How To Incorporate Strength Training into Race Training

How I incorporate strength training into training for a race. Although it can be difficult to balance them, especially with increasing mileage, it is possible to strength train while racing.

I will be the first to admit that I don’t have a perfect balance of strength and race training. But, I’m constantly trying to find the right balance and do what is best for me. I don’t believe that there is an equal amount of strength and race training.. What I mean by that is I do not believe that I need to spend 2 hours a week running and 2 hours a week strength training. There is a balance, but it is not equal (at least for me).

When I am race training I spend far more time running than I do strength training. I would much rather spend all my time running, but I know how good strength training is for my body and for improving my running so I do incorporate it into my weekly workout routine.

Why you should combine strength training with race

Running is the best way to strengthen your cardiovascular system, improve your circulation and build the foundation for all other sports activities. Strength training will build muscle mass and allow your body to burn fat more efficiently. This is why a combination of weight training and running is the best way to get maximum results and boost your performance.

A combination of simple aerobic threshold endurance runs and strength training (such as bodyweight exercises) is the best way to optimise fat burning. The endurance run will boost your metabolism considerably, and the subsequent strength training activates muscle groups that are hardly used during your run and prolongs the post-burn effect.

Resistance exercises are not only beneficial for injury prevention but also have other benefits. You can also improve your body balance, run economy, end-of-race energy and build confidence.

How I incorporate strength training into race training

I have gotten a lot of questions from readers wondering how I incorporate strength training into race training. I often feel weird answering the questions since I do not feel like I have found the “perfect” balance, but I do not know if I ever will and if I can share what is working for me right now with others, than I am happy with that. Right now, I am realistic and I know I cannot run every day and I know I cannot strength train every day, so below you will find what is working for me in terms of incorporating strength training into training for my upcoming half marathon.

So, what I usually tell readers who ask me about incorporating strength training into race training is a couple of things:

1. Keep your easy days easy, and your hard days hard

Okay, okay, I won;t take credit for coming up with this since this is from Kara Goucher’s 1/2 marathon training plan, but I totally follow this principle now. When I first read Kara write about how you should keep your easy runs/ days easy and your hard days hard, I was not sure I would follow that. I thought that my easy run days would be the days I would strength train the most, and my hard workout days (speed workouts/ hill workouts) would be the days I would strength train the least. Once I read Kara’s advice to actually do the opposite, I tried it out and actually really like the principle.

On my easy run days (Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday), I run easy, do a little bit of core work, then foam roll and stretch. On my hard run days (Wednesday), I do my speed workouts, then strength train.

Some days after my runs, if I have the time, I will strength train just a bit. Maybe only 5 minutes or so, but nothing that is too heavy or that will leave me too sore. I keep those days for my harder workout days. Doing my heavy strength training on Wednesday, gives me Thursday to run easy and shake out my legs, then a rest day Friday before running long on Saturday. That way I do not have multiple runs where I am sore and tired from strength training.

Read also: Are Carbohydrates Really Bad For Your Health?

2. Don’t strength train the day before a long run

Just don’t. Strength training the day before a long run can make for some long and tiring miles the next day, and that is exactly what you do not want to feel on a long run. Get your strength training in during the week and take the day before your long run off. I always take the day before my long runs off completely from exercise (sometimes I do yoga though) – no running, no lifting weights, nothing – to get my body prepared for my weekend long run.

3. Listen to your body

There are some days I have strength training set on my calendar to do after a run, and when I get back from the run, my body is screaming “NO” to me doing strength training. There is no point in pushing my body past what it is wanting so I don’t do strength training on that day. One missed day of strength training is not the end of the world and I would much rather get to the start line of a race healthy than injured because I pushed my body too far.

4. Do what you can

Just 10 minutes of strength training is better than nothing! This is one of the biggest pieces of advice I give to people who ask about strength training and race training. Expecting to run 6 miles then come back and do an hour of strength training is highly unlikely to fit in many of our schedules. I only have a limited time to workout every day so I fit in what I can.

Some days I have longer amounts of time, some days I have a short period of time, so I take what I can get and fit in what I can. Some days I can fit in 20 minutes of lower body work, other days I can only set my timer for 8 minutes. It is what it is! I am happy I am at least getting something in.

Be realistic and know what you can do (both in terms of time AND weight!) and do that. Do not compare yourself to others on social media.

A sample race training week

To give you an idea of how I incorporate strength training into race training, here is a sample week from training for my upcoming spring half marathon:

Monday: 5 easy miles + core + foam rolling/ stretching
Tuesday: 4 easy miles + foam rolling/ stretching
Wednesday: 5 miles speed work + lower body + core + foam rolling/ stretching
Thursday: 5 easy miles + core + foam rolling/ stretching
Friday: Off — rest day
Saturday: 10 mile long run + foam rolling/ stretching
Sunday: Off — rest day