Fitness is a maze of conflicting opinions and confusing recommendations.  Most purveyors of fitness expertise have the best intentions of helping individuals meet goals, and achieve their potential, but this is not always true.  So sifting through the good, the bad and the ugly can be tricky, especially related to the ostensible paradox of simultaneously running and lifting weights.

                  A stereotypical dichotomy exists in fitness, with the cardio camp and the weight training camp.  A certain emphasis should be placed on whichever type of training you intend to compete in, but crossover is also recommended.  General guidelines suggest a benefit of combing resistance training with cardiovascular training (like running).

Here are 5 rules to follow for runners who want to lift weights:

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1. First of all, in the words of Captain Barbosa, many fitness rules are “more like guidelines than actual rules”.

If you want to run and lift weights, just do it!  Only the most elite aerobic athletes, or the highest caliber strength athletes will suffer deleterious effects of combining different forms of training.

Adding any resistance training will help improve running economy, as well as power when running uphill, or increasing speed for the final leg of middle distance races.

2. Do something you will stick to.

The best strength training routine in the world won’t help at all if you don’t actually do it.  Find a routine that fits your schedule, with equipment that you have easy access to.

For some, body weight exercises might be the easiest way to avoid the hassle of finding the right equipment.

For others, weight-based exercises may be more enjoyable, and present more of a challenge.

3. Focus on endurance.

The basic prescription for lifting weights with the goal of muscular endurance is to have high volume with low intensity.  I recommend selecting 1-2 exercises for each major muscle group or movement pattern.

A muscle group coordinates a specific movement.  For example, the Triceps Surae muscle group is composed of several muscles, and helps you point your toe down, but it can be effectively trained using a single exercise.

A movement pattern is a general action combining the contributions of several muscle groups.  For example, the squat pattern combines leg muscles with core stabilization to provide a total body effort when lifting weights.

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4. The principle of specificity.

One of the most important training principles (along with variation and progressive overload), is the principle of lifting weights in such a way that mimics the intended sport action as closely as possible.

For running, focus on exercises that put you in a split stance.  One of the best examples is the lunge, and its variations.

5. Don’t detract from your cardio training.

The worst thing runners can do when adding weight training, is take away the effectiveness of cardio workouts.

During weight training, small disruptions in the orientation of muscle fibers create a potent stimulus for building muscle mass.  However, these disruptions also take 1-2 days of recovery before the muscles are ready for another go-round.

Don’t schedule a high intensity cardio day (ie interval training, tempo runs, repetition training) right after, or right before a session where you plan on lifting weights.

1-2 days per week of lifting weights is great for recreational athletes, so just make sure to schedule your lifts before your long slow distance days, or before a rest day.

Stay fit, and be the best YOU can be!

Hopefully at this point you have some solid “rules” to create an effective routine for lifting weights in conjunction with your running.

Don’t force your unique training goals into another person’s idea of an effective workout.  Evaluate how likely you are to stick to a particular program, then add exercises in, considering major principles like goal setting for muscular endurance, specificity, and running/lifting tandem training.

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