You don’t have to be a runner or a lifter. You can be both. In fact, it’s best to be both.
If you’ve picked up a new running hobby during lockdown that you don’t want to abandon when you get back in the gym., or if you’re a runner looking to make more of your overall fitness – here’s what you need to know.
What happens to your body when you run?
Running is cardiovascular exercise. That means it involves taking in, transporting, and using oxygen. As you know, when you run, your heart rate increases, your breath quickens, and you get warmer. Your cardiovascular system is working hard.
Cardio improves your aerobic fitness. You can expect to see improvements in the function of your heart, lungs, and blood. Your joints and ligaments are also benefited by cardio.
There aren’t too many adaptations to your muscles that come from running, and improvements in strength and endurance are better associated with resistance training.
The most well-known thing about cardio, running in particular, is that it burns one of the highest numbers of calories per hour of exercise. On average, running burns about 300-400 calories per 30 minutes.
What happens to your body when you strength train?
Strength training is a type of resistance training. The aim is to increase the amount of force your muscles can exert. To do this, you need to train the body to lift heavy weights and work against high resistance.
There are lots of adaptations that occur as a result of strength training. Your brain is better able to send the right signals to the muscles to make them contract. Your muscles may also grow in size to produce more force. And because you’ll have built strength from a solid foundation, you’ll have plenty of stability and endurance in the muscles too.
Strength training burns fewer calories per 30 minutes of active exercise than cardio, but building more muscle increases your metabolism in the long term. This means you would need more calories to maintain your weight and muscle mass.
Can you build strength and run at the same time?
If this is actually your question, the answer is yes. In fact, it’s encouraged.
But sometimes, the actual question is: can you build muscle and lose weight at the same time? The answer to this is more complicated.
To build large amounts of muscle mass, you’re better of being in a caloric surplus. This is essentially the bulking part of the bulk and cut you often hear about. To get enough protein so that your body build bigger muscles, you’ll likely end up eating more calories than usual.
To lose weight, you need to be in a caloric deficit. Being in a caloric surplus and a caloric deficit at the same time is impossible. That’s why it’s so tricky to build significant amounts of muscle and lose weight at the same time. Remember that running burns a far few calories.
So, growing bigger muscles, training frequently, running often, offsetting calorie burn, and getting enough protein all at the same time isn’t easy. That’s why it’s probably better to focus on one.
Aside from building physically bigger muscles, running, and resistance training complement each other really well. Developing your strength and endurance by exercising with weights is always beneficial and can definitely be done effectively alongside a running routine. Improving these different types of fitness will help you excel and feel healthier overall.
How can runners benefit from strength training?
Runners need to rely on their muscles to prevent injury often caused by this exercise. The act of running can play havoc on your joints if your muscles aren’t strong enough to support the impact.
Most beneficial training programs will incorporate weight or resistance training alongside getting the miles in.
Without spending time strengthening your muscles and building endurance in them, you’ll soon find yourself with niggles in the knees, the calves, or the glutes. Pain and tightness in these areas are common when clocking up the kilometres and is typically caused by weak muscles.
Resistance training for runners is a no brainer. The question isn’t should you but is often how can you
Tips for combining the two
Fitting it all in
When combining two fitness training types into your routine, the concern is usually fitting both in without feeling like you’re slowing your progress somewhere.
The frequency at which you train is always up to you. There’s no golden rule. It all depends on your goals.
If your main goal is to progress with running, you might want to aim for 2-3 runs per week and 1-2 strength sessions. Frequency always depends on where you are now and where you want to be. But a split like this will let you progress with running and support your efforts with strength training.
If your main goal is strength, you might want to aim for 3-4 resistance sessions per week and 1-2 runs.
If you don’t want to work out so many days of the week, you can strength train and run on the same day. A 40-minute upper body session followed by a 20-minute fast-paced run on the treadmill is one brilliantly well-rounded session.
What will dictate your routine more than anything is understanding and abiding by your rest days.
Recovery and rest days
Rest and recovery are just as important as the activity itself. Your body needs time to relax, repair, and re-energize. For strength training, rest days are vital. The work you do in the gym will cause exercise-induced damage to your muscles which they need time to rebuild and repair from to get bigger and stronger. This needs to be factored into your training plans. Avoid working the same muscle groups day after day. Split your workouts to give muscle groups enough time to recover.
For running, you’re not damaging your muscles in the exact same way, But that doesn’t mean you don’t need to take it easy. As a repetitive exercise, your joints and muscles will be at risk of overuse if you don’t give them a break. New runners also need to be careful not to do too much, too quickly. Otherwise, you can be sure you’ll feel it the next day. Slow and steady is best for progress.
The most important thing is to listen to your body. It’s pretty good at telling you what it wants and needs.
Get your macronutrients right
Make sure you’re taking in enough of the right things to fuel and recover from your workout.
If your runs are feeling weak and low energy, make sure you’ve taken on enough carbohydrates. Your body uses carbs as its primary source of energy when running, and if you don’t have enough, then it’ll need to work harder to convert other sources, leading to reduced performance. This is especially true for longer distances over 90 minutes.
If you like running first thing before breakfast, that’s fine. But if you’re feeling too weak to make it through, you might want to revisit your fuelling strategy. Try to take on some carbs straight after your run to replenish your stores. A banana is always a good shout.
For strength training, it’s protein you want to pay attention to. To ensure your muscles are rebuilding and repairing, your intake of protein needs to be sufficient. Your body needs protein to carry out most of its daily functions. You then need enough left over to repair exercise-induced muscle damage.
The average sedentary adult needs around 0.8g of protein per kg of body weight per day. If you exercise, this will increase to around 1.2g. Elite athletes need closer to 2.0g. Wherever you’re at, make sure you’re getting enough.
Stretching and mobility
These are two things not to neglect. Stretching and mobility are going to help you in all areas of fitness. But they probably get the least attention.
Make time for tending to your muscles. Not once in a while when you’ve got DOMs. Every day. After you exercise. Or before if you want.
Mobility work is essential for maintaining an adequate range of motion and means keeping your muscles and joints in good health so you can do all your exercises with the right form.
Stretching aids your flexibility. It’s not a quick fix for tightness. Stretch after every session to make sure your flexibility remains high after repetitive exercise like running. That way, you’ll help reduce muscle tension in the long run. Pun intended.
Incorporate interval training
Intervals can be applied to both running and resistance training. It’s an efficient and effective way to develop aerobic fitness, anaerobic fitness, and muscular endurance at the same time.
Intervals in running might include short bursts of faster pace followed by slow bursts of a slower pace. This will help you to get better at working at higher intensities and speeds.
Intervals in resistance training might include structured work and rest periods of different low-resistance exercises. The crucial point to note is that this is done with lighter weights, not heavy ones. It’s a way to develop your muscular endurance and isn’t a useful way to strength train. For strength training, you want to focus on fewer reps of heavy weights with lots of rest in between.
Now you know. It’s time to put it all into action. With flexible gym access that lets you workout when and where suits you.