Though running and weightlifting are some of the most popular sports in the world, there are many people who believe that runners should not lift weights because it takes time away from their running. Lifting weights can also increase muscle mass, which is said to make running more difficult.
On the other side of the coin, there are those who are advocates for incorporating strength training into your running regime. We’re going to take a look at the relationship between these two sports and whether or not they mix well.
Read on for more.
A Rundown of Running VS Strength Training
To be able to combine running with weightlifting, it is important that you understand how your body reacts to moving heavy objects. Picture pushing a hand truck 50 feet. Sounds quite easy, doesn’t it? That’s basically what running is.
Your body is the hand truck, and you are able to move its weight with very little effort. Now, try sliding the hand truck beneath a refrigerator and pushing it a mere 5 feet. Far more challenging. This is the concept of mechanical loading and is why 10 heavy squats are much more painful than 1 000 foot strikes.
Strength training can actually make you a faster runner, and the reason for this is because it decreases the amount of energy needed to reach a certain space. Your brain alters its neural recruitment pattern, activating the muscle fibers that are the most resistant to fatigue so that you do not exert as much energy.
Combining Running With Strength Training
In a recent research study, 15 runners of a range of abilities and average weekly running distances performed various sessions of strength-training on three occasions. One workout was high-intensity for the legs, one was a high-intensity workout involving the entire body, and another was a low-intensity, whole-body workout.
When 6 hours after the workout had elapsed, the runners performed a 10-minute treadmill test at 70% of the ventilatory threshold pace, which is generally considered quite easy. Then, they performed a 90% threshold pace for the same amount of time, which is close to the pace of a half marathon.
Finally, they ran on the treadmill for as long as they could at 110% of the threshold pace. Additionally, the participating runners performed the test during the study’s outset to get a benchmark of how they would do when they weren’t tired.
The high-intensity strength exercises drastically decreased the time to exhaustion of the runners at the test’s conclusion. On average, they lasted about 5 minutes at 110% of the threshold pace for the benchmark test. After all of the sessions of high-intensity strength training, the runners’ time to exhaustion had decreased by nearly a minute.
This suggests that the challenging weight exercises that the runners had performed 6 hours earlier had drastically decreased their capability to sustain fast running.
Incorporating Weight Training Into Your Own Regime
These findings have a number of practical implications for ways that you could arrange your workout as a runner. First, we suggest that you do not schedule a difficult running workout later in the same day as your weight training sessions. Like we mentioned earlier, your running performance is impaired 6 hours after lower-intensity resistance training.
Therefore, even if you are a trained runner, you are going to need more than 6 hours to recover if you want to be able to do your high-intensity running sessions. What’s more, it is still quite difficult to run at your max effort a full day after even low-intensity weight training. You might require more than 14 hours to recover from your low-intensity resistance training before you are ready to run at your full potential again.
At lower intensities, running performance is also unaffected by weight training workouts. You could perform strength training and running sessions on the same day – 6 hours apart, of course – so long as your running session does not have you pushing your limits. In Layman’s terms, if you have a long, easy run or a recovery run on your schedule, you are more than welcome to train weights that same day, so long as your workouts are separated by a 6-hour rest period.
If you can, we suggest that you rearrange your schedule so that, on the days that you are both lifting and running, running takes place first. Lower-intensity resistance training done 6 hours before your moderate to high-intensity running sessions can cause you to feel fatigued even the day after, much more than if you performed the reverse.
So, if you are performing low-intensity running and resistance training sessions on the same day, you should run first, lift later.
What Happens to Your Body When Running?
Running is a cardiovascular exercise, which means that it involves inhaling and utilizing oxygen. As you already know, your heart rate speeds up when you run, you breathe quicker, and you become warmer, all because you are relying on your cardiovascular system.
Cardio helps better the body’s aerobic fitness, and you will begin to see improvements in your lungs’ function, and the functions of the heart and blood. What’s more, your ligaments also receive some benefits when you perform cardio.
There are not many adaptations that happen to your muscles when you run, and the improvements in endurance and strengths are associated more with resistance training.
However, the most popular aspect of cardio – specifically running – is that it burns a very high number of calories for each hour spent exercising. In fact, running burns around 300 – 400 calories for every 30 minutes, on average.
What Happens to Your Body During Strength Training?
Strength training – or weightlifting – is a kind of resistance training. Its goal is to improve the level of force that your muscles are able to exert, and in order to achieve this, you have to train your body to work against high resistances, which generally involves lifting heavy weight.
There are a range of changes that happen in the body due to strength training. Your brain can better send the appropriate signals to your muscles in order to cause them to contract, and your muscles can also increase in size and be capable of exerting more force.
What’s more, since you will have built your strength up from a good foundation, you will have lots of endurance and stability in your muscles as well. In comparison to cardiovascular exercise, strength training does not burn as many calories per every 30 minutes, though building muscle will increase your metabolism over time.
This means that you would have to consume more calories in a day in order to maintain your muscle mass and weight. Failure to do so would result in your muscles slowly weakening.
How Runners Can Benefit From Strength Training
As a runner, you have to rely on your muscles to prevent injuries that are often caused by the exercise. The act of running can wreak havoc on your joints if your muscles are not strong enough to support the repeated impacts that occur when you run.
Most of the best running programs will incorporate resistance or weight training alongside running. When you do not spend enough time building endurance in your muscles and strengthening them, you will soon find yourself with problems in your calves, knees, or glutes.
Tightness and pain in these areas are common when you are racking up the miles and are generally caused by a lack of muscle strength.
Is it Possible to Run & Build Strength at the Same Time?
The short answer: yes. In fact, running and building strength at the same time is actually encouraged.
A more common question is: can you lose weight and build muscle simultaneously? There’s a more complex answer to this.
If you want to be able to build lots of muscle, you would do well to put yourself into a caloric surplus, which is the part of the ‘bulk and cut’ that involves the bulking that we’re sure you have heard a lot about. You will likely end up eating more calories than usual if you are training to consume enough protein to encourage your body to develop larger muscles.
On the other hand, if you want to be able to lose weight, you have to put yourself into a caloric deficit. It is impossible to be in a caloric deficit and surplus simultaneously, which is why it is so challenging to lose weight and build lots of muscle at the same time. Keep in mind that running burns quite a few calories.
So, training frequently, growing larger muscles, enough protein, offsetting calorie burn, and running often all at the same time is no easy task. This is why we suggest that you rather focus on one of these things at a time to avoid frustration and confusing the hell out of your body.
Other than building larger muscles, resistance training and running can actually complement one another quite nicely. Working on your endurance and strength by working out with weights is always a good idea and can certainly be done effectively in conjunction with your running regime.
Just remember that when you’re using running shoes that these aren’t always suitable for strength training as well, specifically when you’re doing compound exercises such as deadlifts or squats. This is because of the high heel to toe drop, whereas strength training requires a flat foot. You could simply take the shoes off or use workout specific shoes for strength training.
Using a GPS watch can help you monitor both activities. For example, a good GPS fitness tracker can monitor your pace, distance, calories burned when running but what some people don’t know is that it can also count your reps in the gym, and monitor your overall strength workout in anaerobic mode to gauge calories burned and intensity as well.
Marko is a recreational runner (and a techie) that has completed a full-distance trail marathon from Australia. He is the lead writer at JogTunes and spends his off-time time testing different running shoes and GPS watches.