, the kind you learned in high school gym class, will go a long way toward keeping a body lean and mean in the off-season.

Where do you start? With the most basic of exercises: the push-up.

Navy SEALS, Army Rangers and Marines do push-ups for a reason. The exercise works the arms, chest, shoulders and back all at once.

You can do push-ups anywhere, any time, and it is virtually impossible to injure yourself doing them (unless somebody is standing on your back) because fatigue will set in before you can do any real damage.

Vary your hand placement from wide to narrow to work different muscle groups. If you start to get bored, make up games. A personal favorite involves a deck of cards. Pull a seven and do seven push-ups. Your training partner pulls a king and does 10. Get the picture?

When you are done, flip the deck over and start dealing again, this time for crunches. Alternate from up-and-down crunches to alternate knee crunches.

If this doesn't have you panting, hit the pull-up bar. Do as many pull-ups (palms toward your face) as you can, take a 60 second rest, then do another set, minus one. Keep decreasing the number of reps until you hit zero, take another break, then start with chin-ups (palms facing away from your face.)

Take a day off to rest (or run, swim, ride, paddle, surf, whatever tickles your fancy, except, of course, strength training), then hit the gym for a light weight workout. Try to work all the muscle groups, including the chest, back, legs, abdominals and arms, alternating low and high reps.

The key is to keep your routine varied. You are training for overall fitness, so don't feel as if you have to do the same exercise twice.

Be sure to spend plenty of time stretching when you are finished. This will keep you from waking up feeling stiff the next day.

By now, the sky may have cleared and you can hit the pavement again for a 20-mile ride. But if you see clouds on the horizon, don't fret. Just pick up the cards and cut the deck with a friend.

STRENGTH TRAINING

To target:

Chest: bench press, incline press.

Shoulders: military press, upright row.

Triceps: reverse curl, dips

Abdominals: crunches, leg lifts.

Legs: squats, leg extensions.

Back: behind the neck chin-ups.

Biceps: curls, pull-ups.

CROSS-TRAINING TIPS

Swimming: try canoeing, kayaking, rowing or surfing.

Running: try biking, in-line skating, hiking or walking.

Biking: try running, in-line skating, hiking or walking.

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