Friday, April 14, 2017

Tips For Building Muscle While Distance Running

I am often asked by fellow runners what is my secret to building muscle while running so many miles?  It seems like an anomaly to many a runner, but I can assure you, it most certainly can be done!  Just like achieving any other goal you have in running (like a new distance or a big PR), it takes some hard work and dedication.  But with consistency in a well rounded strength and conditioning program, as well as proper nutrition and realistic goals, any runner can build strong, lean muscles while logging in high mileage.

Here are some tips that have worked for me as well as the athletes I work with...

Lift Heavy
Probably one of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to runners, especially female runners, is what type of weights to lift...if at all.  I have encountered so many athletes that use the same light weights for years wondering why they are not getting results.  And I've also encountered many an athlete who shy away of weights altogether, and are wondering why all the running, squats and push ups are not building the body of their dreams.

The only way to build lean muscle mass is to challenge your muscles. They only way to challenge your muscles is to get a little physically (and mentally) uncomfortable and push yourself in the weight room.  I tell my athletes, the last few reps of any set should be bit of a struggle, if it's too easy, then you're not going to get results.  Of course form is always key, so do not compromise form for an insanely heavy weight, but do not be afraid to go up in weights when you're no longer feeling challenged!  (And I wanted to add because it's always asked, the chances of you bulking up and looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger is slim to none, so don't worry!)

Amp Up Your Cardio
So I know this sounds a little silly.  You're distance runner, how could you possibly do more cardio!?!  I'm not necessarily suggesting your run more days, miles or even do more cross training.  What you do want to consider incorporating into your regimen if you're trying to build lean muscle mass is more challenging cardio like interval training.  Interval training (short hurts of high intensity followed by recovery) is what really kick starts your metabolism, burning fat and building lean muscle mass for up to 36 hours after a workout!

Yes, you are getting some interval training if you are doing speed work, but it is strictly through running.  Our bodies adapt to what we constantly do and we need a variety in order to achieve results.  Some ways you can amp it up include taking a spin, kickboxing or boot camp class, try a HIIT or MetCon workout, or simply just add in things like jump rope, squat jumps, mountain climbers, etc. at the end of your lifting sets to shoot your heart rate up.
KB Swings are a great exercise that builds strength and power while getting the HR up
Don't Be Afraid of Carbs
When it comes to building lean muscle, protein gets pretty much all the love.  Understandably so, protein is made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of your muscles and body.  Without them, it would be impossible to build, repair or even maintain muscle tissue.  But in order to get energy for anything from running to lifting weights, to day to day activity, you need energy.  And that energy comes from the glycogen stores you get from consuming carbohydrates.  Since carbohydrates and protein work hand in hand (they work together to fuel and repair muscles), you should consume and equal amount of both (1:1 ratio).

As awesome as it would be to fuel up on chips and beer, not all carbs are created equal.  In order to achieve great, healthy results, you will need to take in good, natural carbs.  Some sources of good carbs are from fruits and vegetables, beans and legume and whole grain.

Consider Your Goals
We all have our own personal reasons why we run.  Some run for fitness in an effort to lose or maintain weight.  Some run to relieve stress and/or just stay active.  And some run to really push themselves and chase big PR's.   Regardless of your reasoning to run, you still most likely have some sort of running-related goal you are looking to achieve in the near future.  So if you're looking to build muscles for ascetic purposes as well, you will have to consider what is your bandwidth for training and your ultimate goal.

So what I tell my athletes is to train for performance and not for perfection.  You are first and foremost a runner and you have goals you want to achieve in that realm.  Yes, you want to look good and you certainly can and will.  Building muscles doesn't mean you have to ditch your running goals and focus on strictly weights, but you are going to have to carve out time during your week to dedicate to lifting, which will make you stiff and sore at times.  So why not make that time work for not just your appearance but more importantly your performance.

Having a well rounded strength and conditioning program in your training regimen will help to make you a better runner who is stronger, leaner, less likely to get injured and an over all better athlete.  The lean muscles you build from that program are then the added bonus!

Don't Be A Slave To The Scale
Along those same lines of training more for performance than just on how you look, is to not be so caught up on a number on the scale.  We have heard that muscle "weighs more than fat."  The truth is muscle is more dense than fat, meaning it takes up less space than fat while weighing about the same amount.  So if you're adding strength training into your routine but not seeing the scale budge, do not get discouraged.  If you're being consistent with your training, taking in the appropriate amount of nutrition and pushing yourself, you are going to achieve results regardless of what the scale says.

These results will be more of how you feel and look, not so much your weight.  You may notice some muscle definition starting to show or your clothes feeling a little looser, and your running pace getting more effortless but fore the scale even (or ever) moves!
I weight the EXACT same in these two pics!
Get Some Direction
There are several ways you can incorporate strength and conditioning into your routine in order to build lean muscle mass while running, ultimately making you a better athlete.  Body weight exercises are a great place to start, but as I stated above, you will need to learn to challenge yourself.  Taking group exercise classes and/or adding in interval training is also a great to get stronger and leaner.

But one of the best ways to take the guess work out of the how, what, when, where and why of strength and conditioning is to enlist the help of a coach.  A trained professional, like myself, can design a program specific to your goals and needs while considering your run training as well.  For more information on my training services, check out my services page and/or contact me today from a free, no obligation consultation.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A New Reason To Run

Project Purple
I have ran marathons for several different "reasons" over the years.  Of course the majority of them have been in effort to catch that elusive unicorn, but I have also ran them for fun, training miles and of course as a pacer.

My first marathon experience, back in 2010, was essentially just to see if I could even do it.  I had no time goal, I just wanted to cross that finish line.  So I chose a race that would have a special meaning for me (in case I never did another one lol) and ran the Marine Corps Marathon.  My parents were both marines and I had lost my father a few years prior, so this race would hold always hold a very special place in my heart.

Fast forward almost 7 years and 8 marathons later, it has been quite a distance running journey to say the least.  One filled with every emotion from pride to disappointment, happiness to heartbreak, and defeat and perseverance.  Though I have yet to reach my ultimate goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon (I've come super close), I press on and continue to find new meaning and reasons to run.

This Fall, I had planned to run a marathon like I do every Fall.  Realizing it would be my 10th marathon, I wanted to make it an extra special experience because, well 10 seems like a pretty exciting number to celebrate.  Feeling a little burnt out on all this BQ chasing, I wanted a different perspective on a training cycle and a race.  I thought what better way to do that run for charity!?!

The thought of running for a charity always interested me.  It seemed like a great way to give more purpose and meaning to a race than just running for a PR.  When you have a special cause you hold near and dear to your heart, why not support that cause through your passion.  So my mind was made up, running for a charity would be how I would spend training for and running my next (and 10th) full marathon.

It was pretty quick and easy for me to decide on a charity.  Of course there are several great causes out there and if I had not had my heart set on one already, it would have been rather difficult to decide which cause to choose from.  But I already had my mind made up on one particular cause that has affected my family, and I wanted to honor an incredibly special person and run in memory of him.  That of course is my dad, who lost his battle to Pancreatic Cancer in 2003.  He was such an amazing and loving husband, father and friend, who's life was cut too short but such an ugly disease.
Daddy and me, circa 1983
I ran my first marathon in memory of him when I chose to run with the Marines, and I'm dedicating my 10th marathon to him as I work to raise funds and awareness for the awful disease that took his life 14 years ago.  I will be taking on the streets of Minneapolis and St. Paul as I run with Project Purple at the Twin Cities Marathon this October.  My hope is to not only exceed my minimum fundraising goal of $1000, but to also raise awareness for this deadly disease and of course make my family proud as I run in memory of my dad.

And one of the best parts about running in the Twin Cities is that my dad was originally from that part of the country and some of our family will be there to cheer me on race day!

To learn more about my father's story, my fundraising efforts and how you can donate to help me reach my goal, please check out my Project Purple page.  Feel free to share and spread the word.  I, of course will be continuing to post on my marathon training as well as fundraising efforts in the coming months, so stay tune!