How to Include Strength Training During Marathon Training {Marathon Monday} + Portland Training Week 10

How to include Strength Training during Marathon Training

How was your weekend, everyone? Ryan and I got back last night from a few days away in Madison, Wisconsin for a wedding, in which he was a groomsman. We had lots of fun seeing our college friends. I took a few days off of social media and blogging to help with the wedding and reconnect with friends, some of whom we hadn’t seen since our wedding.

Last Marathon Monday I offered 4 reasons why you should strength train during marathon training. Strength training, especially when you’re logging several hours of running per week, is easier said than done, so today I want to offer practical tips on how to include strength training during marathon training.

Run First, Lift Later

Chances are, if you’re training for a marathon, you’re running most days of the week and will end up strength training on some of the same days you run. Whether you run in the morning or after school or work, you want to run before your strength training. This way, your muscles are fresh for your running and you can give it your best effort. If you end up cutting your workout short, then your running won’t suffer. After all, you are training for a marathon or other race, so you don’t want to compromise your goal (building endurance) by strength training first.

Sneak It in After Your Run

Some days, you just don’t want to fit in a second workout! Instead, try adding a quick 15-minute strength workout immediately after an easy run. It doesn’t have to be complicated; some bodyweight exercises such as squats, push ups, planks, and lunges are incredibly effective but don’t require a lot of time or any equipment. Your muscles will be warmed up from running, so you will have a full range of motion and can get the most out of strength training. Cool down from your strength training just as you would with a run, by foam rolling and immediately re-fueling with a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of carbs and protein.

Strength Train on Hard Days…

No matter the distance for which you are training, endurance training abides by a simple rule: keep your hard days hard and your easy days easy. You can apply the concept of polarized training to your strength training as well. Do your strength workouts, especially if you lift heavy weights, later in the day after an interval or tempo run. This will allow your body to fully recover from heavy lifting so that, by your next key workout, you aren’t experiencing too much notable soreness.

…Or on Easy Days

While strength training on hard days follows the hard/easy paradigm of sensible training, I prefer to strength train on easy days. Speed work and goal pace workouts tire me out, so if I add a second workout those days, it’s usually Pilates or yoga. I strength train instead on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so one of the sessions is the evening before my goal pace workout. To balance that, I do lighter weights on that day (so I’m not sore before a key workout) and then a more intense strength workout the day before an easy run. This variety is beneficial for me as well, as it keeps me from plateauing or getting bored with my workouts.

Try a Group Fitness Class

Participating in a group fitness class is a great way to commit to a strength training routine. First, you don’t have to worry about which exercises to do or how many reps, as the instructor will guide you throughout the entire workout. Second, the social aspect is motivating and, even if you’re feeling tired, working out with other people will prevent you from quitting early. Finally, group exercise classes usually involve a fee in advance, so you are less likely to skip your workout when you’ve already paid for it! Check out these tips for incorporating group fitness classes into your training schedule.

Make the Most of Your Time

Some people may love long strength training sessions, but I personally find that short and effective sessions work best for me, especially during marathon training. I stick to 15-30 minute strength workouts that hit as many muscle groups as possible. Rather than isolating a single muscle, I do moves such as kettlebell swings, jump squats, lunges, bridges, and planks to get a total body workout without spending an hour at the gym. In addition to being more time effective, strength exercises to activate multiple muscle groups are more specific for the total-body movements of running. 

Questions to the Day:
How do you include strength training in your marathon training?
Any tips you’d add to this list?
Do you attend group fitness classes?

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22 Responses

  1. You had a great week of training even with the rest days (I don’t blame you to take them, travelling and being with others is more important anyway sometimes, running is always there when you get back). For strength training, I do BodyPump class, I actually put it before running on the day I do it because it has a cardio component as well. I feel like it makes me a better runner and the group class is pretty much the only way I’ll be dedicated to lift.

  2. Another great post! I try my best to strength train on my hard days, that way my easy days are truly easy. That said, it doesn’t always work out that way and I have to grab it when I can. But my favorite trick when pressed for time is to do exactly what you recommend up there–sneak it in post run.

  3. These are great tips! On days when I had to do running and strength training on the same day, I’d lift first and do my easy run later or right after, as it’s not a great idea to lift when fatigued (unless you mainly focus on upper body, but I always save that for my post long-run day!) but running when fatigued can help prep you for those last 10 km.

  4. I went to UW-Madison for undergrad and absolutely love the summers there! I hope you guys enjoyed it 🙂 I am definitely a group fitness type of person besides teaching, I also reactivitated my Classpass so I can try a bunch of different strength-training classes. I’ve tried the whole gym membership route and just can’t motivate myself to go alone (mostly because I have no idea what I’m doing!)

    1. The campus was so beautiful! That’s where the bride and groom both go (for undergrad and grad, respectively) and I loved the beautiful lakes and nice restaurants and bars there! I’ve heard so many great things about Classpass, especially because of the variety it gives!

    1. I love seeing all your strength training posts on Instagram! You’re so right, it’s one of the best ways to improve without adding on a ton of miles and risking injury!

  5. Such awesome tips! I try to sneak it in on my hard days to make easy days, really easy. If that doesn’t happen, I’m also very fortunate to work in a gym so my down time is spent lifting things up and putting ’em down. 😉

  6. Great read. There’s not a lot online about lifting heavy while training for a long race. I discovered the hard way that running before weights is the way to go!

    I ended up scaling back on weight, and incorporating a light strength routine.

    I started lifting heavy by taking group Strength and Conditioning classes with a trainer. Those classes have since ended, but many of the attendees and I have formed the unofficial “Ladies Lifting Club” at the gym for companionship and accountability. Now if only I could convince them to become distance runners!

    1. Thank you! Scaling back is good – you don’t want to place too much stress on the body – but it’s definitely beneficial to keep up with it! I’m a big believer in keeping up strength training while training for a long distance. It sounds like you’re doing great with your lifting and running!

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