One of the biggest concerns runners have is maintaining that balancing act of being extremely lean, yet also having the muscle strength to power through speed.
“Don’t you lift too much for a marathon runner? Won’t you get bulky, gain weight, and not be able to run as fast?” — I lift 5-6 days a week
“You can’t build muscle being a runner! You’re lucky you don’t have a trainer they never would let you run that much.” — I ran 50 miles a week during prep.
Now I want to state for the record that every body is different, every person has to undergo a different journey to get to wherever they are headed, so I am not stating that this is how you need to go about things but rather telling my journey.
Lets start with running, since it is by far my favorite. Now I have been running for as long as I can remember and have competed for many many years; and it wasn’t until just recently that I really started to come into my own. This could be attributed to a lot of different reasons:
1. Women tend to peak right about the age that I am now.
2. I’m a lot more confident in myself than I ever used to be.
3. I believe in myself.
4. I have much greater knowledge about training.
5. My nutrition is a lot more on point.
My list could go on and on but one thing I really want to stress is that in the last two-three years I started incorporating serious strength training into my routine. Since I incorporated this my times have skyrocketed downward. I can faster sooner and for a longer period of time; my muscle endurance, power, and quickness has improved due to lifting.
Did I get bulky by lifting 5 days a week? No.
Did I improve my times? Yes.
Do I feel so much more confident about myself? Yes.
Running requires a lot of muscle energy, sometimes I feel like more than people think about. The stimga about being very lean and low weight for running tends to override the basic biology that strength and endurance comes from your muscles.
When you break down a run into its components you realize how much muscle strength and endurance is necessary in order to power through a run:
–Each foot strike
–Driving the knees forward
–Pumping of the arms
–Stabilization of the core
–Slight rotation that occurs in your back as you pump your arms
All of which can be improved by increasing muscle strength and endurance.
Muscle Strength: The ability of a muscle or group of muscles to exert force to overcome the resistance in one effort.
Example: Your foot strike when running; you need muscle strength to exert force into the group and push-off of it for your next stride.
Muscle Endurance: The ability of the muscle or muscle group to exert force overcoming resistance many times.
Example: While running you are constantly pumping your arms creating force on those muscle groups for a long period of time.
I found that by strength training the ache in my shoulders took longer to grab hold of me, my form improved, and my back stopped hurting.
Alright so Bikini Competitions. Now I am one of the blessed that loves “cardio” (ie: I love to run and bike). Most competitors do not enjoy cardio and find it to be the hardest part of their programs. Yet I found that the idea that being a “runner” held this idea that you could not gain muscle mass, you wouldn’t be able to achieve a six-pack, or the perky glutes that are so important to bikini competitions.
As I mentioned above strength training made a huge difference in my running and I found that my running kept me lean and toned for competing so that I did not have to go through the horrendous diets that sometimes people undertake. What it boiled down to is that my strength training kept me strong for running and running kept me about a week out at all times.
Now yes there are still plenty of areas that I need to work on to be ready to compete in October at the Night of Champions; like putting some more size on my shoulders, lifting my glutes, and building my hamstrings but does it worry me that at the same time I start prep for NOC I start training for my October marathon? No because the changes that I need to make for NOC will help me with my marathon.
Increasing my muscle mass has been two-fold:
1. Up the weight that I am lifting and focus on the areas that need work. How I’ve done that is train shoulders twice a week and legs twice a week; one day of the two I lift heavy weight and the other day I decrease the weight a little and increase the reps to build tone on top of bulk.
2. My diet! Diet has been my biggest challenge for a long time. Thank you anorexia! I’ve gone through a lot of ups and downs with it, tried many different ways from gluten-free, dairy free, to the just not eating much, etc and none gave me the energy that I needed to perform.
Now I eat a high protein and fat diet with lower carbs; the carbs I do eat are found in oats, fruit, sweat potatoes, and rice. This is what I have personally found to work the best for me, it reduces any bloating in my stomach, I have the most energy, and feel the best on this diet.
Competing as both a marathon runner and in bikini has been a huge learning experience; learning how to balance lifting, running, and diet so that they all complement each other rather than hinder. It means long days sometimes as I wake up at 4:30 am to get my miles in for the day and then lift with my fiance in the evenings (I personally have found that I have a harder time lifting in the mornings on an empty stomach so I account for that by running in the mornings). It has meant learning how to meal prep and create a meal plan for myself that gives me energy, strength, and enough calories to function throughout the full day.
It is a balancing act between all and sometimes it is difficult and tiring but it has allowed me to learn more about my body than I have could dream of.
What have you done when everyone else said you couldn’t?