Balancing Running and Weightlifting

Balancing running and weight training is not an easy task. In fact, there are many different variables that come into play when striving to excel in both. Some of the key areas we will discuss are:
1. Form and Breathing
2. Warming Up Properly
3. How much rest do we really need?
4. Increasing Weights while Running more miles
5. Nutrition and Hydration


Proper running form is key to reduce injury and allow you to run faster. When you are running you want to make sure you are upright, and not slouched over, or leaning back. As you are running, you want to bend at the ankles, rather than the hips. Make sure your hands, and shoulders are relaxed. The more you tense up, or clench your fists, the more energy your body is using. Your arms should swing naturally by your hips, and not side to side. Your arms will help to
propel you forward. Look ahead rather than at your feet and avoid excessive heel strike. These are key tips to help you when running faster, or longer distances.

Next, breathe slow. You want to stay relaxed, remember? Although it seems impossible to keep your breath slow while you are pushing yourself on a long run, but this will help you control your breaths and feel good for the duration of the run. More controlled breathing will lead to better endurance, and likely a less painful run. Breathing hard and heavy will use up more energy, increase your heart rate, and cause cramping. Focus on breathing from the diaphragm and ensure you’re not taking shallow breaths.

Warming up

Many of us skimp out on warm-ups or feel as though we are not “doing the workout yet” so we should not focus on our warmup. Warming up is a crucial component to any training program. Think about it, running is one of the most taxing activities on your body. Now, add heavy lifting onto this and you have a recipe for disaster if you are not taking care of your body with proper
warm up, rest, and recovery. It is recommended to warm up with a mixture of foam rolling, dynamic stretching, and drills. Before a run I may do something like A-skips, High Knees, Leg Swings, B-skips, Carioca, and strides. Similarly, before lifting you want to make sure you prep your muscles to be worked. If you’re doing a leg work out for example, you want to make sure you warm up and loosen up
your legs, hips, and back. You should be warming up the muscles you are using in the workout by performing similar movements without the load, so your body is able to get used to it. You also want to make sure you warm-up your ankles and core since you’re using these muscles to stabilize you in a variety of movements. A great way runners and lifters warm up is by using resistance bands. In running, resistance bands can help activate the hips, glutes, and adductors which will be used as you run. The mini loop bands are a great place to start! When you are lifting, you could use bands to warm up by performing some of the movements
you will be completing in your workout, but just a few reps and with a light band. Focus on feeling those muscles working beforehand so that when you begin adding weight, you will reduce the risk of injury.

Resting your body is a key component in your overall training program. If you are not getting proper rest, you can run into some severe overuse injuries, notice a decrease in performance, increase illness, constant soreness or fatigue, and moodiness. The damage that exercise causes triggers your body’s immune system to repair that damage, explains Adam Rivadeneyra, MD, a sports medicine physician with the Hoag Orthopedic Institute and the Orthopedic Specialty
Institute in Orange, California. He also states, “But you have to cause some damage to your body or it to adapt.”

It’s important to be honest with yourself about how you’re feeling. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, try increasing one weekly rest day to two weekly rest days and see if this makes a difference. If It does not you can consider decreasing the volume of training sets and increase at a slower rate.
When you are wanting to run faster, and get stronger, you must keep in mind that sometimes less is more. Sure, your weights and training volume will increase as time goes on. Mileage may also increase in your runs. However, doing too much training might put a halt in your progress to say the least.

Increase milage slow over time, for example if you are starting at 25 miles per week, run this for a couple of weeks, and then you may start increasing around 10% each week. Pay attention to how you feel once you’re at this point. If you feel like you’re increase too quickly, you may try cross training to build your base with things such as a stationary bike, or swimming laps.

A sample running program for someone who is at a moderate level can look something like this:

Monday: 3-4 miles
Tuesday: 2 miles warm up, 2 minutes on (tempo pace),
1 minute off for 15 minutes. 2 mile cool down. + strength training
Wednesday: 3-4 miles
Thursday: 2 miles steady pace, 1 mile on (tempo pace),
1 mile steady = 4 miles
+ strength training
Friday: 3 miles + core work
Saturday: Long Run 6-7 miles
Sunday: Rest

Week 2:
Monday: Long Easy Run (5 -7 miles)
Tuesday: 2 mile warm up + 6-8x 150-400meter hill (walk or jog down) + 2 mile cool down+
strength training
Wednesday: Recovery run (4-5 miles)
Thursday: 2 mile warm up
+ 6 -10 6OO m interval w/ 100 m roll on recovery + 2 mile cool down + strength training
Friday: 4 miles
Saturday: 3 miles
Sunday: Rest

Your Weight training Schedule can consist of full body and compound movements, with a focus on balance, core, and explosive exercises. Each week, you can have a lower body day and an upper body day, focused on main movements each week such as the HEX bar deadlift, squats, hip thrusts, and overhead press. Focusing on compound movements will allow your entire body
to get stronger. In my experience as a D1 athlete and competitive runner post college, I have performed best with 2 lifting days while mixing in abs and core in on the off days from the gym.

If your focus is endurance running, then your weight training will be more focused on endurance. If you are working to improve speed and short distance running, then your strength training might look a bit different. One important thing I would like to mention is that lifting is lifting. You get your fast paced cardio workouts when you run. When you come in the gym to lift, focus on going slower, perfecting your form on each exercise, getting stronger, and using mind muscle connection.
As you check out the running plan above, I mention something called a tempo. A tempo run means that this is the pace that is slightly faster than a recovery run, where you are pushing yourself harder, but you’re still able to maintain a conversation with the person next to you every
few breaths.

As far as splitting running and lifting, I recommend running first, and then a couple of hours later, complete your lift. This will allow you ample rest time in between both strenuous activities so that you can finish each one to the best of your abilities. I also recommend eating a nutritious meal in between each one. A great meal would be something like chicken, rice, and a small serving of veggies. As a runner and a weightlifter, your body is burning a ton of calories, even at rest! So, you have to take in ample calories for the activity that you are doing. Making sure you have a steady flow of nutrients will allow you to perform well. A sample meal plan could look something like this:

Breakfast: Oatmeal + eggs & fruit
Snack: Apple + Rice cakes & peanut butter
Lunch: Chicken, rice or potato, veggies
Dinner: Pasta, lean meat/fish/tofu, veggies, olive oil
Snack: Protein Shake

Make sure you are fueling up for your workouts, and you are also hydrating. Your body needs to be hydrated to work properly. A good rule of thumb is, if you’re waiting to be thirsty, chances are your body is already dehydrated. Aim to drink somewhere between 3-5 Liters of water per day.
By utilizing these tips above, I am hopeful that you will excel in both running and lifting to become a stronger, faster, and better overall athlete!

Leave a comment