Balancing Strength Training & Running

Hi everyone! Jennifer here from Jbirdruns. I am talking about strength training today and how to balance that with your running.

Strength training is a wonderful thing for anyone in my opinion – runners, triathletes, aging people looking to build lean muscle mass, people looking to prevent injuries, ect. Of course your legs are going to build muscle with running, cycling and swimming. And certainly if you are training for an ultra-marathon or Ironman distance, there are going to be circumstances when you just cannot make time for strength work.

That said, it is important to try to make it a priority when you can. Strength work will improve the quality muscle tissue you have, keeping your metabolism high even as you age. It also helps prevent injuries and, in my opinion, helps me power through hills, and keep good form even when I am very fatigued.

I am not going to tell you that the way I strength train is the right way, but it is what I have found works for me. Here are the general elements I stick to:

  • Plan your week ahead, if possible, you can lift on the same day you do a speed or tempo workout, so that you avoid lifting on a Monday, and having very sore legs for Tuesday’s speed work. Instead, do you life Tuesday after the speed workout.


  • Try to run before you lift, so that your run is the priority getting the best of your energy levels.


  • Know what strength workout you are going to do before you arrive at the gym, and have it written down and available. Personally, I like to have it on paper and avoid reading it off my phone. If I am reading something off my phone, people think I am not paying attention and ask to take the squat rack that I’m in, etc.


  • Don’t be afraid of “getting big.” I hear this concern a lot from women and endurance athletes looking to be light and fast. While I appreciate you will not be bench pressing your max looking to grow your pectoral muscles, general strength work is not going to make you “look manly” or “too bulky.” Women don’t have enough testosterone to grow muscles beyond a certain point (each individual is different). And, in all honesty, I’d rather have a couple extra pounds of muscle preventing injury and keeping me lean and strong any day.


  • You don’t have to lift so hard or so heavy that you cannot walk the next day. Ease into it. Go slow.


  • If you have the ability, get someone to check your form while lifting. If not, watch YouTube videos to learn proper form. Strength work is supposed to be about preventing injury, and lifting – especially deadlifts and squats – with the wrong form can be dangerous. Many gyms will give you a free personal training session for signing up. Take advantage and get help where you can.


  • You don’t have to work every body part, every day. In fact, your muscles really need 1-2 days to recover between days. I am the type of person who can think if some is good, more must be better. However, that is not always the case! Pick which days you are going to strength train and strategically plan which days you’ll work certain body parts around that.


  • Lastly, something is better than nothing. Even if you just have time for a quick 15 minute bodyweight routine, that is great! It is going to benefit you so much and keep you running, biking, and/or swimming longer! 

Here is a sample week:
- Monday: 6 miles of speed work, followed by lifting legs, glutes & core
- Tuesday: 7 easy miles
- Wednesday: 5 mile tempo, followed by lifting biceps, triceps and chest
- Thursday: 6 easy miles
- Friday: 1600 meter swim, followed by lifting back, shoulders & core
- Saturday: long run

I hope that helps and inspires you to give strength work a try!

Written by: Jennifer Kyle

Be sure to follow Jennifer on instagram @jbirdruns and her blog

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Great suggestions, Jennifer! Thank you!! :)


Great ideas and tips!! Thanks girl!


Thank you so much, Jennifer! Love the sample week :)

Ashley Pettigrew

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