If I were to ask you to describe the ideal bodybuilding physique for both men and women I can almost guarantee the following terms would be your choice adjectives. It will probably be “large quads”, “v taper lats”, “ huge arms and shoulders” and my all time favorite “ripped abs”.
Now in stark contrast, if I were to ask you to describe the ideal running or runner’s physique I am willing to bet money it would be the exact opposite of the above. Runners tend to be lean and mean. And yes, you runners can be quite mean, especially when you're doing long runs on the highways. But I digress…
The point I am trying to make here is that you’d almost never find a gym junkie that loves running and similarly you don’t see many avid marathon runners stepping on stage for bodybuilding competitions.
This is because the training, the diets and the physiological needs of both of these sporting codes are mutually different in so many ways.
Which got me thinking, could someone do both weightlifting and running? And not only attempt it but do it successfully on a consistent basis. Well let’s find out…
The Needs of a Weightlifter
I think the first thing we need to do is identify the individual needs of both runners and weightlifters.
Let’s start with weightlifters. Now I feel it’s necessary to clarify that runners and athletes alike lift weights and or do some form of resistance training. And most weightlifters do some form of running for cardio etc.
What or rather who we’re referring to in this article are the individuals that have dedicated a significant amount of time to either weightlifting or running. This could be to go pro or just as a weekend warrior that enjoys amateur competitions.
I hope this clears up any confusion.
But let’s get back to the weightlifters!
The goal for this demographic is simple - gain as much muscle as possible and to be as strong as possible. It may sound over simplified but in reality that’s exactly it… a very simple set of goals that become a lifelong journey to accomplish.
Getting strong and building muscle is a very interesting dynamic. Why? Well because they are codependent. You can’t get strong without muscle growth and without muscle growth your strength will remain limited. Now isn’t that quite the pickle.
So how do we accomplish this task? Well the answer is simple really… Consistency.
In order to build muscle and to improve your strength you need to consistently lift weights or train with resistance. Yes other factors such as eating enough protein, getting enough quality sleep and following a specific training program all factor into the equation. But none of the above will prove at all effective without consistency.
But for the sake of everyone reading this I’ll make a short list of basic boxes you need to tick in order to promote muscle growth and improve strength.
Eat right, train hard and smart. These are the needs for any successful weightlifter.
The Needs of a Runner
The needs of a runner are significantly different from that of a weightlifter. Yes, that sounds almost like you know “duh”.
But hear me out, there is a difference between running as a training tool and training to be a runner.
You see the difference?
Running competitively is not easy. While going for a daily jog might be a lot less taxing. This concept might seem straight forward, but to do it correctly and efficiently, running is quite complex.
You will need to understand cardiovascular fitness, basic biomechanics and know how and when to implement specific training techniques.
Let’s start with your fitness, build your base! We did a whole piece on aerobic base training so check it out here.
After building your base, your next step should be correcting any problematic running issues. Issues such as stride length, hip flexion or lack thereof and general mobility. Good running technique can be the difference between running your first marathon and being sidelined with an overuse injury.
By understanding the physical and physiological needs that a runner requires to perform optimally. Think of it like this, your aerobic base is your car’s engine and your running biomechanics is your car’s wheel alignment, shock absorbers and balancing. Together, they need to be firing on all cylinders to perform optimally.
And this is the same for our bodies as runners, yes we’re not cars, but just like cars when we do not perform optimally we wear and tear. And we all know what comes after that! (It’s a breakdown, we’re referring to injuries).
Lastly, your training. Once you’ve gotten a grip on your body and the needs surrounding all of that, you need a properly structured and INDIVIDUALIZED training program. Seriously, we are not all the same. And given the fact that we live in the information age where world class athlete’s training regimes are only a few Google searches away, please take our word on this… What works for them won’t necessarily work for you. Yes, certain aspects of someone else’s training plan can be incorporated into your own program. But please for the love of all things sacred DO NOT COPY AND PASTE someone else’s training program.
Why? Remember the metaphor about us being cars? Well what do you think will happen if let’s say a Ford pick up truck was serviced and maintained like a Toyota Prius? No offense to the Prius drivers out there, but you get what I’m saying.
That’s why it’s vitally important for you, through trial and error, to figure out what training program works for you.
How to Meet the Needs of Both Running and Lifting… Successfully
Now that we have covered what you need to be good at running. And we crossed our T’s and dotted our I’s with regards to weightlifting. Now let’s evaluate whether both can be done simultaneously without them cannibalizing one another.
Okay that sounds a bit harsh, but we’re essentially just trying to make sure that the two exercise modalities work in unison allowing you to reap the highest potential return from both running and lifting weights.
SO first things first, you need a plan. And by plan I mean you need to find a schedule that accommodates both your running and your gym work. My suggestion is to break it down into cycles. For example, a microcycle would be your weekly training schedule and your macrocycle would be something like 16 weeks as you prepare for whatever competition.
A typical micro cycle would run on a week to week basis. The focus here would be on balancing your long runs and speed or hill work with your heavy weightlifting sessions and your high intensity interval training sessions (H.I.I.T). We aren’t using the word balance here by accident, because that’s what you will need to get the balance right in order to make it through each week.
Granted if you're planning on racing a 21km in the near future, your micro and macro cycle will change according to your goal as well as how far out (time wise) you are from that goal.
Similarly, if you are planning on doing a powerlifting event or bodybuilding competition your plan would skew in the other direction, make sense?
Ultimately the aim of having a plan is to manage your load. Understanding when to load, overload and deload is a crucial step to ensure you don’t get injured or suffer from overtraining.
This leads us to the practical side of things…
If you are going to make a success of this double major in exercise, you will need to be conscious of how you structure your day to day loads.
For example, if you have a long run planned on Saturday it will probably be a good idea to not schedule leg day for the Friday before. You see where we’re going with this?
This is why having a plan is so important to this out successfully. Being able to adjust and pivot as the need arises in order to achieve your goal.
Nutrition and Recovery
Now all the above will be pointless if your nutrition and recovery aren’t on point. For some reason this is an aspect that so many people overlook. It’s actually quite straight forward, by running and weightlifting you will drastically be increasing your caloric expenditure. Calories that will need to be replaced to prevent burn out and muscle wasting.
Tracking your energy expenditure will greatly assist you in ensuring that you aren’t under eating or hydrating.
You will need protein for your weightlifting sessions to prevent catabolism. Carbohydrates are your running fuel (unless your ketogenic), fats help regulate hormones and water… Well water is life. Have you ever tried running dehydrated? Exactly. As a matter of fact, stop reading and go drink some water.
Your recovery needs to be well thought out too, it can’t just be the occasional “off day”. You will need to explore multiple recovery modalities. Cost effective and time efficient options, because your time will be extremely limited on this type of schedule. The quality of your recovery will directly determine your level of performance. There is simply no way around this, so I suggest you invest your time or extra cash or both into some form of recovery.
That being said, here are some of the options we recommend for effective recovery:
Recovery and nutrition should be well thought out. Intentional in nature with a plan that you follow and adjust as you go along.
Ultimately, what you consume is just as important as your training and at the end of the day rest breeds reward.
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