In Part 1 of this series all about strength training, we bust five common myths around lifting weights. If you think strength training will make you bulky, ruin your aerobic fitness or hinder endurance gains, keep reading
Strength training myth #1: I’ll get bulky
It’s easy to look at the beefy guys and girls throwing weights around the gym and draw a link between strength training and increased muscle mass.
But what you don’t see is the strict regime and nutrition needed to look like that. For hypertrophy (muscle growth) to occur, you need:
- A regular surplus of calories, particularly protein
- To train specifically for muscle building
- To remove catabolic activities
Let’s consider the average endurance athlete’s lifestyle for a moment with reference to the above. Most marathon runners:
- Do not eat a surplus of calories, and certainly not from protein
- Do not train in the gym daily, lift heavy weights and target isolated muscles with sets and reps designed to increase mass
- Go running
The above means you’ll find it nigh on impossible to pack on muscle while training for a marathon.
Just look at Mo Farah...he’s not what I’d call bulky.
Strength training myth #2: My run sessions will be compromised
The triathletes amongst you will attest to the benefit of ‘brick sessions’, where you run immediately after a bike session with tired legs. It’s hard at first, but you adapt and it becomes easier.
Strength training myth #3: It’ll ruin my aerobic fitness
Let’s take a look at the science to bust this myth:
- A study on strength training’s impact on VO2 max by the University of Technology, Pretoria found that “eight weeks of resistance training were sufficient to result in a significant improvement in VO2max”.
- One from the Department of Health and Exercise Sciences, Oklahoma, concluded that an improvement in VO2 “may be associated with an improvement in the ability of oxygen to be utilized in hypertrophied muscles”.
- What about endurance? Well, a study in the Journal for Strength and Conditioning found strength training to be “useful in the development of submaximal aerobic performance and leg strength for endurance athletes”
- Another crucial component of marathon running is economy. On analysis of 700 research papers, the Autonomous University of Madrid found “a strength training program including low to high intensity resistance exercises and plyometric exercises performed 2-3 times per week for 8-12 weeks is an appropriate strategy to improve RE [Running Economy] in highly trained middle- and long-distance runners”
Says it all really. Neither VO2, endurance or running economy are harmed by strength training. They are, in fact, improved.
The gym isn’t every marathon runner’s favourite training ground, but time here will pay dividends
Strength training myth #4: I am not a gym member / hate the gym
This isn’t so much a myth as a common fact of life for many. I’m not a huge fan either.
It is possible to strength train at home, but it’s not optimal for several reasons: inappropriate kit, constant distractions and a lack of heavy equipment to name a few.
You don’t need to live at the gym. I’m a “get in, get it done, get out” gym goer. That’s all it needs, and the gains are worth it.
Strength training myth #5: I don’t have time
I’d go so far as to say strength training will provide more bang for your buck than nearly any individual run session. Of course, it depends where you are within your season, your running experience and your strengths and weaknesses but generally speaking it’s the case.
You don’t need a whole heap of time to see the gains of strength training
One or two 45-minute sessions per week is all you need and I often advocate sacrificing a run to get the strength session done if it’s an either-or choice.
It’s a matter of priorities and, as a long-distance triathlete, I totally understand how hard it is to sacrifice a swim, bike or run in favour of the gym. It feels like a waste of time but if you commit you’ll see its value.
Strength training myths: conclusion
Strength training places additional stress on your body, so make sure you're consuming high quality, nutrient-dense foods - like Ultimate Daily Greens - to support immune system efficacy
Many reasons marathon runners give for omitting strength training are flawed. If your reason for excluding it is not listed above then drop us a line – we’d love to hear from you!