I normally weight train 4 days a week, 1.5 hours a day (Tues.-Friday) and perform my long run on Monday. I'm to the 20 mile mark and have decided to get on a marathon training plan for late March, 2009. The 16 week plan looks good but I don't think I can keep up with the weight training and running at the same time. Many times squats, deadlifts, etc. in the later part of the week leave my legs like rubber. The primary focus for me is the marathon plan. Do I just cut back on weight training and do maintenance while I'm on the marathon plan or other?
I would reduce the intensity of your lower body weight training but continue to work on core strength and upper body. You must have a good base running program already since you are up to 20 mile long runs on Mondays. I am not sure what your 16 week plan involves, but it should include a day each week for recovery to prevent overworking your muscles and injury. I also find that I perform better if I take it easy the week before a marathon. Remember to taper.
There are several correct answers to your query depending on your own mental and physical abilities. I too am training for a marathon and lifting weights 3x per week. By the end of the week my body is drained, but a day of rest usually cares for that. While you definitely want to push your limits, listen to your body. If it is saying you need a day or two off, take it. If decreasing the intensity helps, do that. You will need to experiment to find out what works for you.
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Lol- Strenght training and marathon running??? Welcome to the biggest contradiction of all time...
I am a marathon runner and I LOVE to lift weights, so I have a lot of first hand experience (good and bad) with your question...
What I would suggest doing is only lifting weights 3x a week, but doing a total body routine where you go lighter on your legs or lifting weights after your hard runs.
If you lift 3x a week and use the other 3 days a week for your 3 key runs (intervals, tempo, long run) then you can rest your upper body on days you run and not work your legs as hard on days you weight train.
There are advantages and disadvantages to weight training for a marathon (and this is what I mean by a contradiction)...
Studies have shown that weight training is very benificial to marathon runners. One of the "dangers" of running a marathon is that you could potentially incur an overuse injury, however weight training corrects a lot of biomechanical issues b/c it gives your body balance.
The good news is that if you are coming from a weight training background, you will probably find that after you run 20 miles in the actual race, speed has less to do with finishing and it comes down inevitably to mental and physical toughness.
This is where weight training comes in handy. Honestly after 20+ miles your lower body feels more like it's lifting weights than it is running (at least it does to me).
The downside is that if you stack on too much weight it will slow you down (again, this is coming from first hand experience).
What I would suggest is to try to strike a balance between challenging your body in the weight room, but to try to not let it negatively impact your running.
If you are lifting more for muscular endurance, this is going to help you more obviously than if you are just trying to do a 1 rep max and trying to bench press a Buick.
I would say my most successful finish times were when I was lifting 60-70% of my max doing 8-12 reps with 30 seconds to a minute rest in between sets of 3 of 4.
While "bulking up" will not help you as I learned from my slower race times, lifting gives you a kind of mental toughness that will help you come race day. My "war cry" (for lack of a better word) when I attempted my first marathon was that I was going to make my body strong enough to be able to handle what I was going to put it through.
Instead of trying to run 100 miles a week, I ran more like 40, but I made sure that they were higher quality miles in lieu of junk miles and I was able to run faster on days when I was doing running workouts b/c I had allowed myself to recover through cross-training every other day (and I would always take 1 full day off after my long runs for adequate recovery).
I have found after 25 marathon finishes including some moderately decent ones (my marathon PR is 3:28) is that if I lift too much I get burned b/c I start to weigh too much, but believe me when I say that you have to turn into a noodle either.
Typically my week goes:
Sun- 30 mins on the exercise bike followed by 30 minutes of circuit training where I lift 3 sets of 8-12 reps w/ 30 sec-a minute in between sets. I usually skip legs and just do upper body
Mon- 60-90 mins w/ intervals thrown in and lunges and some squats after I run (my legs are usually trashed any way from running hard)
Tues- Sunday's workout
Wed- 60-90 minute temp run
Thurs- Sunday's Workout
Fri- a 2-3 hr long, slow jog
I kind of look at my week like a puzzle in that if I hammer my legs through running and lower body work one day I need to very gently ride the exercise bike the next day to keep from getting too "beat up".
I have found that any more than 30 minutes of weight training seems to be overkill for me b/c I start to get too heavy and I start to lose focus on what I'm trying to do. If I let my time in the weight room get too out of proportion, it is kind of like using an A-bomb to try to kill a cockroach in in lieu of using a "smart" bomb (or if you prefer- it can turn into using a sledgehammer where only scalpul is needed).
My point here is that both will get the job done, however a reasonable amount of restraint may be required if you're use to lifting very aggresively.
Someone else on here also mentioned core stability work and I would agree with them. You may want to use dumbells and a swiss ball instead of a doing typical bench press because it helps you balance your internal stabilizers. It's not that bench pressing is bad for your running, but a swiss ball with weights will accomplish the same thing, but you have the benefit of forcing yourself to keep your balance.
This might sound blasphamous to you if you have a lot of weight training in your background, but 20-30 minutes of yoga 2-3x a week will probably help you after a 30 minute weight session. I was pretty skeptical as to yoga's benefits, but it will protect you some from getting hurt.
Even at my absolute "skinnest" I was still doing weight training. Strength training also accelerates your metabolism as I'm sure you know.
I would also HIGHLY recommend eating a high carbohydrate diet as well. While protein is helpful, if you are lifting and running, I would say a good 70% of your diet should probably be carbs.
One last thing that might help you...
I kind of thought I was a nut job for wanting to hit the gym and lift weights until I read "Run Strong" by Kevin Beck. That book is loaded with advice on lifting for running, namely figuring out how to balance your running distance with weight training. That is just a good book period btw b/c Beck is just the editor. Each chapter is written by an expert in their field for (running, nutrition, flexibility, etc.) so you have a lot of highly qualified people contributing, but it is condensend to a specific subject.
Hope some of this is helpful.