T Nation

Marathon Success AND Strength: Can I Have Both?

Hi. Are there any lifters here who take part in marathons or other endurance events and still manage to maintain strength/muscles?

I’d be interested to find out how you do it.


Hope he doesn’t mind me tagging him but @ActivitiesGuy combines running and lifting well. Definitely check out his log, it’s a good one.

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Thanks for the tag, I don’t mind at all.

To be honest, I’m typing on my phone and can give a more in depth answer in a few days when I got back. I still run a little and lift a lot, but I used to run a lot more (on a semi-competitive local level) and have an outline for what I would do today if I were still running competitively and trying to mix in some lifting for strength.

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Depending on your definition of “success” and “strength” you sure can.


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Thanks activitiesguy. I’d be interested in your advice. We did exchange messages on this forum a few days ago when I asked for advice on minimalist strength training. But I thought I should refine the question a bit so people are clearer on my goals.

I went to be strong (and look strong too). And I want to run strong marathons but on minimalist running because I keep getting injured when I run too often.

I’m not sure how to check out your log on here…

Thanks sufiandy. See my goals in my reply to activities guy.

Would two heavy lift days, two quality runs and a hard rowing session cut it?

My log is titled “ActivitiesGuy Log III: Strength AND Endurance!”

You should be able to find it in the Training Logs section.

If you’re getting injured on a high volume of running (I struggled with injuries on and off as well), then you may find some modest succcess on a lower volume approach. As someone said above, it kinda depends what your expectations are.

I ran a half-marathon within 8 minutes of my alltime PR on a minimalist approach - I did 2 weekday 5-mile runs (Tues/Thursday), a 10-mile run on Saturdays, one or two long bike rides (60-90 minutes a pop).

If I were designing a “program” to do what you’re asking now with a little more specific added, it would look something like this:

Mon: Deadlift up to 5 singles @ 80%
Tue: Easy Run (5 miles)
Wed: Swim/Row + Deadlift 5 singles @ 80%
Thu: Easy Run (5 miles)
Fri: Swim/Row + Deadlift 5 singles @ 80%
Sat: Long Run (8-15 miles)
Sun: Yoga Class

Subject to appropriate tweaking, of course, If you’d rather lift after running instead of lifting after swimming/biking, that’s probably fine - I’ve deadlift up to 90% of my 1RM on days where I ran 3-4 miles, so if you’re used to running long distances that should not be a problem.

Again, will try to have better discussions next week when I am back home and have a computer instead of just a phone to reply.

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2 heavy lift, 2 running and a hard row would probably get you into decent shape, yes. It’s a little shy on running volume even for s “minimalist” program. What I laid out above helped me run a decent half-marathon but it would still have left me woefully underprepared to run a FULL marathon. That’s another important distinction here in your goals. A full marathon requires MUCH more training volume than 5K / 10K training (not at the Elite level - top 5K runners also put in crazy volume - but at the local-guy-who-wants -to-be-in-shape level, sure). So maybe getting a little more specific about your running goals would help here.

20 minute 5K?
40 minute 10K?
1:30 half-marathon?

Give me a few numbers so I can see about where you’re at and where you’re hoping to go. I think the minimalist approach can get you to about those numbers if you already have a nice athletic base. If you want to qualify for the Boston Marathon or some other comparable goal, I don’t think “2 days running + 2 days lifting + one hard row” is gonna cut it.

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Just wondering why you have deadlifts over squats, especially for 3 days. Obviously deads are good for posterior chain which is very important for running, but I have also heard that higher rep squats (10+) can be very beneficial for running from a few sources.

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Squats would probably be OK as well, but “high rep” squats are going to be a whole lot harder to recover from than a few medium-heavy deadlift singles. I would change the arrangement a little bit so squats did not bookend the long-run day. Or maybe squat on Monday, but keep the easy deads on W and F following the cross training (swim, bike, row).

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Ah yup definitely agree about the recovery aspect.

I think it would be helpful if the OP gave some specific goals regarding lifting and running as this is a bit confusing to me:

The the 1st one is saying you want to maintain strength which can (in most cases) be achieved in one high intensity session a week, whereas the 2nd statement is saying that you want to be and look stronger which will take more effort and energy throughout the week. Unless I am misreading this?

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Thanks @ActivitiesGuy. This is very helpful. For now I’ve stopped running entirely. I injured myself (again) a few months ago after a half marathon which I ran in preparation for a full marathon. I decided to press the reset button by not running at all for a while, lift weights, row and bike.

I’ve been strength training twice a week and going to failure both times - I really enjoy that feeling and it’s time efficient. I row a 5k as fast as I can midweek then I do a long row on Saturday. I’ll also do a Tabata bike as a finisher at the end of my Sunday strength training. My fitness and strength is increasing. And I’m planning ahead for when I can start running again.

Obviously I don’t want to return to how I trained before because I kept breaking down. So I’m looking to run less whilst still getting fit AND building strength/muscle.

When I’m ready to sign up for another marathon my goal will be to finish strong/no injuries. I will then have a healthy baseline to work from in terms of improving my time.

Hope that clarifies where I am and where I want to be.

@Irishman92 - sorry. I can see I’ve been a little vague. See my reply further on to activitiesguy. Hope that makes it clearer.

What type of injury?
You also said you trained to failure twice a week. Have you tried not training to failure?

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As suggested in the other thread Alex Viada, The Hybrid Athlete

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@cincy213 if I only strength train twice a week, isn’t it best to make it intense? Also, it feels great to go all out.

My running injury is hip related. It’s slowly improving.

@strongmangoals is that person on here or should I look them up on google?

Google but Glenn Pendlay popped up here the other day so who knows…

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I’ve posted this a few times and it’s a shame that I have to keep doing it, but Alex Viada is not a very good example to invoke here.

Viada’s lifts are impressive and verifiable by video, at least. His running claims (last time that I checked, anyway) are almost entirely bogus and most of the hype surrounding him comes from self-proclaimed “4:15 mile” that was run on a trail by himself and timed with his GPS watch and his supposed status as an “ultramarathoner” of which there are no verified impressive race times.

Back with more on this later.