Strength Training & Running — Is It Working?

Yesterday I finally had a decent long run. 14 miles at an average 8:42 pace and felt strong all the way through.

I’ve been having mixed emotions about the regular addition of strength training into my running schedule. For one, it takes a good amount of time and, honestly, it’s not my favorite thing to do. I wish I were one of those people who loved lifting and crosstraining. While I enjoy yoga, I can’t say the rest of it thrills me much. And the Y has changed the yoga schedule for the summer such that it’s been hard for me to get in classes I like. The ones that do fit my schedule are with instructors that aren’t my favorite and/or the class is too difficult for my needs and level of yoga ability.

In other words, I don’t want to go.

But the biggest mixed feeling about strength training is that it has been tiring my legs out. Which is part of the point, working the under-utilized muscles. My trainer warned me that initially I’d likely find my running to feel slower as I worked my muscles differently and as I continued to rehab my injured hip. But he says that within a few weeks, I’d find myself feeling lighter and faster once my body adapted to the exercises.

Great. Except it’s no fun feeling like dead weight when I run.

20140728-114841-42521763.jpgI found this picture when I googled images for “lead legs”. This feels about right and half the fun.

I’m choosing to trust my trainer, but damn if it isn’t hard to slog through the exercises after a tiring run. Mostly I want to curl up with a burger and fries, not do lunges with weights. The other day I was supposed to do some shoulder mobility work on a stability ball with puny 3 lb. weights and I was too exhausted to cross the gym to get the weights and did the routine without. I felt so lame next to the girl doing alternating one arm handstands. I barely could roll the ball back where it belonged and slither into the locker room. Sad, middle-aged body.

Yesterday’s run was the first time I felt simultaneously pain free and less heavy. I won’t say it was a “great” run, but it was a major improvement. I hope it continues.

On tap this week is a hill repeat workout of 8×90 seconds at 5k speed on an incline of 6-10%. I’m fairly nervous about it because of my hip, but if it starts giving me any concern, I’ll stop. I’m mostly scared about the down hill, which is what wrecked my hip to begin with, so I may just do the workout on the treadmill instead so I can do the recovery on flat. Not ideal but perhaps the smarter choice.

We’re only a month away from our trip to England, and I’m very excited. I’ve also got two weekend trips before that, one to Connecticut and one to Lake Placid. It’ll be fun doing my training in new places. I can pretend I’m finishing the Ironman Lake Placid because in my head is the only way that will ever happen.

Anyone have suggestions for audiobooks for me to listen to when I train? I’ve been moving away from using my iPod during races, but for long runs I really like to listen to a good story.


14 thoughts on “Strength Training & Running — Is It Working?

  1. Hope you work through this rough patch quickly. You’ve come so far. Don’t give up now. I know you won’t. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m so excited for you and your travels. Sounds wonderful.

  2. I’m right there with you. Though I don’t do much cross training, my mountain runs have been my strength training. It really does help, but I’m getting a bit tired of taking weekend time to go out there. I guess I’ll just deal with that and keep going to the mountain. The benefit outweigh the pain. I hope you continue to improve!!!

  3. I love what strength training/lifting does for my body (and I’m pretty sure I was faster when I lifted consistently) but I hate how it takes time out of my running schedule too! I need at least 1 day to recover and that’s one less day I’m able to run! there’s only so many lifting sessions I can schedule in without it hindering my running schedule ):

  4. Yay for great long runs!! I’m like you, I really don’t like strength training…I really don’t like any other form of exercise besides running, so I get where you’re coming from and it does take up a lot of time! Just out of curiosity, do you do your strength training on the days you do harder workouts or on days with easier runs? I was just curious because if you’re doing it on your “easier” running days, then that may be turning what was supposed to be an easy recovery day into a harder day.

  5. I look at it this way – I run because I love it, and I choose to fill my available time with running … and I don’t love cross-training, so I basically barely ever do it. Oh well ๐Ÿ™‚ If that means I am not as fast as I could be … so be it! ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. I can tell you with 100% certainty that strength training works, and you WILL feel stronger and better because of it. It seems you already are, which is fantastic! Because I’ve been to so much damn PT I got used to near daily PT/strength exercises so my legs adapted. I do not recommend a long run the day after living heavy, lol. OUCH.

  7. Hannah FitnessBanana says:

    I have recently come to the conclusion that I MUST do more strength training. I recently lowered it because I got lazy. . .
    I used to be a crossfitter. I miss it every so often, but my passion lays in running. That doesn’t mean that I totally forgot it, though. I still do a WOD every Wednesday.
    I need to be stronger and less prone to injury, so I need to do it. Nuff’ said!


  8. Sadly, I have no advice for listening enjoyment, unless you count the wind over my ears. The only thing I like listening to is me telling the melon committee to shut it and push harder.

    Truthfully, and seriously, I’ve always been a little jealous of people who can listen to music, or in your case, books. I’ve tried while running, I just can’t get into it. Congratulations on your run.

  9. Yes, cross training will wear your legs out more, but in the long run, that’s a good thing. You’ll get used to it. Can you try swimming, biking, aerobics classes? On the hill repeats – try to land softly going downhill. I learned that the hard way too.
    I listened to Tina Fey’s Bossy Pants audio book – pretty funny.

  10. Oooo so many fun upcoming adventures! I can’t believe your England trip is right around the corner! I’ve learned to love strength training because…well…some days it has been all I could do recently so I might as well love it. I don’t know yet if it has made any kind of difference, but I hope it has. I totally feel you though…after a long run I’d way rather eat and sit on the couch.

  11. I have a love/hate relationship with strength training. Sometimes I’m in the groove with it and other times I just skip it altogether. I’ll be curious to see what you think further into the season. I’ve never listened to an audiobook! But the last few books I really enjoyed were Lauren Hillenbrand’s “Unbroken,” “Where’d You Go Bernadette” by Maria Semple and “The Age of Miracles” by Karen Thompson Walker.

    • Thank you for the suggestions! My husband liked Unbroken (and the movie based on it looks stunning). I’ll check the other two out I think I may even have a copy of The Age of Miracles from Book Expo years ago around here in my to-be-read pile. It could be a great one for long runs.

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