ow to combine running and strength training

How to Combine Running and Strength Training

How to combine running and strength training to get the best of both worlds.

By Coach Hunter Bennett

Running and weight training are often thought to be at the opposite ends of the training spectrum, where focusing on one will detract from the other. However, this is not true.

If done correctly, strength training will not only improve your running performance, but you can still maximise improvements in strength.

Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to effectively integrate running and strength training into your routine.

Benefits of Combining Running and Strength Training

There are a number of key benefits that can come from combining running with strength training that you won’t get from either exercise modality alone.

  1. Improved Running Performance: Strength training builds strength and endurance, which improves running performance.
  2. Injury Prevention: Strengthening muscles, tendons, and ligaments reduces the risk of common running injuries.
  3. Better Recovery Capabilities: Running improves your aerobic fitness, which improves the rate you recover between sets in the gym, and between workouts.
  4. Greater Muscle Growth: Improving your aerobic fitness can enhance muscle growth, suggesting that running may facilitate hypertrophy.
  5. Enhanced Health: Aerobic exercise improves cardiovascular and metabolic health, reducing your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
  6. Longer Life Span: People who perform a combination of aerobic and weight training generally live longer than those who don’t. Combining running with strength training can literally add years to your life.

How to Combine Running and Strength Training: Designing a Workout Plan

How to combine running and strength training

So how do you design a running and strength training program?

Determine Your Goals:

Your goals will influence how you balance running and strength training.

For example, if your current goal is to run a marathon, the most of your training should be running, with 1-2 sessions of strength training per week to improve running performance and prevent injuries.

Conversely, if you want to get strong, build some muscle, and maintain a good aerobic base, you might only run 1-2 times per week and strength train 3-4.

The key is striking the balance that best fits your current goals, which can obviously change over time.

Schedule Your Workouts:

There are few things you need to consider when scheduling your workouts within a week.

  1. Don’t strength train your lower body after intense runs: To maximise the effectiveness of your strength training, you need your performance in the gym to be high. As such, try and avoid strength training the day after your most intense runs, as the fatigue will impact your performance.
  2. Combined your workouts: If your schedule is limited, you can strength train your lower body on the same day you do intense runs. This not only ensures you get in all your training, but by consolidating your lower body stress into a single day, you leave more time for recovery. In this instance your best bet is to strength train first, and the run after.
  3. Use upper body days as rest days: If you still want to maintain a strong and/or muscular upper body, you can add in some pure upper body days on the days you don’t run. These sessions will not impact on your lower body strength or running performance.
  4. Prioritize Recovery: If you are feeling flat, don’t be afraid to take a day or two off per week. This is great way to maximise recovery and ensure your performance does not decline.

Strength Training for Runners

How to combine running and strength training

Now, if your goal is to maximize running performance, there are some additional considerations you can make to get the most out of your strength training.

  1. Incorporate Compound Movements: Exercises like squats, deadlifts, and lunges, all contribute to lower body strength in a way that is somewhat specific to running. They need to be in your program.
  2. Add Plyometrics: Jumping and bounding exercises are a great way to increase power development and mechanical efficiency, improving your running performance.
  3. Upper Body Mobility: Look to include some exercises that take the shoulders through a full range of motion and encourage thoracic rotation to maintain an efficient running gait.
  4. Include Isolation Exercises: Include some isolation work in your program that focuses on some of the key muscles involved in running. Calf raises, adductor exercises, and even core work, can all help improve performance and prevent injuries.

These four tips are key when thinking about how to combine running and strength training effectively.

Example Weekly Running and Strength Training Workout Plan

Taking all this into consideration, a potential week of training could look like this:

  • Monday: Lower body plyometric and strength training
  • Tuesday: Long run (easy pace)
  • Wednesday: Upper body strength training
  • Thursday: Lower body strength training (AM) and interval run (PM)
  • Friday: Upper body strength training
  • Saturday: Lower body plyometrics (warmup) and long run (easy pace)
  • Sunday: Rest day

Keep in mind that this example is designed for someone who wants to improve upper and lower body strength, and running performance, at the same time.

As such, it simply provides an example of how you could structure your training and should be adjusted according with your individual goals and needs.

How to Combine Running and Strength Training: Tips for Success

How to combine running and strength training

Lastly, I wanted to go over some additional considerations that need to be made if you want to maximise running and strength training progress.

  1. Don’t be afraid to change it up: Due to its high impact nature, running is a demanding mode of exercise. If you are feeling beat up, don’t be afraid to swap out a run for a low impact modality (such as cycling or rowing) to speed up recovery. This will still provide an aerobic stimulus that contributes to running performance, without the fatigue associated with running.
  2. Fuel Properly: If you want to get fitter and stronger at the same time, you need to eat enough protein to promote recovery, and enough calories to fuel your training. Aim for ~1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight, and make sure to eat a surplus of food on training days.
  3. Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially before and after workouts. The last thing you want to do is enter a session dehydrated and have performance and recovery suffer.
  4. Get Enough Sleep: Sleep is arguably the best thing you can do for your recovery. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night.

How to Combine Running and Strength Training: Conclusion

Combining running and strength training can be challenging, but if you do it correctly, you can get the best of both worlds. By carefully planning your workouts, prioritizing recovery, and focusing on key muscle groups, you can enjoy the benefits of both forms of exercise.

If you are not sure where to start, check out some of our programs or feel free to contact us for more information.

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