How Often Should I Strength Train?
Just like when you add more kilometres, the key is to build gradually. – By Susan Paul
Jason asks: I’m trying to work strength training into my running routine, something I’ve never done before. I found a brief workout with dumbbells that includes deadlifts, squats, lunges, and squat thrusts. I did it for the first time last week and my legs were so sore that I couldn’t run for four days. How often am I supposed to do a workout like that? I don’t want super muscular legs, I just want strong legs for a marathon. Help!
Good job incorporating strength training into your routine. However, being sore for four days to the extent you are unable to run is not a good sign. Strength training should enhance your running, not sabotage it.
Some amount of muscle soreness is to be expected when beginning a new workout routine, but being so sore you cannot run is definitely overdoing it. Gradual, progressive overload is the way to go.
I suggest that runners strength train twice a week. And, I suggest you strength train on the same day as a run, even on a hard training run day. This may seem counter-intuitive, but by running and strength training on the same day you leave yourself a recovery day or an easy run day the day after. If you alternate running and strength training – running hard one day, lifting weights the next day – there is no recovery time.
The other benefit of running and strength training on the same day is that doubling up encourages you to use a lighter weight and reduce the number of sets and repetitions because your legs are already fatigued from a run.
Since the strength routine you’re trying left you trashed, adapt it so it can work better for you. Start with just two of those four exercises. Squats and lunges are great all purpose lower body exercises, so begin with those. Lighten the weight and reduce the number of sets and repetitions you did in the last workout.
You can even use your own body weight first, no dumbbells, and see how that feels. Focus on using correct form and going through the complete range of motion intended for these exercises rather than the amount of weight used. Add weight gradually and/or increase the number of repetitions over time.
Always allow yourself adaptation time for these new exercises before increasing the intensity with weight or reps, just as you would when increasing mileage. Adaptation varies among individuals, but expect it to take three to six weeks. It may take longer, depending upon how many kilometres a week you are running.
When you feel like you have adapted to the exercises, add one of the remaining exercises, either the deadlifts or the squat thrusts. Do these three exercises for another three to four weeks before adding the last exercise. Also keep track of the amount of weight and the number of sets and repetitions you do. Increase the repetitions or the weight, but not both at the same time.
Keep in mind that running is your priority at this time, not weight training, and proceed cautiously.