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weight training while training for a marathon?

I am currently training for the London marathon on 13 April. This is my first marathon, and my weekly running milage is progressively increasing. Whereas before I was running 20-25 miles a week, now I am running 30-40, and will be running upwards of 60 for 5-6 weeks before tapering down before the competition. My question is this: I, unlike many other endurance runners, am very concerned with my muscle composition, and wish to keep as much muscle as possible. I currently am 5’10", 182lbs, @12%bf. Already, I find that the increased running makes me more fatigued in general, and I was wondering if anyone could offer some advice as to what sort of training programe they would recommend I use to maintain as much muscle as possible, in light of my much increased cardiovascular activity…(I was thinking something that might help counter increased cortisol levels, but i really am not sure what the best method might be…By the way, I am currently on a 4-day split strength program, w. reps in the 6-10 range, and rest periods 1 1/2 to 2 minutes) Thanks in advance for any advice

Hate to say this but if you are training for a marathon. The best marathoners I know just run period. And the don’t do any weight training. You might want to include some speed work and if you do train with weights cut out the 6-10 rep range and go for 15-25rep training for more endurance w/ 30sec - 1 minute rest interval. Check out Jeff Galloway’s running program on walk break in his website


fitone- thanks for the input…I agree 100% that the best marathon runners don’t lift, and just run, but as i mentioned, I am unique in that I am concerned w. preserving whatever muscle possible. Also, I am shooting for sub 3:15(my half PB is 1:34), so I am not really competing against anyone but myself. I love both running and bodybuilding, and don’t want to exclude one at the expense of the other, if possible.

As far as muscular endurance, I agree about upping reps, but I was only planning on doing so on my lower body (I find when I run alot, my legs lose muscle far quicker than my upper body–I imagine as a genetic coping mechanism)–my question was more geared towards preserving overall muscle mass, not necesarily running-specific lifting. In other words, what do you recommend I do to maximize my time in the gym, and best curb the inevitable atrophy that comes with such a high volume of aerobic activity…Thanks in advance

Unforunatly I don’t know if you can train for endurance and size at the same time my theroy is that you can’t. The only thing that I might be able to add is that you increase your protien intake instead of the carbs. Hope this helps.

Keep your reps and sets low w/heavy weight. I’m a triathlete so I know where you’re coming from. Since your running volume is high, you’re feeling fatigued because you are doing a classic bodybuilding routine. Well, you are not a bodybuilder but an athlete instead so you should start training like one. Try keeping reps under 5 for 2-3 sets per exercise. Go as heavy as you can maintaining good form and don’t train to failure. You should also control the weight during the eccentric but lift explosively for the concentric, this will build speed and power for your running, and YES even marathon runners need to be powerful and explosive. Good luck!

At some point there is a trade off. Your lifting will hurt your running as your running hurts your gains you make lifting. You might consider easing off the weight training when you are preparing for competition then when competition is over again work towards your weight training goal. How many marathons do you run per year? 2-3? more? Im surprised no one has brought it up as of yet but currently what is your macronutrient break down? c/p/f?
Also what are you doing for recovery? active recovery? contrast bathing? ice?

Hi, Josh. I’ve got a friend that just finished with his best time ever, 3 hours 4 minutes. He’s 41 and placed 5th in the Masters. Winning time was 2 hours 28 minutes.

Some of the things that he’s incorporated that have helped him I’ve gotten right off this site. Protein every meal. Frequent meals, 1.5g/lb. of BW (at least) of protein divided into as many meals as possible, even getting up in the middle of the night to chug down a protein shake. I’m sure you know that with the running you’re doing, cortisol levels are going to be high. Do what you have to do, but provide your body and your muscles with the substrates needed to build and repair.

Also – and take my word for this – high dose fish oil, specifically EPA/DHA. It helped his endurance and energy and recovery tremendously. My source is Ultra Omega-3 (Health from the Sun) at iHerb.com, $6.50 a bottle, free shipping if you order more than $60. The lemon-lime flavor isn’t bad. He takes it straight. Others pour it over tuna.

And don’t be afraid that eating good fat will make you fat. Stu Mittleman (an ultra elite marathoner) has fought long and hard to convince marathoners that teaching your body to draw on fat reserves vs glycogen reserves makes for a better runner. And, truly, he might be on to something. Marathoners hit that “wall” at about Mile 20 where glycogen stores are depleted. If one were drawing from fat reserves, there wouldn’t be any “wall.” The title of his book, by the way, is “Slow Burn.”

Power Drive, too, was a big hit. There are a lot of runners and elite athletes who swear by it. Read up on it here on this site. It’s also discussed on Charlie Francis’s site on the nutrition forum.

I particularly liked Alex’s advice about low reps and high weight. Not only will you preserve glycogen and your energy, the neuromuscular adaptation is different than a BB going for hypertrophy. You’ll increase strength, density and the number of contractile proteins (myosin & actin). A good read here on this site if you’re looking for a program would be Joel Marion’s Ripped Rugged & Dense, a 5x5 program.

And I really think you’re on to something with wanting to preserve your muscle. Even though the thin, emaciated look is seen in many runners, some of the better times I saw this weekend were from people who were surprisingly muscular. Men and women, both.

I wish you all the best in your first marathon!!!

Josh, I can’t believe I forgot this. . .

Read up on Surge, here on this site. Surge brings catabolism to a screeching halt and promotes anabolsim. It’s the ultimate post-workout and recovery drink. You should be “Surging” after and during all of your workouts. It will make a noticable difference. Roy, my marathon friend, uses Surge on his runs at the halfway point and at the end of his run. Instructions are to use 1 scoop added to 1 litre of water during and another scoop/litre after. Both gym and running.

Another thing I thought of is PS (Phosphatidyl Serine), a supplement that helps with brain function and alertness (great for exams!), but more importantly is supposed to reduce cortisol levels. I’d probably pop a couple before every workout. Take one before you go to bed also (a time when cortisol levels tend to rise).

I believe good marathoners WILL use weights but more to correct imbalances, help strengthen percieved weaknesses, rehabilitate and to prevent injury rather than to develop musculature.

Tampa-Terry made some good points, especially regarding supplementation. I’m a triathlete and found myself in the same dilemma with having to recover. I got some great advice from John Berardi. He says the most important supplements for endurance athletes regard recovery and not performance per se, of course good recovery will help performance. He recommends using PS(about 3-600mg), Sitosterols(20mgx2/2-3x day), Chondroitin(1200-1500mg/day). He says Chondroitin only and not necessarily Chondroitin/Glucosamine which is more popular. I don’t know why but I’d stick with his recommendation. The sitosterols can be found at health shops, Ask for a product called Moducare if they don’t know what you’re talking about. Be forewarned though, it’s not cheap, neither is the PS. I would use these on top of recovery techniques such as contrast baths/showers, cryotherapy, massage, and using ice/heat packs first. You’ll get more bang-for-your-buck with these recovery methods. Cheers.

I tried to do what you are doing about 14 years ago. I found that I just couldn’t keep up with both, so I put lifting on hold until after I ran the marathon. Maybe some of the supplementation advice will help you out – we didn’t have all this good stuff back then. The bottom line is, though, that marathon training is essentially a fulltime job – run, rest and recover, then go run some more. I suspect that even with supplementation help, you are going to end up doing a half-assed job at both running and lifting.

One question, though, why are you planning to run 60 miles a week prior to the race? I’m not aware of anyone who advocates that kind of milage anymore, particularly for first-time marathoners. (I assume that your main goal is finishing in a respectable, but not spectacular time.) Take a look at Jeff Galloway’s Book on Running, for example – he advocates less milage and more rest, with one long run per week. When I was training for my marathon, I peaked at maybe 35 or 36 miles a week using the old Runner’s World program of running by time rather than distance (M/W/F - 40 minutes; T/Th - 90 minutes; Sat - 120 minutes for the last 8 weeks prior to the race). It got me through the marathon in the top half of the field at age 37, which I found to be pretty satisfying. Anyway, good luck.


Here’s some advice that goes against the grain:
Consider some low-rep (5 reps or less) training–5x5 or less. You will complete your training faster, make less inroads on your recovery ability, and your muscles will develop more neurological power, while you stay over-all light in body weight. Stay fresh in the gym, don’t work to failure or exhaustion, and cycle your weights. Just a thought.

Thanks to all for the insightful replies. Just a few clairifications. First, to Porkchop: I can see your point about the milage, but these 50+ mile weeks would only be for 3 weeks before tapering down. Further, if your old ‘runner’s world’ programme had you running 120min, 90x2,60x2, then it would seem like your weekly milage must not have been too far off the 50 mile mark???
Tampa-Terry , dogchild, & Alex, the recovery, lifting, supp. advice all seems to be very good advice–although of the supp. you mentioned, I am only currently supp. w. alot of fish oil capsules and Udo’s choice, I will investigate these other options. Thanks again