Running Distance and Lifting Too

Can you run and lift heavy without burning out? I’m hoping to show that you can. I’m only on my second week of training for the Med City Half Marathon so only time will tell, but I’m feeling great so far.

Scroll down to see my 12 week half marathon training and lifting schedule as well as some tips for balancing the two lifestyles.

running distance without losing hard earned muscle

I often find lifters shunning cardio or at least any large amounts of it while attempting to make big muscle gains. On the other end of the spectrum you wont often find cardio loving distance runners squatting heavy weights on any given day.  I am guilty of falling into both extremes at one point or another in my life. I used to be a cardio queen. I would run endless miles in a quest to burn as many calories as possible.

Then one day I was introduced to the world of lifting. Sure, I had picked up dumbells before but I finally discovered what it meant to lift to failure. I feel incredibly strong when lifting, in a way that takes everything I have to give. I have gotten far better results in sculpting my body and shedding fat with my lifting routines than any amount of distance running I’ve done in the past (and I have run a full marathon, a 5-K and a handful of half marathons in my cardio loving days).

These days, you might find me skipping any kind of cardio for weeks at a time while building lean muscle mass. And while I still do love a good run, I am more comfortable in my skin now than I ever was when I was afraid to lift weights. I was one of the many women who thought that I would bulk up if I lifted weights but I have found quite the opposite to be true. And the more muscle I gain, the more calories I burn (both during my workout and when I’m not working out) which causes more fat burning! Lifting heavy has given me an increased metabolism and I now have lower body fat than I did in my college days and better abs after having 2 kids than I did before. So I can no longer blame my two kiddos if I ever carry any extra weight on my midsection.

living room

So now sine I’ve had such great results with lifting, I haven’t had the desire to do a long run in years. Cardio does have it’s place in my workout week but it often consists of interval sprints, some elliptical work or an easy 3 mile run. I haven’t run more than 3 miles in quite some time and didn’t feel the need to since lifting heavy accompanied with moderate cardio has given me the lean body mass I’ve always wanted.

So why on earth would I run a half marathon? Well, because my friend asked me to run one with her and I thought “why not?” Why not change up my routine and have a fun new goal to work towards.

Many lifters (including my husband) would not venture into such distance training in fear of losing muscle gains. But since I am no body building competitor I figured I would see if I could balance the two lifestyles of lifting heavy and running long distance (along with being a wife, homemaker and homeschooling momma… I must be crazy). But I think it’s doable and so far it’s been great! And to be honest I really have missed “long run Saturdays”. I miss the slow paced 6-12 mile runs where I can put in my ear buds and listen to my favorite music as I tune out the stress of the week and take in the scenery around me. There is something refreshing about running long distances with no worry about how fast you are going and then feeling accomplished that your legs were able to carry you that distance without collapsing beneath you.

So, two weeks into training I thought I would share my training schedule with you all as well as some tips for those who might be trying to balance the world of running with lifting.  Feel free to join me or tweak my schedule if you would like to run a half marathon but you aren’t ready to give up lifting.

UPDATE:  Starting in week 4 or training I switched my leg day and speed workout day around. See the below schedule to see the changes. I was having trouble with my speed workout days being the day after leg day. I don’t know why I thought this was a good idea. It wasn’t. I was exhausted. So I made my speed workout day the day before lifting legs and have had great results for 2 weeks now. I have been able to lift the same (if not more) on leg day, and give speed workouts my all because my legs aren’t cashed.

click here

Here is my schedule: Med City Half Marathon Training Schedule

You can click on the link to open the file. But if you aren’t interested in seeing the full schedule my typical week goes like this:

Monday: Lift back, biceps, shoulder, easy run

Tuesday: Lift: Leg and abs NO cardio

Wednesday: Lift: chest triceps, speed run (either intervals or a tempo run)

Thursday: REST

Friday: abs, easy run

Saturday: Long Run or run a race (I will try to find a 5-K, 10-K, and 15-K race to do some weekends to switch things up a bit)

Sunday: REST

Are you interested in running long distance but don’t want to give up your love for lifting?

Here are some tips for balancing lifting and distance training:

1. Figure out your goals: Do you want to set a Personal Record (PR), do you have a goal as to how fast you would like to run the race, or are you just trying to complete the distance? Do you want to try to maintain a lot of muscle mass, or is speed your biggest focus? These goals will determine how your training schedule will look. For me, I didn’t want to lose too much hard earned muscle, although some muscle loss is almost inevitable when running such great distances. If you increase your calories (and eat the right kind of calories) you are less likely to lose muscle. I also am not looking to blow my old PR out of the water. My current half marathon PR is 1:42:59. However, my friend who asked me to run with her has never run a half before so my goal isn’t to crush any past times. I would just like to run at a “decent pace for me” and have fun doing it. In order to keep a good balance of both worlds (running and lifting) I decided to make a 3 day lifting week along with 4 days of running. If I were focused on lifting alone I would have a 4-6 day lifting routine. And if I were just training for this run but not lifting much I would be running or cardio cross training 5-6 days a week. I believe I have found a healthy balance between the two. If I wasn’t so busy with life or wanted to set a PR I might even throw in one more running day but I like how this schedule looks. It gives me two completely rest filled days. One during the week (2 days after leg day when my legs are screaming to rest) and one on Sunday after my long run.

After my last 1/2 marathon (over 3 years ago) with my sister-in-law

last half marathon

2. Write out a schedule: I don’t know about you, but if I have something in writing I am more likely to do it. Either grab a pen and paper or bust our an excel spreadsheet (like I did) and map out what you are going to do EVERY SINGLE DAY. You will be more likely to do what’s on your schedule if it’s in writing. If you don’t write it down, how do you have any idea of how you plan to accomplish your goal. I know I’m Type A, but I just love the feeling of crossing off each day after I’ve done it. Baby steps help me to feel like I accomplished another day in my goal to the big day! I posted my 12 week training schedule in a link above (look for the neon pink photo pointing to the link… in case you missed it).

3. Do what has worked for others: I didn’t pull my schedule out of thin air. I googled “free 1/2 marathon training schedules” and based on what others have done (and what I have done in the past) I created my own running schedule. My schedule most closely resembles one of the Halhigon schedules (, but I tweaked it to fit my heavy lifting in. It was as simple as that. I have trained very similarly in the past (without as much lifting) and had great success, so I figured this schedule would work for me.

4. Be flexible… within reason: Is Thursday your normal rest day but you find you are swamped on Wednesday? Then just switch the days around. Did you miss your long run Saturday? Can you fit it in on Monday? Long runs are the backbone of a training schedule and you don’t want to skip them if you can help it. But you can change the days around a bit without feeling like you are ruining your premade schedule. I really only have 2 rules (for myself) in training for a distance run. 1. I don’t like to have 2 crazy running days in a row after lifting legs. It’s just counterproductive in my mind. My legs are cashed and I need a rest day. And 2. I believe it’s important to have a rest day after a long run (no matter which day you do your long run on). If you don’t get enough rest you will over train and all that hard work wont be worth the results you get (that is if you don’t get injured in the process from over training). This brings me to my next tip…

5. Don’t overdo it: Yes, training is hard work. You are going to feel sore after lifting hard and running long distances but it should be a good pain (the kind where your muscles are sore and recovering from pushing yourself), not a bad pain (like a stress fracture, sprain, strained muscle etc…). So listen to your body. I don’t like to make excuses if I’m just tired. But if I’m really hurting it’s a good idea to take a break until I feel good again. One example is last week I strained my hamstring/groin just as I started leg day. So I took it easy lifting light and skipping anything that strained my muscles anymore. Then I stretched REALLY well and made sure to warm up really well the following day for my run. I felt great the next day. If I had pushed through the workout at full strength I probably would have injured myself even more.

6. Stretch and then stretch some more!: At the beginning of your workout DON’T do those long hold stretches where you count to 30. They can cause your muscles to weaken and lead to an injury. Instead, do a warm up walk or run followed by some dynamic stretches (active movements of muscle that stretch your muscles but are not held in the end position). Then end the work out with static stretches (the ones I said you shouldn’t start with). When you end your workout really hold each stretch. Don’t just go through the motions. Really stretch, pull, and move with a purpose. You will feel much better the next day if you do and you will be less likely to injure yourself during your training journey if you properly stretch each session. Here is a post I have talking a little more about the two types of stretches if you would like more info on them.


7. Hydrate: Drinking lots of water is key (especially on workout days). I used to think I drank a lot of water (since water and tea are the only beverages I generally drink). But when I really started to keep track I realized I could benefit from drinking more. Of course, you can overdo it on the water, but most people don’t get enough. So, drink up. One great way to stay hydrated is to always have water with you. Take a water bottle with you wherever you go (if possible). Be sure to drink water during a workout and afterwards to replenish water lost through sweat. After a workout where you sweat a lot (like a long run or speed workout) a bit of coconut water would be a great drink. Or, add a pinch of sea salt or pink Himalayan salt to some lemon water for a “more natural than Gatorade” electrolyte boost. I even like to eat a fermented pickle or two after a run where I have lost a lot of water. I know, I’m weird.

8. Eat right: I used to think I could do a long run on Saturday and then eat whatever I want because “Hey, I just ran 10 miles, that’s 1,000 extra calories right?” Well, all calories are not created equal and the right kinds of food will fuel your body the right way. Yes, there is room to treat yourself. I’m not going to lie and say I’m not looking forward to the All You can Eat Bazillion Feast I’m going to enjoy for my husband on my anniversary dinner in April. It will be on a long run day-what better day to feast right? However, this whole “all you can eat” mentality shouldn’t follow each and every long run. Yes, you should refuel after a long run (and preferably within 30 min after your workout). But that doesn’t mean to stuff yourself senseless with junk the rest of the day. A great after workout meal would consist of a lean protein, healthy carbohydrate, veggies, and maybe some fruit. The cleaner you eat, the better. You don’t have to count calories (I rarely do), but watching your portions at each meal is ideal. I’ve heard it a million times from the most fit people on earth (and maybe you have too) but it’s worth repeating. You can’t out-train a bad diet.

And my last tip is just a general tip. Do something you enjoy! Whatever you choose to do to stay fit, whether it be lifting, running, dancing, walking, skiing or whatever you may choose to do… have fun! Pick something you love and you will be more likely to stick with it. Getting your body moving is one of the first steps to a healthier you.


Want to know more?… check out part II “This is How I Lift”.

And here is how my half marathon went in my post “Half Marathon Results.”

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2 Responses

  1. April 15, 2015

    […] with my half marathon training schedule). If you missed my post about the balance of lifting and distance running you can see it by clicking here. As I mentioned in my previous post, I used to run… a LOT! […]

  2. May 26, 2015

    […] if you read my previous posts, you will know I was attempting to keep all the muscle I’ve worked so hard to get while still […]

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