How should you fit strength training into your busy running schedule?
As a runner looking to work a strength training routine into your running program, you must first ‘keep the goal, the goal’. In this case, the goal is to become a better runner and to become a better runner you need to keep your mileage up, keep your pace where your coach wants it. Doing so means that you must structure your strength training routine in a way which will not interfere with your ability to meet your mileage requirements at its’ intended pace, while still improving your strength & power.
This article outlines in point form general guidelines surrounding when you should be strength training, how you should structure your strength training program, when you should push it in the weight room, and how to ensure proper recovery.
When to train
- Lift 1-2 times per week in-season, and 2-3 times per week in the off-season.
- The interference effect occurs when your strength training volume and/or intensity negatively affects your ability to complete the outlined volume or intensity of your running program due to CNS fatigue and peripheral muscle fatigue.
- Interference can also work in the opposite direction, where the quality of your strength training program is negatively affected due to CNS fatigue, and peripheral fatigue, especially if hills were performed.
- If you must, always defer to running (unless at certain point of the off-season or if you are very strength deficient and improving it will help reduce injury risk or significantly boost your performance. You should consult with your coach to determine the best course of action).
- Ideally, lift on days that you are not running.
- If your lifestyle and the density of your running schedule dictates that you must lift on running days, choose lighter running days and aim to run in the morning and lift in the evening or vice versa
- If you do lift on hard running days, stick to an easy strength protocol, or even a deload protocol if the run is particularly intense or if you have stress built up from other areas of your life.
- Easy strength refers to using a minimal effective dose of intensity and volume in order to improve your strength and power, or at the very least maintain what you already have, while at the same time not creating a level of residual fatigue that affects your ability to train and compete effectively in your chosen sport.
- Use an easy strength training protocol in-season, or on days where you are performing both a strength session and a long or hard run.
- Work at 60-80% of 1RM for your compound lifts (lifts involving multiple muscle groups).
- Perform no more than 15 working reps of each exercise. A working rep is any rep that does not include warm-up reps with lighter resistance.
- Generally, choose 3-4 compound lifts, plus 2-3 core, coordinative, and/or plyometric movements. Start with mobility and stability drills for injury prevention (should be in and out of the gym in an hour)
When to push it
- The off-season should include days where you lift heavier or with greater volume to emphasize maximal strength development and work capacity. If you are lifting very heavy (greater than 90 % of 1RM, do no more than 9 total working reps of that exercise…not 9 PER SET, by the way).
- If you are new to strength training, you may need to perform a higher volume of sets and reps to learn the movements. This may cause more peripheral muscle fatigue in the short term, but is a necessity when first beginning to train. The long-term positives still far outweigh the short-term negatives!
- It is necessary to take deloading weeks. This is where you will reduce the intensity and/or volume of your strength training in order to give your body the time it needs to fully recover and deliver positive adaptations to the training you’ve already done. During deloading weeks you want to be sure to not take the entire week off, as when you return back to training, you will have lost some of the coordination and strength that you worked so hard to achieve.
- Reduce lifting volume to 10 total working reps of each exercise and reduce lifting intensity by 10-20% of your 1RM
- While there are various periodization schemes you can use, a classic and basic example is 1 deloading week for every 3 weeks of hard training.
- If you must lift immediately prior to running or vice versa, further reduce the lifting intensity by 10-20% (even if you’re already lifting lighter) and reduce the number of compound and core lifts by 2 each. Emphasize the speed of movement as well as posterior chain movements, versus emphasizing the amount of load lifted and the quadriceps.
Corrective exercises, yoga, coordinative strength training (i.e much more running specific work with light resistance) may be performed on your rest days, your moderate running days, or your long run/hard days. If you feel like you need total rest, take it, but try to at least fit in a light walk for recovery.
Listen to your body and 1 size does not fit all
- Various life stressors can affect your ability to achieve your full performance potential and ability to recover. Work, relationships, financial stress, lack of sleep, and general anxiety need to be factored into how hard you push your body.
- When you know, you know. If you just feel terrible one day, modify your volume and/or intensity as you see fit even if your training program calls for something else.
- Everyone is unique and reacts differently to various program prescriptions. This is where the benefit of a coach’s guidance comes into play. If you are in Vancouver and are in need of assistance, we’re more than happy to help :).
Below is a sample training schedule, outlining where you can fit your strength training in around your running workouts.
Mid-week longer run
|Strength #3 (in off-season)
Light walk for recovery
|Strength #1||Corrective exercises||Light walk for recovery||Strength #2||-Corrective exercises
-Light running coordination strength drills
-Light running coordination strength drills