Strength training during marathon training

Balancing strength and marathon training is tricky. I’m on Week 7 of Boston training and I’ve strength trained 2-3 per week, last week being my only exception. I lifted once so I went hard, and days later, I’m feeling it.

The key to a good lift is pajama pants and fuzzy socks. Ask anyone.

I’ve searched but not found many resources about lifting while marathon training. Plenty exists for the ‘best’ lifts, which muscle groups you should strengthen for running, etc. In fact, I’m in a state of information overload.

If you’re like me, you’re a sucker for all the information.
“10 lifts for runners”
“Best ways to strengthen your legs”
“The ONLY core workout moves you need”

Click, click, click. If I read too much, I become paralyzed with the abundance of information and don’t do anything. Instead, I get stuck on perfection and end up procrastinating.

That happened last week, and yesterday I was staring down a hard speed effort. My legs said no, thank you. That’s something I can’t afford during training.

I feel if I’m not RX’ing Fran every other day, my efforts “don’t count.” When I actually put this fear into words, it sounds ridiculous. All efforts add up, especially when we’re talking about maintaining strength during a hard marathon training cycle.

During my last training cycle, I maintained my twice-weekly CrossFit schedule until three weeks out. When I tapered, I stopped lifting and focused that time on mobilizing, which was great. Keeping up with the intense CF-style workouts was taxing during training, and, for me, didn’t work the best. The HIIT cardio was too much on top of my already-fatigued legs. The lifting was beneficial though.

Finding a balance is the struggle. Marathon fatigue is real, but strength training is still essential. This week, I’ve scheduled my strength training, physically writing it on my marathon training schedule. Instead of focusing on perfection and lift-till-you-drop workouts, I am shooting for about 20 minutes or so per session. Some days, I might feel like loading up the bar. Other days, I’ll aim for bodyweight only.

I’m going to take it as it comes and focus on doing something, not being perfect.

I won’t gain strength during this time, and I’m okay with that. When you are working your body hard to PR 26.2 (in Boston of all places), all efforts must support that goal.

Realizing and being okay with the fact that lifting will be different during training than off-season is vital. Off-season is the time to lift heavy and frequently with the goal of gaining strength.

Strength lost during training can be built back. Last fall was proof of that for me. It was humbling getting back under the bar, but I did it and regained what I had lost. In fact, in certain ways I am stronger now than I was before my Grandma’s training cycle. I couldn’t do a pistol then, and now I can bang out 10 reps per leg.

Sweaty post-run squats are good for the soul. Also, the ass.

This week’s lifting and running schedule:
Monday – upper, 5 minutes planking, easy run
Tuesday – legs/glutes, core, track day
Wednesday – restorative yoga, running rest
Thursday – 5 minutes planking, yoga, easy run
Friday – upper, pull-up work, tempo run
Saturday – legs/glutes, long run
Sunday – yoga, core, easy run

My key to success will be bite-sized workouts most days of the week opposed to longer, more intense sessions that leave you sore for days.

How do you balance marathon training and strength?


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