A blog by runners. For runners.

Tips for balancing running and strength training

How to balance running and strength trainingAt the start of every training plan, I have the best of intentions. I always vow to strength train regularly to prevent injuries and build speed. Usually, I’m good about sticking to a weightlifting regimen for the first few weeks.

But eventually all the long runs, speedwork sessions, and lifting begin to take their toll on my body. I start feeling sore most of the time and worry my strength training regimen is hindering my running performance. So, I stop hitting the weights until after race day.

This has literally happened close to a dozen times now, and I’ve had it. I’m on a mission to balance running and strength training for real.

Here’s what I plan to do.

1. Focus on strength in the off-season. This is the big one. Previously, I waited until week one of a training plan to start lifting, which is a mistake. Instead, it’s a better idea to start strength training months before a marathon training program starts. This way, you can concentrate on strength training workouts without any worries. If you’re sore the next day and can’t run as fast or need to take an extra rest day, it’s no big deal since you’re not currently in training mode. Also, by getting into a lifting habit now, it makes it less likely that you’ll drop your strength training sessions once training picks up. Not to mention, you’ll already be stronger when you begin training again. You’ll just have to focus on speed instead of both speed and strength.

2. Take ample rest days. Training for a race taxes your body, and so does lifting heavy weights. Without taking adequate time off to rest and recover, your body will become worn down. If you’re used to just taking one rest day per week, you may have to take two days off if you start hitting the weights.

3. Cut back on running mileage. If you’re doing several weight lifting sessions per week, you may not have the time – or energy – to also do 4 or 5 runs per week. Consider dropping an easy run or two, especially if your strength training sessions are intense. Cutting back on mileage can be unnerving, but replacing a run or two with a strength training workout each week may be your ticket to faster race times.

4. Not scheduling two tough workouts back-to-back. You wouldn’t do your Yasso 800s the day after your 20-mile long run (we hope). So don’t do your tempo run or interval workout the day after a strenuous lifting session. Everyone’s recovery needs are different, so there’s not a one-size fits all approach. Consider starting with this basic schedule and tweaking it according to your needs:

  • Monday: Rest day
  • Tuesday: Speed run
  • Wednesday: Strength
  • Thursday: Easy run
  • Friday: Strength
  • Saturday: Long run
  • Sunday: Strength

If you need another rest day per week, combine a strength session with your easy run. If it’s still too much for you, drop a lifting session and only do two per week. Or keep the strength training workout the day before your long run light.  

5. Rethink what “strength training” means. There are a lot of ways to strength train, and they don’t necessarily have to involve weights. High-intensity interval training, power yoga, and barre classes all count as resistance training workouts.

Have you successfully balanced running and strength training? If so, we’d love to hear how you made it work.

Written by Jen Matz.