T Nation

Running Without Losing Muscle


I'd like to get some opinions on this:

I have recently decided to train for a half marathon for the first time. I am relatively thin, but I also have some good definition from lifting. I use a split routine when I lift, but I try to keep it functional ie. I'll do upper body horizontal movements one day, legs one day, and vertical movements one day.

My question is, with all of the added running I will be doing, most likely some emphasis will be taken away from the lifting, and I certainly don't want to slow myself down, but aside from doing mostly multi-joint exercises in my routine, which I already do anyway, does anybody have any suggestions about the best way to combine the lifting with the running without losing much definition? (I'm still deciding on a schedule for the running, but that is a different topic)



Pretty vague there, but I'll hand out some free advice.

I don't know where your running level is at so it is somewhat difficult, but my best advice is pick a goal and do what's best to reach that goal. Then repeat.

In other words, who cares if you lose some 'definition.' Honestly, you don't see a lot of muscle dudes running that far, soit may affect you. That said, I'll bet you see some pretty fit and muscular dudes there as well.

The closer to the level you want to achieve, the less definition you will probably lose. Your body has already adapted to its current stress levels. The more stress, the more reaction.

I'm not even sure, again depending on your current level, that large, multijoint exercises are the best way to go. I mean it would be pretty demanding to find enough days in the week or cycle to fit in both squats and deads--and also distance train running.
You may find circuit training to be your best friend until you race and get into a new routine.


Running doesn't eat up much muscle, as long as you're eating enough to compensate for the caloric expendature. In simple terms, add in another square meal after you run.


What I've found to work for me is to lift every other day, and run every other day, with one day off each week. I compete in 5K races, so my running is 6 miles each time, but I'm sure you'll be running more than that if you're going to do a half marathon.

The key for me is Surge. I'm fully recovered within 24 hours and ready for the next workout or run. Also, I love Spike before I run.

So far I've kept all my muscle mass and even added some.


There's already alot of valuable input here, but there are a couple more things to consider:

Your runs will not be freaky long from the get-go. When I train for 1/2s, I'm not running even close to race pace, or distance until about 1.5 months out from race day. The initial phases focus mostly on duration - intensity will come just a little later on.

If you're giving yourself enough time to get conditioned for your event, then you should be able to calorically increase as gradually as your (aerobic) training volume increases. By doing so, you are meeting your increasing needs with increasing calories/recovery.

Mod Laurie was right on the money with her experience training/running on alternate days. I do the same, and have still been able to add LBM. I am lifting 2x a week (in addition to plyo/sport training) and have gotten alot leaner, even with a hyuuuuge kcal increase.

Peri-workout nutrition is paramount with the kind of challenges you will experience. Ditch any aversion to carbs if you want to enjoy this experience! Again, Surge would be awesome, if you can get your hands on it (which I cannot, sadly!)

As for 1/2 marathon training program - I've had some great result with a few diff paradigms, how far out are you right now? Feel free to PM if you want any input on your program. I have a few lying around, if you're looking for a good, basic program to customize a bit.

Props to you for chasing a big distance - you're going to find places in your mind that you didn't know existed. All the best!



Look up Dean Karnazes on google if you want to find out more. But hes an Ultramarathon runner, done like 262 miles at a stretch. Its an extreme, but after reading his book and putting some things into practice (on a MUCH smaller scale): Keep lifting, add running in slowly, maintain the lifting. Increase calories consumed, especially carbs and especially around workouts.

Youre not running to enchance body comp. but performance, carbphobia will only hurt your body comp here anyway. Look into the G-flux article here on T-Nation. Its sort of that idea.

Just keep increasing resistance training and running together and calories consumed as well(maybe faster than the excercise increases). Your body will become more effecient at metabolising what it has to and performing.

Also, look at some runners sites if you need, but nothinh else aside from the workout routines, as usually they are not conducive to maintaing any muscle. Mix up tempo runs/long paced runs/ sprint work, etc (sorry if you knew this).

Im excited to see some more running entusiasts on the site. I think distance running is a very liberating type of activity. Anyways, best of luck.


Dean is an anomaly. It's hard. I will be in the same boat myself shortly. I used to an endurance athlete before my goals changed to strencth and size, and running a half marathon is just something I want to do. I'll be training for one shortly.

Something some of my old teamates and I decided we wanted to do. Kind of like a last shot deal as I doubt I'll ever go back to serious endurance training. I was never skinny for a runner. Never dropped much below 145 at 5'7 around 5% bodyfat.

I'm now 40+ lbs more than that-the vast majority of it muscle. It's easier to maintain muscle while doing endurange training than add it which is almost impossible. A lot of it does come down to eating. But eating big to keep muscle and doing endurance training at the same time takes on new dimensions.

Thousands and thousands of calories will be required. Expect some muscle loss regardless. I believe TriGWU eats 6,000 calories a day as a triathlete and is damned skinny.


Good overall advice though, Faraz.


As far as losing muscle, a lot depends on how you train too. You don't need to run 70 miles a week to finish and run a solid half-marathon. But to really excel, most people need to put in a lot of mileage and of course do interval work, tempo runs, speed work, their long run, etc... But it's the high mileage training that really makes it difficult to keep muscle on your body.


Not 60000 but 6-7k.

It really really really will come down to food and style of training. It depends on your goals and your training logic. By training logic you need to be able to accept and rationally understand how things work with regards to training.

IF you want to finish a half marathon thats easy, with little to no muscle loss. But thats just FINISHING.

If you want to be competitive, get down around 1.5 hours. You're going to "lose muscle". Technically you aren't ever "losing" muscle, unless you went in and surgically removed it. You're just removing a lot of the hypertrophy (fluid storage) in your Type IIa-x fibers. Really what you'd be doing is pulling your IIas into a more oxidative adaptation vs glycolytic adaptation. So, you're losing that hypertrophy potential. Again this all depends on the extent and style of your training.

The other buch is eating. Yes, it is true I eat about 6-7k a day, and wake up in the middle of the night to eat as well. I am a semi-anomaly, but not totally out of the ordinary. I am smart about my nutrition and have always kept my intakes high. Even at that type of intake the heaviest I'll hit is off season and thats about 178 lbs at about 9-10% body fat. That is eating everything in sight. 4k of it is very very clean 2-3k of it is all just whatever I can get my hands on, down the gullet. When I get to race weight, it gets to be all clean and thats how I'll lean out to about 165-167 @ 4-6%.

I'm not one to shoot down goals, but if you want to be really jacked and still hit competitive half marathon times, you've got another thing coming. You would've been running halfs already, if you were capable of doing that.

So you've got to decide, do you want to to just finish or do you want to be competitve. If you want to really go out and smoke the course, you've got to check your body image at the door.

I'm a long course triathlete, and yes, I'd love to be huge, but I love my sport and part of that is just understanding, being good is being built for the sport. You've got to optimize yourself for what you do. I'm one skinny bastard, but I'll tear up a course.

REALLY figure out your goals and then shoot me a PM or post on here.

Also, talk to Eric Cressey about this in his locker. He's my coach, he'll definitely be able to give you SOME insight into it. The rest of it is proprietary info :wink:.


Haha. I know. That was a typo...


Dean is definately a Super Anomaly. But using him as a frame of reference and a way to counter some discouragement as to 'losing 'all' your muscle' i mentioned him. What i didnt innitially know, is that along side his running, he does relatively substantial amounts of resistance training, and even more so as 'high frequency' upper body work with wind surfing for hours on end and other sports that he enjoys.

Point being as was said by others. You will not gain muscle, it will be quite contrary to the aesthetic goals of many T-Nationers, but, by no means does that mean you still cant attain a admirable body comp.


JsBrook: I wish it was 60.

Faraz: Correct. I do about 3 days p/ week of heavy resistance and I won't put on any mass, maybe if I jumped up to about 7,500 Kcal I'd really start to see something, but thats just impossible with a school schedule.


Agreed. I also think every endurance athlete should make strength training a priorty. We always did. And it's far from cosmetic-it has a lot of practical benefits, not the least of which are reduced risk of injury and better finishes.


Hey those were some great responses! It seems in summary then that it is highly unlikely that I will be able to put on any more muscle mass, but perhaps I will be able to maintain what I have, especially if I increase my caloric intake, and supplement(admittedly I don't right now.)

I am not really a runner and this would be my first time running this distance, the longest I had ever run before was 10K without really training for it. You all are right that I really should be clear on my goals. I originally thought I might just want to finish, but the competitiveness in me is making me think how great it would be to try to beat 90 minutes which would be a real challenge. I am in pretty good cardiovascular shape in general from competitive swimming during high school and college, but I was a sprinter, so I believe at least my upper body has a higher percentage of fast twitch fibers.

My next question is for those of you who have trained for an event like this and who believe in strength training as part of the training process. Do you think doing a whole body routine every other or every third day would be more advantageous than a split? Do you think doing more intense leg exercises such as squats would have a negative effect on the training for running? I am not a strong squatter to begin with (don't even mention deadlifts!) but I recognize their importance. Tell me about your routines if you don't mind.

By the way, the event is in July.


I'm 225lbs, 5 foot 11 and about 20%fatty boy. It's nice to say that in the world of running I'm in the Clydesdale Class!
I've run 3 half-marathons and haven't noticed muscle-loss, not you'd even lose that much anyway I think. I also never notice much fat loss when I try running longer either(Sprints always help me there.)
I've never noticed squats hurting my running, actually they seem to help. I've squatted on the day before and the day after a 5 mile run and my legs felt fine ( It was a Wed/Thur/Fri so I had the weekend off though) I just wouldn't do that to often though.