T Nation

A Former Marathoner's Quest For Muscle...

Here’s the background…

I’m 31 and for the last 17 years I’ve been a competitive distance runner. I’ve run a 5k in 15:43, a 10k in 32:08, a half-marathon in 1:09:40 and a marathon in 2:32:45. My claim to fame is being the top US marathon runner from Kentucky in 2005. I was always “big” for a runner at 5’6" 140-45lbs…which is still pretty small.

I have a Bachelors Degree in Exercise Science, an ACSM-HFS cert, and work in the fitness industry both in corporate wellness and as a personal trainer. It’s amazing how little practical information you get from a degree and cert. Most of my most useful knowledge about weight training and health & fitness in general has come from knowledgeable co-workers who have directed me towards authors and posters on this site and other sources.

Due to some hip issues that prevent me from doing a lot of volume and some ‘real life’ issues I don’t have the time nor the body to put in the training I need to stay competitive. Once you’ve been at a certain level it’s just not satisfying to continue on at a lower level. So, I needed a new goal, a new competitive drive…

So I stopped running competitively in September '08 weighing 145lb and 7 sited 8.9%. After some time off I got out of shape and started lifting in November '08. I could bench 135 for 5 reps. I could also squat below parallel 135 for 10 reps and do 5 pullups. I started with your basic 4 day upper/lower split doing everything in supersets, 4 sets of 10 with 60s rest. I have quite a bit of endurance so this seemed to work well.

After a month I switched to a 5 day Push/Pull/Lower, Total Upper/Lower split…interesting to say the least. Again, 4 sets of 10 supersetting everything. In the gym no longer than 60-75 min. I tested myself and could bench 200 and squat 205 below parallel. Starting in January I went on 8 weeks of GVT cycling 5 days: Chest/Back, Legs, Off, Shoulders/Arms, Off. I then went into 6 weeks of 5x5, again using the same split. Tested again and benched 220 for one rep and squated 235.

I’m currently 160lbs, 8.9% via 7-site.

Current training plan is nothing but drop sets shooting for 3 sets of 6-12-25. If I make all 3 sets pretty easily then I go up in weight the next time.

Monday: Chest/Back
Tuesday: Legs
Wednesday: Off
Thursday: Shoulders/Calves
Friday: Off
Saturday: Bis/Tris
Sunday: Off

Diet is 3000-4000 calories depending on what I’m training. I’ved picked the carbs up since switching to the drop sets. Was under 100-150g for a couple months. Now I’ll get up to 300 or so grams on leg day and 200-300 on other workout days. Non-workout days are 200 or below. Basically following a carb cycling approach compared to the low carb approach before. I run a couple days a week and cycle most days. Not much, but I feel with my background I can get away with more. Running/Cycling no more than 30 minutes a day, mostly through my commute to work.

This week has been a little off the schedule, but still getting it in…

Monday: Two rides, a 6 and a 9. Total 15 miles.

A1)DB Bench (touch all 4 bells); 75-45-25lb; 6-12-25, last set was 4-9-25
A2)Parallel Grip Lat Pulldown; 150-120-90lb; 6-12-25
3 sets, 90s rest

B1)Decline Flye; 45-30-20lb; 6-12-25
B2)Seated Neck Row; 150-110-80lb; 6-12-25
3 sets, 90s rest

2 mile run, 10 mile cycle.

A1)Arnold Press; 45-25-15lb; 6-12-25, rest pausing some
A2)Calf Raise on Leg Press; 450-360-270lb; 6-12-25, first set was a plate lighter on each side.
3 sets, 60s or less rest

B1/2)Lean Away Lateral Raise; 25-15-10; 6-12-25, rest pause some
3 sets, do both sides then 60s rest.

2mi run, 9mi cycle.

3 miles. Sprint two blocks, jog one block.

It looks like you’re doing a great job of packing on the muscle considering how much your lifts have gone up.

I am interested in how the carb cycling worked out for you with regards to your endurance background.

Welcome to the forums! You’ve made some great progress over the last few months.

Can I ask what your current goals are?

Is there a specific ‘look’ your shooting for, or a certain amount of muscle (Kg / Lbs) that your hoping to add on?

God luck with everything. I’ll drop in to check on your progress.


Before I “turned to the dark side” and started to lift I was your usual “eat as many carbs as possible” runner and for a time would only eat meat every couple of days…and I was still 5’6’ 140-45lbs running upwards of 100 miles a week when your ‘average’ runner at my level was 120-130lbs at 5’6’. Needless to say I’ve always been more of a tree stump than a tree.

So, I started to lift and dropped the carbs in favor of a more anabolic diet. I found that I could still do 30-45 minutes of steady cardio or 20-30 minutes of intervals on 100g of carbs a day with no problem. Of course I have the unique problem of being a fat burning machine from my marathon days but, the body’s ability to turn protein into glucose via gluconeogenesis is very apparent.

Within the last month I’ve done more cycling than running (one as a commuting need, two because it’s less taxing on the legs) and have upped the carbs on high stress days…carb cycling. I’m getting bodyfat done in a couple weeks and will post results here but the scale is going up after stagnating on the lower carb approach, while my look is still pretty lean and even more muscular in certain areas. I’ll work on getting pictures up too.

Goal is the NPC Bluegrass Show in Lexington, KY (Tricky Jackson’s show). It’s a small show, but you gotta start somewhere. Thought I’d be competing at bantamweight, but if I keep on putting on muscle I may grow into the lightweight. A lot depends on the cut as that’s the part the worries me the most never having prepped for a show before.



A1) Sumo Deadlift (small plates); 215-145-95lb; 6-12-25
A2) Leg Press (sled); 450-270-135lb; 6-12-25
3 sets; 120s rest; some pausing

B1) Leg Extension; 160-90-50lb; 6-12-25
B2) Seated Leg Curl; 110-60-40; 6-12-25
3 sets; 90s rest; new equipment at the gym, they got rid of the prone leg curl…:frowning:

Just “getting it in”. Not a good workout as I really didn’t have the energy, thus more rest/stopping during the workout.


*5 miles running total for the day.

A1) Drag Curl; 70-50-30lb; 6-12-25
A2) Underhand Press; 65-40-20lb; 6-12-25
90s rest

B1) Decline Skulls; 35-20-10; 6-12-25
B2) Incline Zottman Curls: 25-15-10; 6-12-25
90s rest

Messing around with some Calf Machine Shrugs and some Angled Cable Cross Shrugs, just stripping down the plates. Just for giggles.


*getting back on schedule, a little iffy since I just did arms yesterday, so I’ll be a little fatigued.

A1) DB Bench 4 Bells; 75-45-25lb; 6-12-25
A2) Parallel Grip Lat Pulldown; 150-120-90lb 6-12-25
3 sets, 90-120s rest; failed on last set of Bench

B1) Decline Flye: 45-30-20lb; 6-12-25
B2) Neck Cable Row; 150-120-90lb; 6-12-25
*This cable is always suspect as to the ‘actual’ weight being pulled as it’s just numbered, no wt.


Those are some great goals to aim for. When is the show in KY?

Don’t worry about the cutting and the lead up, there are several articles and very helpful members and authors who’ll help you along in the right direction.

Good luck with everything.


Bluegrass Show is October 24th.


A1) Sumo Deadlift (small plates); 215-145-95lb; 6-12-25
A2) Leg Press (sled); 450-270-135lb; 6-12-25
3 sets; 120s rest
*Can probably go up on the Leg Press. Sumo’s are staying right where they are as they almost kill me…:slight_smile:

B1) Seated Leg Curl; 110-60-40lb; 6-12-25
B2) Leg Extension; 150-80-50lb; 6-12-25
3 sets; 120s rest
*I hate that they got rid of the prone leg curl.

5mi cycle.

And I thought my 3:40:36 marathon was good…

Impressive times. I’m sure with your work ethic you will probably take down the whole show.


Legs pretty trashed. Just a 5mi cycle commute, good to stretch everything out. Also did some abs with Christie. I hate abs but given my years of abuse I need them to keep my back/hip ok.


21 miles total to/from work. Bout an hour and 15-20 minutes. I love my red blood cells…:slight_smile:

A1) Arnold Press; 45-25-15lbs; 6-12-25
A2) Leg Sled Calf Press; 450-360-270lbs; 6-12-25…could probably go up next time.
3 sets; Just a walk over rest.

B1/2) Lean Away Lateral Raise: 25-15-10; 6-12-25
*Dumbasses stealing my weights. Happens all the time when training w/clients
too. Need to just bring my own weights…:slight_smile:

Then random shrugs:

A1) Calf Machine Calf Raise/Shrug: stripping down from 10 reps

B1) Angled Cable Shrug: stripping down from 10 reps
B2) Haney Shrug: 50 and 60 x 10. Just trying it out. My big ass gets in the way. Deadlift = big ass.
3 sets just walking back and forth. Fun stuff!

Abs with Roy. I hate abs. I’d rather just do squats and deads and call that ab work.

Some diet macros…

Monday: 5200 calories, 255g fat, 369g carb, 362g protein
*an abnormal day…we’ll call it an impromptu “bulk” day…:slight_smile:

Tuesday: 4700 calories, 260g fat, 262g carbs, 341g protein

Wednesday: 3600 calories, 222g fat, 119g carbs, 295g protein

Thursday: 4250 calories, 202g fat, 256g carbs, 359g protein

Friday: “as planned”, 3310 calories, 188g fat, 132g carbs, 289 protein.

So, you can say my workout days are around 3500-4000+ calories, non-workout days around 3000-3500+ with carbs cycling around that.

Plan a “big eat” on Sunday after some intervals. I love Sundays…:slight_smile:


Not a fan of posting pictures of myself online but here’s a pre-lift pic back in September when I won a 5k in a bit over 16:00. 5’6’, 145lbs


So got about 3700 calories on Friday…I was hungry…:slight_smile:


Impromptu running. Total 9 miles in two runs after bike got a flat on the way to the gym to train clients. It still amazes me how easily I can still run after not running for weeks. Muscle memory is a great thing…:slight_smile: Your random muscle building gym rat would turn into an atrophied stamp collector after 3 miles.

Later in the evening…had to train at the apartment gym, it’s arm day so I can get by without a bar…

A1) Underhand Machine Bench Press; 6-12-25
*This was weird, but effective.
A2) Cable Drag Curl; 6-12-25
*Again weird, but it worked. Too much like an upright row though, harder to prevent the traps from working.
3 sets

B1) DB Skulls; 25-15-10lbs; 6-12-25
*Trying to put the small adj bench up on a tall block proved to be too acrobatic for my tastes…so just did em normal.
B2) Incline DB Zot Curls; 25-15-10lb; 6-12-25
*DBs only to 25, which is what I’ve been using for this, but it was easy.
3 sets

4700 calories, 280g fat, 334g carbs, 228g protein
*No powder today. Needed to eat a lot to make up for the running. Good day for a bomb…12oz ground beef tortillas at 7pm…1/2 a small microwave pizza at 9pm…:slight_smile:

Weight and bodyfat checked today. Really no progress even with the massive eating. Going to change the program. Too many reps, too much volume (like 500+ reps), need more intensity. Changing the split:

Monday: Chest/Shoulders
Tuesday: Quad
Wednesday: Off
Thursday: Back/Trap
Fri: Hams
Sat: Bi/Tri

This gives me a little more isolation. Going to keep the total reps between 150-250 as that is what worked in the past under GVT and previously.

Set routine will be light, work, work, heavy. All reps slow eccentric fast concentric.

2mi am run…


A1) Bench; 90s; 135 x 10, 155 x 10, 155 x 10, 165 x 7
A2) Bent Lateral Raise; 90s; 25 x 10, 30 x 10, 30 x 10, 35 x 5
*Need to keep the arm less bent

B1) I. DB Bench; 90s; 50 x 10, 55 x 8, 55 x 7, 60 x 5
B2) Lying Cable Bent Flye; 90s; 4 x 10, 5 x 10, 5 x 10, 6 x 4
*Hate our cable. Elbow more bent than a usual flye to emphasize squeeze of the pec.

C1) 3 Angle Press; 90s; 45 x 5/8/8, 45 x 5/7/7, 45 x 5/4/6

Played a racquetball game beforehand…not a great idea for shoulder health…:slight_smile:

Another racquetball game today and I’m trashed. Wanted to workout, warmed up, but just wasn’t there so we’ll try tommorrow.

Thought about taking the rest of the week off and just cycle, getting in some cardio. I think the overdoing it with the drop sets (500+ reps per workout…eeeek) was a tad bit much…:slight_smile: Hey well at least my slow twitch fibers are all dialed in now!

Anyway, we’ll see what tommorrow brings. Ate a ton today and plan on sleeping well tonight. If I feel better in the am I’ll give it a go.

Back on the horse.

Tuesday PM: 9mi cycle w/4 1:00 sprints.


A1) Rack Pull Snatch Grip; 90s; 225x10, 245x10, 245x10, 275x5 (regular grip)
*Going to keep a regular grip. Hands too small for the snatch.
A2) Incline Prone Spider Pulldown; 90s; 7x10, 9x10, 11x10, 13x8

B1) Motorcycle Row; 90s; 10x10, 13x10, 15x10, 17x8
B2) S.Ball Cable Pullover; 90s; 8x10, 9x10, 11x10, 15x6

C1) Wide to Narrow Pullup/Chinup; 90s; 5/5/5, 5/5/5, 5/5/5

*I hate our cable cross…weights make no sense.

Thursday: Quads

First time I’ve done just quads in a workout so I showed a little restraint with the weight…still a good workout. First time I’ve done squats in a month. Quads burning like hell afterward

A1) Squat; 90s; 135x10, 165x10, 175x10, 195x7
A2) Leg Ext; 90s; 110x10, 130x10, 130x10, 150x8

B1-2) Barbell Reverse Lunge; 90s; 65x10, 95x10, 115x10, 135x5

C1) 3 Position Leg Press (Lo/Med/Hi); 90s; 360 x 10/5/5

Cycle: 5 miles

Cycle: 11 miles

Friday: Arms

A1) Close Grip Chins; 10, 10, 20x5
A2) Dips; 10, 20x10, 30x5
60 rest between pairs

B1) Barbell Curl; 45x10, 65x7, 65x7
B2) Barbell Skulls; 45x10, 65x5, 65x5
60s rest between pairs

C1) Concentration Hammer Curl; 20x10, 20x10, 25x8
C2) Incline French Press; 20x10, 25x10, 30x5
60s rest between pairs

D1) Run the Rack Curls; 25/20/15 x 10-5
D2) Run the Rack French Press; 25/20/15 x 10-5
60s rest between pairs