Running 101 for the Hardcore Muscle & Strength Fanatic
You all know the montage in question, Rocky gets up, heads out, and starts running. And boy does he run! 30 plus miles according to some estimates by the way in Rocky 2.
But you can’t deny he looks like the complete opposite of a runner; broad shoulders, lean midsection, python arms. But he’s running, shouldn’t he be smaller?
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Not at all! You can easily fit in running into your strength training. And while you don’t need to be running a marathon and change to get the benefits of it like our main man Rocky Balboa, you will be amazed at just how much better you can feel from including something everyone should be able to do.
So today we will go over not only how to run without affecting your strength or muscle building goals, but how it can even enhance it.
Running for the Lifter
First off, who should run and why?
Well, upfront, if you are overweight or an elite-tier strength athlete, you don’t have to run at all. You can (and maybe should) swap out running for cycling, safer on the joints, and less potential drawbacks.
But you can still obtain many of the benefits of running. Beyond that, I feel everyone should be able to run and practice it for many of the benefits.
Why you want to run if very simple, it’s a very simple thing to get started. You lace up your shoes, put on some music, and head out on the road. That’s is. Pretty simple, right?
Not only that but the numerous health benefits it can offer you as well. If you continue to run, it is an amazing activity to strengthen your heart and lungs. And especially as you age, the health and strength of your heart become far more important than the size of your biceps.
But we will be keeping our nice biceps in this case, of course. Reduced blood pressure, lower resting heart rate, better aerobic conditioning are also a few of the health benefits of running.
And speaking of aerobic conditioning, here’s a nice little side benefit for us lifters.
You know that feeling when you are gasping for air between your leg sets? When you feel like you want to just lay down and curse the gods? That’s your body trying its hardest to get in oxygen to your body, your aerobic strength.
And look at that, if you were to strengthen your aerobic conditioning, it could lead to recovering faster and feeling ready faster during training. When you train running properly, you are improving your body’s ability to get oxygen into and out of the muscles, and causing an increase in stroke volume (fancy word for how much blood is pumped with every beat).
More blood per pump, more oxygen per beat. Though don’t expect this effect to happen overnight, but over the course of several months. This can lead to better recovery not just during your workouts, and between your workouts as well. And better recovery can only help enhance your results up to a point.
Even if you are sore, and can easily run, just taking a very easy slow jog can spike your recovery and help you feel better for the iron. Not to mention a better resting heart rate, giving the body a reason to strengthen bones, and it is highly meditative once you get into the rhythm of it. Plus it helps burn a good chunk of calories as well, which means get to eat more food or easier to create a caloric deficit if leaning out.
How to Get Started Running
Let’s get one thing clear from the start. When I am telling to run, and how it can help your strength and muscle building endeavors, I need to address how to run before we even talk about how to implement it.
You should be able to have a conversation the entire time.
This is one of the bigger reasons people will say it affects strength training, they are going balls to the walls when running! And if you are going as fast as you can every time you run, yes that will sap your strength! Too much carry over stress-wise on the muscles and nervous system.
If you are looking to build strength and muscle while running, it is imperative you keep your intensity very low and intuitive. If you can have a mild conversation, but obviously breathing a bit more, you’re at the right pace.
If you feel like you could go a little bit farther when you’re done, you’re doing it right. It may not be an easy conversation, maybe a few words per inhale and exhale, but you should be able to talk. In fact, I highly recommend every now and then just do that talk test. Try talking to yourself! If you can’t really talk, slow down. If you can talk just like you can when you are standing around, speed up.
Somewhere in the middle is where you want to be.
Now with that out of the way, how do we start running? While there is no real right or wrong way to start, you just simply have to start. But here are a few guidelines to make the transition into running a smoother one.
Upfront, how often? I would suggest 2-3 times a week for 60-90 minutes total is a good place to start. You will get plenty of benefits from the running that amount each week.
Don’t worry about the distance as that will come and improve as you get better. If you want to run farther than that, feel free. But this would be the minimum for the most bang for your buck. Any further should be because you enjoy it.
Next, the when? The honest answer is whenever you can fit it in. Absolute ideal time? Separate day from your strength training, but that may not be feasible for most people. After your strength training or a separate time of the day would be more realistic for the vast majority of people.
Just getting it done is more important than the specific time of when. Let it fit your training schedule and life commitments. Just do not do it right before your strength training, that would be the only time you should try avoiding it.
How do I track my progress?
The same way you would with weight training! Slow progressive overload, and keeping track of your progress. Though with running, this happens at a slower pace so don’t go as aggressively as you would with weights. But you can use any running app on IOS or Apple to keep track of your runs.
While I personally use Runkeeper, there is also many to choose from. If over time, you went from running 2 miles in 30 minutes using a conversational pace, to eventually doing 3 miles in the same time span and same conversational space, you’re improving.
It’s as simple as that.
Progress will be slow a bit, but we are not trying to be a world-class runner, just include running into the routine. Take it slow and let your body get used to the new type of training stress.
A Few Short Things to Keep in Mind When Starting
While generally getting started is simple, there may be a few things to keep in mind.
This first point is especially true for us heavier lifters. You may have a slight adjustment period no matter what you do! This isn’t always true, but you may be slightly more fatigued as your legs adapt to the new stimulus. But that will go away if you train smart. Again your runs should not feel like a strenuous workout. A bit out of your comfort level, yes. But conversational pace will limit it.
If you are worried about losing muscle mass, here is my word for you. Keep training for strength, and eat back the calories! If you are continually pushing for progressive overload, and your diet is in check, you will be fine.
This is not HIIT training. Is it needed? No, at least not with adding running into a strength routine. If you absolutely must do HIIT, stick to the cycling bike! But running, keep it at jogging.
Above all else, learn to have fun! If you find you like jogging around the park or your block, but hate the treadmill, stay off the treadmill. If jogging on the treadmill and watching stuff help you do it, then do that.
Is this everything?
No, my dear reader, there is so much more when it comes to running and strength training mixing. But with this, you should have a basic rough idea on why you should do it, and how to get started.
Obviously, if you choose to do say a half marathon for example with your strength training, then we have a topic for another day. But for now, let’s all join Rocky and embracing the road work.
See you out there my fellow lifters (now runners as well).