If you’re a runner and you are not engaging in some form of consistent, intentional strength training, you are leaving a LOT on the table. This is another episode I’m doing in my “Back to Basics” …
My name is Patrick McGilvray, and I’m an experienced marathoner, ultra runner, Sports Nutritionist, Master Life Coach, and weight loss coach for runners. I’ve dedicated my life to helping runners just like you properly fuel your body and your mind. So you can get leaner, get stronger, run faster, and run longer than you ever thought possible. This is Running Lean.
Hey there, and welcome to episode 129 of Running Lean. My name is Patrick McGilvray, the weight loss coach for runners and today, another in My Back to Basics series: the importance of strength training for runners. So if you’re a runner, and you’re not engaging in some sort of consistent intentional strength training, I’m just going to tell you right now you’re leaving a lot on the table.
So this is another episode I’m doing in my Back to Basics series, where I’m talking about the basics of good health: improved fitness, improved running, and really becoming your healthiest and most badass self. Okay, so today is all about the importance of strength training for runners.
To be honest, most runners that I talked to are not doing any form of strength training, like at all, or they’re not doing it properly. So in this episode, I’m gonna go over why strength training is so important. If you’re a runner, how it can help you to improve your running, how we can help you to lose weight. And all the reasons I believe that strength training is actually one of the most powerful things you can do to improve your overall health and fitness. So that’s all coming up here.
And I just wanted to let you guys know that this whole month, this month of June, is mastering your mindset month over in the Running Lean coaching project. The Running Lean coaching project is my coaching program. And this is our it’s it combines the best of my group program and one on one coaching with me, we put together a personalized plan that works for you, you get training, you get all the information you need, you’ll learn exactly what to do, how to improve your nutrition, how to take control of your food choices, how to lose weight and keep it off permanently, how to build new habits, how to get stronger, how to improve your strength, your endurance, how to fix your mindset.
This whole month, mindset is one of the most important things you can do. This shifting your mindset is one of the most important things you can do to take control of your health and fitness, you cannot succeed and cannot make these changes last, if you don’t have the right mindset. So we’re spending the whole month of June talking about how to improve your mindset. And don’t worry, I know it’s the middle of the month. But if you want to join us, you can.
And all the calls that we do and all the training I’ve been doing around mindset this month, they’re all recorded, and they’re all archived on to a private podcast feed that you can listen to, or you can watch the replays of the Zoom calls, you can watch the videos as well. So you won’t really miss out on anything.
So I just want you to know that anytime you hear me talking about what we’re doing in the current month, and every month, we pick a different theme and sort of just do a deep dive into that theme, you’re not really going to miss out on anything if you join in the first or second week or the middle of the month, okay. And then you can actually have access to all the back back months of trainings that we’ve done.
So if you’re ever interested in really taking control of your health and fitness for good, and understanding how to make these changes last permanently, then join us over in the Running Lean coaching project. There is an application process. This isn’t for everyone. And I want to make sure that we get on the same page before you jump into the program because I’m interested in working with people who are committed and who have what it takes, I think to succeed you so you have to have this commitment level, you have to sort of go all in on yourself in order to be successful with changing your health and fitness like this. So I want you to consider that. So we jump on a call and we talk about your goals and see if this program is right for you or not.
So if you’re interested in applying, just go to runningleancoaching.com/apply We’ll jump on a quick zoom call you and I will have a conversation and see if this is good fit cool. But we’d love to have you in the Running Lean coaching project. And especially for this month where we’re talking all about mindset that’s runningleancoaching.com/apply fill out your application and we’ll jump on and a zoom call and see if this is right for you.
Okay, another episode today’s another episode in our Back to Basics series. This is where I’m just kind of going over some things I may have talked about in the past. You know, maybe I’ve updated some of the information that today’s a good example of that I’ve got some updated information about strength training for you guys and about why it’s so important, especially for runners, especially if you’re somebody who’s trying to lose weight, especially if you’re somebody who wants to improve your health and fitness, I know you do. If you’re listening to this podcast, you want to become more, you want to become the most badass version of yourself. I know you.
So, you know, this is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Absolutely. People talk about, you know, how great running is for you. And I know I’m a runner, this shows for runners, I coach runners running is my life. It’s what I do. But I’m going to say something that may surprise you. I think strength training is more powerful and more important for you than running. Running is also important. Running is also important, okay.
But I think building strength is going to have ramifications that last longer, and will help improve your fitness in ways that I’m gonna explain today. So I hope you kind of agree with me by the end of this episode, how important strength training is for you.
But it can be more powerful and more effective on your overall health and fitness than running can be. Okay, I know it sounds crazy, right? But I believe it’s true.
So just to give you an idea of like, what I teach in my coaching program, there’s like four main pillars that I talk about in my program. And they are nutrition, strength, endurance, and mindset. And all four are required. All four are important for different reasons. Nutrition, obviously, if you’re eating the wrong diet, and no amount of running is going to fix that no amount of strength training can really undo that. Okay, so nutrition I’m going to say is number one, and then I would put strength as number two.
And then endurance would be number three, you know, we need to build a strong cardiovascular system. So you know, running, run, walk, or whatever you like to do. For endurance, some people are cyclists, awesome rowers, swimmers, whatever you’re into from an endurance mindset. And endurance standpoint is awesome, do that. Do that.
And then underlying everything is mindset. Mindset is like, sort of the foundation that makes everything else possible without the right mindset. All this stuff is really hard to do. Okay, but armed with the right mindset, shifting your mindset, changing your mindset for the better, will make huge improvements, all these things you think are impossible for you become possible with the right mindset. Okay, so all four of these elements are required to be a fit, healthy, happy human being, you have to have all four, nutrition, strength, endurance, and mindset.
And today, we’re gonna be talking about strength. We’re going to talk all about why it’s important. And I don’t want you to skip this. It’s probably the most important. Okay, next to nutrition. All right.
So the problem I see with a lot of runners is that they just don’t do any kind of intentional strength training, or the strength training they do is, is not they’re not doing it, right. I hate to say that. But I’m just going to tell you right now that there’s kind of like two different ways to do strength training.
There’s one where you’re intentionally building muscle. And there’s another way where you’re basically it’s more like a cardio workout. Right? You’ve seen this like Orangetheory, and, you know, certain, you know, HIIT classes maybe, or yoga, like power yoga and things like that. These are, these are great, I love all that stuff. They’re all good for you. But a lot of times these workouts tend to be more cardio based.
And that’s fine. But as runners do, we really need to be engaging in more cardio. It’s not a bad thing. Cross training is great. I love it. You know, if you’re a runner and all you’re doing is running, I think that can be detrimental after some time. You know, you start to get overuse injuries and things like that. So engaging in some other types of cardio activities like cycling or swimming. Great, awesome stuff to do.
But don’t pretend like what you’re doing is strength training because a lot of times it’s not, you know. So, bodyweight isn’t really enough sometimes, and I’m gonna get into that in just a minute. But we want to be intentional about building strength and building muscle.
And if you’re a runner and you’re not doing this, you are leaving a lot on the table, you’re not going to be as efficient as a runner, you’re not going to be as efficient as a fat burner, you’re not going to lose weight, if that’s something you’re interested in as effectively as you could be if you’re doing some intentional strength training. So running is just not enough on its own.
There’s three main systems that runners need, and they need to improve and need to work on. And that is endurance, strength and explosive power.
So most long distance runners especially we get into marathon runners, or ultra marathoners, they just focus on endurance. And that’s it. So again, you’re just leaving a lot on the table, you’re leaving out two very important systems that you should be improving in order to make writing that much better for you. Okay. So endurance is great, we want to build our endurance, but you’re leaving a lot on the table, if that’s all you’re working on.
Now, I get some times, you’re training for 100 miler, and, you know, that might be where you’re gonna focus on the long, slow distance, and totally make sense. But incorporating strength and explosive power into your training cycle, and into your regular workouts is going to make that endurance even better, you’re going to improve your endurance, because you’re improving these other systems.
Think about it like this, we need all three systems to function properly, to be at our best, to be at our strongest. And if you’re only working on one of them, endurance, for example, you’re just gonna leave out a lot of potential for improvement, you know, running improvement, performance improvement, power output, even endurance, like, just if you just work on endurance, and that’s all you’re working on, but you’re not getting stronger, you actually are not going to improve your endurance the way you could be, if you were if you were doing some intentional strength training, okay.
So, you know, like to build endurance, you just want to run more, you keep increasing your distance, you keep increasing the time you’re out there running, you know, to build explosive power, you can do things like HIIT training, plyometric exercises, stuff like that. And then to build strength, we have to lift weights, we have to have some sort of resistance.
Okay, so bodyweight usually isn’t enough. So we need to have some more resistance, some body weight can be fine, especially at the beginning. And there’s some exercises where bodyweight is plenty. But really, to work your entire body, you have to be overloading muscles. And so I’ll explain more about that in a second here.
But just understand that we need all three of these systems functioning properly, endurance, strength, and explosive power. And if you do have all those things, firing on all cylinders, so to speak, you’re going to be at your best, right, you’re going to be much more, you’re going to be much stronger and much more powerful as a runner, and a healthier human being overall.
So some of the things I see as a result of people not doing regular resistance training, regular strength training, is they have reduced power output. So they cannot run as hard, or as intense, or as fast as they want to, their running performance is impaired. Regular strength training will fix this. People that don’t engage in regular strength training, especially runners are more prone to injury.
You have a reduced ability to burn fat, if you’re not engaging in regular strength training, your metabolism is actually slower than if you were doing some regular strength training. And there’s just this overall kind of lack of energy that happens, that I see in a lot of people who aren’t engaging in regular strength training. Okay. So just understand that some of the negative things, and I’m gonna talk about how we fix these things right now, right.
But the important thing I want you to understand here is that we have to be engaging in regular consistent resistance training of some sort. And when I say resistance training, there has to be some sort of resistance in order for you to overload your muscles. So that can be free weights, it can be machines at the gym, sometimes it’s bodyweight, it could be those bands that you hook into a doorway or something like that.
I’ve got a set of those bands that I take with me on vacation. If I can’t get to a gym with actual weights, and they work really well. They work really well to do all kinds of resistance exercise, we just have to be, we have to push ourselves to the point of failure. muscle failure is what we’re looking for here. Okay.
So let’s talk about why strength training is so important for runners and what it does for you like, what are the benefits? Why would we want to be engaging in regular strength training? So one of the most important ones that I like to talk to, especially with the people that I work with who a lot of times they’re trying to lose weight, is that your strength training will play a big role in helping you to lose weight.
So when you are carrying around more muscle mass, when you actually have more muscles, your metabolism speeds up, you can actually burn more calories, and therefore burn more fat when you’re carrying around more muscle. So one of the best things you can do to lose weight and improve your body composition, is to do regular strength training. So your muscles require more energy than fat does.
So muscle requires more energy to be on your body than fat does, that doesn’t require a whole lot of energy for your body to carry it around. But muscle does. And so your metabolism will actually be faster if you’re doing regular strength training, and you’re building some muscle. So just understand that if you’re trying to lose weight, like if that’s a goal of yours, and you’re not doing regular strength training, it’s just going to take longer.
Okay, so don’t you want it to go faster? Yeah, I know you do. Another benefit of strength training is that it helps you to get fat adapted and helps you to stay fat adapted. So this whole idea of speeding up your metabolism helps to improve fat burning, it speeds up the fat adaptation process as well.
So if you want to get fat adapted, which is where we’re transitioning our body from being primarily sugar burners to being primarily fat burners, then regular strength training is going to help speed that process up, and it’s going to help you to stay there again, your metabolism is faster, you’re burning more fat in general, then you can stay fat adapted, if you’re doing regular strength training, it’s a much, it’s a much better way to stay fat adapted, and it’s really powerful. And if you can keep your metabolism operating faster, then you keep the engine burning hotter, basically, when you have more muscle on your body, okay, so it’ll help you to get fat adapted and help you to stay fat adapted.
Another benefit of strength training, especially for runners is that, you know, when you, when you build strength, you’re increasing the strength of your muscles, but you’re also increasing the strength of your connective tissues. So ligaments and tendons, this will help protect joints around things like your knees, and your ankles and your hips.
And if you’re a runner who’s prone to injury, and you want to know, like one of the best things you can do to help prevent injury in the future, regular strength training is going to do that for you. So having stronger muscles, having stronger connective tissues, having stronger joints will mean that you are you have a less reduced risk of injury. Right? So this is something that I think is very important, especially as we get older, okay.
Which brings me to another important benefit of strength training, which is it helps to increase bone density. So, bone density is one of those things that people think, oh, you know, you just need to, like, take calcium supplements or something and, and there’s actually some sort of controversy around that and how taking too much calcium can actually diminish bone density.
So it’s better to do something like strength training to improve bone density. So as we get older, one of the most common issues with people is that they lose muscle mass, and they lose bone density. And then they you know, as they get older, they do things like fall down. And when you fall down and you break a hip or something like that, you become sedentary and then your overall health and fitness declines very rapidly at that point.
This is one of the most common causes of death in the elderly is complications from falls, that can be prevented with regular strength training, just stay strong. I want to be like 101 years old and still be able to like, go for a run, lift weights, I want to be in good shape. So that’s my goal. I don’t want to fall down and break a hip or break a leg or something like that. Okay. So, if you’re an endurance athlete, and you’re getting a little bit older, you’re over 40 or whatever. You especially will benefit from strength training, because your strength declines faster than your endurance as you get older.
So you may still be able to run longer, but you could be breaking yourself down. Remember that running is catabolic. Running kind of breaks you down. And one of the best ways to reverse this or prevent this from happening is to maintain muscle strength.
I am currently 55 years old, and I have never been stronger in my life. And I just started this a few years ago, this very intentional way of strength training that I teach to my clients that is very effective. And if you engage in regular strength training, it doesn’t matter how old you are, you can improve, you can make improvements, you can become stronger. And you should be doing some sort of regular strength training, it doesn’t matter how old you are, okay, but strength training will help increase bone density and help you to kind of prevent aging, it’s like magic. Another benefit of strength training is that it helps to improve your overall energy. So consistent anaerobic exercise, like sprinting or intense weightlifting, you know, lifting heavier weights, this is going to give you more energy and give you more energy for your next bout of intense physical activity.
So this is actually going to improve your overall athletic ability, this isn’t going to improve your overall athletic performance. And this is going to improve your overall energy levels. So doing some sort of consistent, anaerobic type of exercise, like strength training, will help you to have more energy just throughout the day.
Another important aspect of strength training for runners is that if you want to improve your speed, if you want to become a faster runner, you need to be doing some regular strength training, there’s no better way to get faster. And then to build stronger muscles. When you start to build stronger muscles and you lose the fat weight and gain some muscle weight, you improve your power to weight ratio, so you have more power on a smaller frame. That means that you can run faster, you have more power output at that point.
So this is about body composition. This is about losing fat weight, gaining muscle weight, and it will help to improve your running performance, you can run faster for longer, okay. And that brings me to my next point, which is improving endurance. So being being stronger means you have more long lasting energy, you can run further, you can run longer distances and longer amounts of time, you can be out there running, because you have stronger muscles, right, you’re not going to break down and hit the wall, like you would if you were super weak, you know. So stronger muscles means you can sustain running for longer periods of time.
And it also has to do with increasing your lactate threshold. So regular strength training will help to improve your lactate threshold, increase your lactate threshold. So that means you’re just shuttling more lactate out of the bloodstream. So you’ll be able to work out harder and more intensely for longer periods. Right. So again, this is about helping to improve performance in general helping to improve speed, power, output and endurance. So all of that gets improved when you’re engaging in regular strength training.
Then there’s a couple of benefits of strength training that I thought were interesting. For example, regular strength training can help you fight depression, improve your mood. So regular strength training releases these feel good hormones and neurotransmitters. And we call this your daily dose. So its dose stands for dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins, D O S E. And the effect of these feel good hormones can last for, depending on the person, up to 12 to 24 hours.
So if you’re doing regular strength training, you’re doing regular workouts every day, every other day, whatever. You are just going to be a happier human being all around, you’re going to be nicer to be around, you’re going to be in an elevated mood. And so if you’re somebody that has struggled with some, you know, mental health issues, or maybe a little bit of depression, anxiety, that kind of thing. I know this was me.
Years ago, I really struggled with some anxiety issues and depression. And running regularly and doing regular strength training was one of the things that really pulled me out of that, and really helped me to stay above that. And, you know, I still had some of those issues. It’s not like it’s going to fix everything, I had to do some, you know, some counseling and therapy and things like that, which I think is so, so important.
But this regular release of these feel good hormones, just puts you in a little bit of a better mood, and it lasts for a while. And so this is one of the reasons why I continue to do regular exercise and regular, intense exercise. So when I go to the gym, and I lift weights, it’s a hard workout. When I go run, I usually do one of two things, I do super hard, fast runs, I did some sprints the other day, super hard, super hard. And then today, I did a very slow, easy run.
And I kind of balanced the two out, you know, so I’m not always just doing some medium hard runs, I’ve kind of balanced them out with some pretty intense runs, that release more of these feel good hormones, regular strength training, that can be pretty intense to release, these feel good hormones, and I’m just in a better mood all the time, I’m a lot nicer to be around when I’m exercising regularly. I like myself better and other people like me better.
And another thing I thought was interesting was that regular strength training can help reduce risk for some diseases. They’ve done some studies that show that increasing muscle in your body, increasing bone density can actually help reduce the risk for diabetes and heart disease. So if you’re somebody that maybe has a family history of these kinds of things, then regular strength training can be a factor to help to reduce the risk of some of these things. Obviously, your diet is gonna play a factor into this.
Genetics to some point. Don’t smoke cigarettes, that kind of thing, right? You don’t smoke cigarettes, right? I used to smoke cigarettes, I can’t believe I did that today, I look back on that and go like, that was dumb, right? I smoked for like 15 years. Terrible. Kids don’t smoke cigarettes. Okay, stay away from cigarettes.
Alright, now I want to talk a little bit about what it means to do strength training and like kind of how we do it and how we shouldn’t do it. So I was kind of mentioning this earlier, but we want to make sure that we are intentional about building strength.
So when I say that what I mean is like, we don’t want these workouts to just be another cardio workout. And I see too many people, especially runners who they’re like, well, you know, I just need to lift really light weights and do a million reps, you know, because that’s how you get toned. And really, it doesn’t really work that way.
In order to build strength, you have to create an overload in the muscles that you want to build strength in. And we should be working out the whole body here. Okay, so a whole body workout is what we’re talking about here. Tip to toe.
So when you do intentional strength training, you should be overloading the muscle group you’re working out. And this is a principle in strength training called progressive overload. So as you lift the weight, and you get to rep number 12, or 15, whatever it is, and you can no longer lift that weight, even though you’re trying with all your might. And it’s hard and it hurts and you’re like I can’t do it.
That’s overload, you have overloaded that muscle, you can no longer lift that weight. If you could still do another 20 or 30 reps, you’re not there, you’re not going to have an adaptive response. When you overload the muscle, the muscle responds by then, growing stronger, there’s an adaptive response to that overload.
Right? So what we don’t want to do as runners is more cardio, you don’t really need to be doing more cardio, most runners do plenty of cardio. So make your strength workouts very intentional about building strength and don’t make them about more cardio.
So we got to overload the muscle. And we want to do that in a very intentional way with some sort of resistance. So how much resistance Well, studies have shown that light weights will not create the overload required for your muscles to have that adaptive response and grow and get stronger.
So what you want to be doing is lifting heavy and I know what people are thinking you’re like, Oh, but I don’t want to become some big giant bodybuilder. And I’m just gonna tell you right now, do not worry about that. So many people tell me this, they’re like, oh, I’m not gonna I don’t want to lift weights because I don’t want to be all big and jacked. You know? I will tell you right now that to become big and jacked takes so long and it is so hard to do.
Go tell a bodybuilder that you know you’re not going to lift weights because you don’t want to get jacked like them. And they will just laugh in your face, they’ll just be like, yeah, whatever, don’t worry about it, you got to eat a ton more food, you got to be intentional about taking certain supplements, you got to, like work out really intentionally, really hard, like, five, six days a week at the gym.
If you want to get jacked, you can, but it’s going to require a lot of work, a lot of, lot of work. And I’m just going to tell you as a runner, if you’re a long distance runner, right there is going to be, that’s going to kind of be working against you a little bit. Because running, like I said, is catabolic, it breaks you down, running can break down muscle.
So in order to build muscle, you got to be pretty intentional about strength training, do not worry about getting huge. Do not worry about getting muscle bound, it’s just not going to happen. Okay, so lift heavy weights, lift weights heavy enough to create that overload, that’s what’s going to get you there, that’s what’s going to create the adaptive response and get you stronger, we’re not in you know, if you want to see some muscle on you, that’s fine, you can do that you can do that.
You don’t worry about getting huge. More importantly, is getting stronger, becoming a stronger human being. That’s what we’re really after here. So sometimes you’ll see some of those muscles, sometimes you won’t, it’s okay. But if you’re working, if you’re working out properly, you will get stronger. Now this is what’s going to create all these benefits that I talked about here.
When I say you’re going to gain muscle, I mean, you might gain a few pounds of muscle, you probably won’t even see it on the outside of your skin, you might even see bulging muscles coming out, especially women, if you don’t want that look, don’t worry, you won’t get that look. Okay.
It’s very hard to do that, it’s very hard to get these big jacked muscles, I’m trying to do that right now. And as a 55 year old runner, it’s challenging, it’s taking me a lot of effort to like actually build some bigger arms and bigger chest and things like that. So just know that is very hard to do. Don’t worry about it.
So lift heavy, make sure you’re doing some sort of intentional strength training twice a week, and you should be doing a full body workout twice a week, this is what’s going to improve your strength and you know, help to build muscle, once a week is enough, if you just want to maintain where you are. But twice a week, if you want to build, you know, if you’re doing it three or four times a week, that’s fine, too. But twice a week is all that’s really required if you want to build muscle, okay, and then you want to work all your muscle groups.
This isn’t about like just working your arms or just your legs, you know, we want to work the entire muscle groups, all the muscle groups in your body and your entire body from top to bottom. And we work these in order from largest muscle groups to smallest and yes, you’re going to do legs too. Just because you’re a runner, doesn’t mean you get to skip leg day.
It’s important that we work all the muscles and that you’re, you’re improving strength in all areas of your body, especially your legs. So runners will tell me this all the time. They’re like, well, I just don’t do legs because I run so much. So I don’t really need to do legs. You absolutely need to do legs.
Yeah, you might have pretty strong legs right now. But what if you could improve that what I know it would be amazing, wouldn’t it? And think about this. We store glycogen in our muscles. Even if you’re a low carb runner or a fat adapted runner and you’re really efficient at burning fat, you still need glycogen in your muscles for your muscles to operate.
And you get all that you need from you know, your liver like producing glycogen for you don’t need to eat a bunch of gels and stuff like that. But just know that glycogen is stored in your muscles. The biggest muscles in your body that store the most glycogen are like your legs, your quads, really. So if you have larger quads, you can store more glycogen, just something to think about as you’re considering whether or not you want to build muscle. Okay.
So all these reasons I just mentioned, are why I think it’s so important that if you’re a runner, and especially if you’re somebody who wants to improve their overall strength and overall health and fitness and you want to become your most badass self, you cannot skip strength training, you got to do it intentionally. You gotta do it consistently. And you gotta do it in a way that will help to make you stronger, and build muscle. Okay.
And if you’re interested in getting some help with all of this and you want to become a stronger leaner runner, you want to lose weight. You want to do it in a way that supports your running and you want to do it in a way where you get stronger as well as leaner then join us in the Running Lean coaching project.
I’d love to have you in the program, just go to runningleancoaching.com/apply And as always, I love you all keep on Running Lean, and I’ll talk to you soon
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