I lift weights. But I’m also a distance runner (sometimes). So how do I balance the two?
The first thing I decided, about two years ago now, was that running is secondary for me. This is important because how you balance the two things will depend on your goals. My goals don’t necessarily require running to be at the forefront of my training.
If you’re wondering what am I training for?
For me, I’m interested in getting stronger. This means strength training usually gets prioritized. I had a half marathon last June, but my running since then has been, essentially, 20 minutes of sprints once or twice a week with one easy 30-minute run per week occasionally, like only if the weather was nice—and it’s been atrocious here in the Pacific Northwest.
But you also don’t turn down free marathons. So, I have had to add some running back into my workout routine in order to get ready for 26.2 miles at the end of June. I am not looking to run the marathon faster than my last two, I’m just looking to have fun with friends and finish the darn thing.
If you are someone who likes to lift heavy, and wants to still incorporate running, consider your main goal. Are you running for relaxation? Are you training for a fast 5K? Are you trying to lose fat? Or are you looking to run an ultra?
Consider Your Body’s Feedback
One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that my body’s hormonal system is fragile. If I push on my metabolism too much, it pushes back. For example, if I run too much or do too many HIIT-style workouts or get too stressed by everyday stuff or go to bed too late or don’t eat enough for the amount of exercise I’m doing or sit too long or blink too much or breathe wrong, my body lets me know I’m overdoing it by gaining weight, not letting me sleep well, and just making me a mental mess. So, I have to be careful with it. When in doubt, I rest more.
Here are the things I’m balancing and why:
- Strength training: I love how lifting changes my body and makes me feel and look strong.
- I do three metabolic conditioning workouts per week (Metabolic Prime). These are 20-minute HIIT-style workouts with heavier weights. I rest when needed. I incorporate one other lifting-based workout per week. I was doing some HIIT-style legs, but based on feedback from my body, I switched to a more traditional lifting workout (fixed reps and fixed rest time).
- Sprinting: I know it is good for fat loss, and that it’ll also give me some running benefits.
- I sprint for 20 seconds, then walk, then sprint for 30, walk, 40 seconds, walk, 60 seconds, walk. I do that same thing over and over walking/resting as much as I need for 20 minutes. I usually get 3 or 4 rounds out of it and between a mile and a half and two miles.
- Walking: Helps lower my cortisol and reduce stress.
- I try to get at least 30 minutes of pure walking time—don’t just count my steps walking around throughout the day. Walking, especially, outside really reduces my stress. Yesterday, just 20 minutes made a huge difference. Ideally, I want an hour, but work has been really busy lately. (Although, now that my body is getting up with the sun—if you call mostly cloudy sunny—I may start going for walks again in the morning, since it isn’t pitch black out.)
- Easy runs/long run: Because I have to if I want to finish the marathon.
- Sometimes I get a 30 minute easy/moderate run during the week. I do a long run on Saturday or Sunday. I usually have a recovery day (nothing but walking) the day after the long run. And sometimes, I need a recovery day before the long run. This is where mindset comes in: missing one run or workout will not derail you. Enjoy a relaxing day, get a nice leisurely walk in while listening to a favorite podcast or book or music playlist. Garden. Lay in the sun—if you have it. You get the point.
Drift: Constantly Adapt Your Workout Schedule
Now that I have long runs that are in the double digits, my workout schedule has had to adapt. I used to be a stickler for not missing a workout. Not anymore. And remember what your main goals are. Also, I try not to think of a week as 7 days. Does that make sense? Here’s an example of what last week and this week looked/look like:
- Monday 4/17: Metabolic Prime strength/fat loss workout (20 minutes with weights) + a walk
- Tuesday 4/18: Sprints (20 minutes) + a walk
- Wednesday 4/19: Metabolic Prime strength/fat loss workout (20 minutes with weights) + a walk
- Thursday 4/20: Extra strength workout (traditional, slow lifting, with lots of rest), 30-minute easy run + a short walk
- Friday 4/21: Metabolic Prime strength/fat loss workout (20 minutes with weights) + a walk
- Saturday 4/22: Rest day/walking
- Sunday 4/23: Long Run–12 miles (in pouring rain)
Now, here’s where it gets tricky…
- Monday 4/24: Rest day/walking—I felt pretty beat up after 12 miles in the rain
- Tuesday 4/25: Metabolic Prime + a walk (felt much better on Tuesday)
- Wednesday 4/26: Extra lifting workout (traditional heavy weights—about 30 minutes) + a short walk. I did not get my 30-minute easy run done because I had a lot of work and kid activities this day, and I feel just fine about it. I chose to do the traditional weights workout, because it is more relaxing to me than a run, to be quite blunt.
- Thursday 4/27: Metabolic Prime + a walk
- Friday 4/28: Rest day/walking
- Saturday 4/29: Long run—14 miles with Mel tomorrow
- Sunday 4/30: Metabolic Prime + a walk (depending on how I feel from Saturday’s long run)
- Monday 5/1: This will depend on Sunday, although, I like to do my MP workouts on MWF.
As you can see, my workout schedule flexes with how I am feeling or whatever life throws at me. If you think about it, when you balance something on your hand or head, don’t you have to move a little to keep it from falling? It starts drifting, you drift, too, in order bring it back. And if it falls, you pick it up and continue from where you left off.
Here’s How to Balance Running and Lifting
- Lift 3 times a week.
- Lifting workouts should be whole-body workouts. Try doing metabolic conditioning workouts like the Metabolic Renewal program.
- Leisure walk 30-60 minutes on the days you lift.
- Run 3 times a week.
- Make one running day a sprinting workout.
- Make one running day your long run.
- Have one complete rest day where all you do is leisure walk or restful activity like restorative yoga or tai chi.
Lifting and running can be done together. It is possible. Remember, consider your goals, prioritize, then let your schedule drift!