Maybe you shouldn’t lift weights?

Runners used to stay as far from the weight room as I do from decaf coffee ☕.

Not anymore.
​We’ve learned lifting can help improve your race times, improve your running efficiency, and build stronger bones. All good things. Investing time in the weight room can be essential, but it can also wreck your race performance and get you hurt.

How do you know if strength training will help you or hurt you?

Ask yourself a question.

Is this the best time to add something new?

Different seasons of life require different strategies to navigate running, lifting, cross-training, and life outside of training. Sometimes you should invest heavily in the weight room, while other times, you should let cobwebs build on your dumbbells. Let’s investigate four common scenarios to see if you should change your “time investment strategy”.

Scenario I: The Offseason 🏖️

An offseason is necessary for ALL runners.
Your body and mind need breaks during the year. The offseason is the BEST time to add in strength training. You shouldn’t be running as much, you’ll spend minimal time running with any intensity, and can manage the extra muscle soreness without impacting your training. Building strength during this time preps your muscles, tendons, and bones for the next training block. Developing a base of progressive lifting in the offseason allows you to get away with less lifting during peak training.
Invest in lifting now so you can do less later.

Hypothetical Time Investment:
Running: 25%
Strength Training: 25%
Cross-Training: 25%
Hobbies (i.e. stuff outside of running/exercise): 25%

Focus Points:
* Increase the time dedicated to the weight room
Add in new lifting variations
* Spend time on activities outside of running
* Run consistently, but at a lower volume and intensity
* Cut yourself some slack

Scenario II: Building Season 📈

As we begin our prep for race season, everything increases. We cover more miles at faster paces as we prep for the competitive season. We should have already built a good foundation of lifting and now can often add weight to our lifts every week. We don’t need to add new exercises; simply increase the demand of our current program. Add more weight, faster movements, and stiffer resistance bands. Don’t add the latest exercise you saw on Instagram.

If we haven’t invested time in the weight room during the offseason, it might be riskier to start lifting now. Do so with caution. Adding in new strength routines while increasing your running volume and intensity often leads to overtraining, pulling the plug on workouts, and extra stress.

Hypothetical Time Investment:
Running: 55-65%
Strength Training: 20-25%
Cross-Training: 15%
Hobbies: 10%

Focus Points:
* Increase your running volume
* Increase your running intensity
* Consistently progress the weight on your lifts, but don’t add new variations
* Minimize cross-training
* Spend less time in activities outside of running

Scenario III: Race Season 🏁

Race season should be the pinnacle of our training year.
It’s also a time we need to minimize things outside of running. Significant time investment (training + recovery) is required to sharpen ourselves for competition. We often become “one-dimensional” during this period. In the weight room, we keep the same lifts, decrease the lifting volume, and eliminate a majority of cross-training. We may stop lifting altogether if our schedule is booked (*gasp*). Now is not the time to add in new exercises, try new running shoes, or try a new exercise class.

This is the time to be all-in on running. We should be here briefly because of the heavy investment of our time and resources. Trying to stay at “peak fitness” and focusing on one thing in life for a prolonged time is a recipe for injury and burnout.

Hypothetical Time Investment:
Running: 75-80%
Strength Training: 5-10%
Cross-Training: 5%
Hobbies: 5%

Focus Points:

* A large majority of time spent running
* Minimal time strength training
* Minimal time cross-training
* Minimal time outside of running

Scenario IV: “Burnt Out” 🔥

There are times in life when you will be burnt out.
People get burnt out on many different aspects of life, whether it’s work, training, school, or other endeavors. There are times when we need to pull back and “give yourself a little more grace,” as Brené Brown says. The motivation isn’t there, and any training can feel like trying to move a statue.

When these moments of burnout occur, we should double down on life outside of running. Take an online class, spend more time with your community, and engage in activities that make you curious. That may mean completely stepping away from running and lifting. Still move your body, but put running and lifting on hold if necessary. You can always come back in the future.

Hypothetical Time Investment:
Running: 0-15%
Strength Training: 0-10%
Cross-Training: 25%
Hobbies: 50%

Focus Points:
* Minimal to no time running and lifting
* Lots of time being active outside of running
* Lots of time engaging with your community
* Put a whole lot less pressure on yourself

Everyone’s life situation is different. The percentages of your investment can vary significantly from other runners. It’s crucial to continually assess how you are doing, where you are, and where you want to go. Running is about balancing optimal performance with longevity. It’s essential to keep that in mind as you go through your current training season and life.

Where are you investing your time and energy?
What season of the calendar are you living?

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