Before you bring out the torches and pitchforks, hear me out. I know running may not be the forte of the majority of Muscle and Strength’s audience, but running, when applied correctly, maybe exactly what you need in your fitness arsenal.
Running promotes a healthy quality of life, increased GPP (General Physical Preparedness), along with unmatched improvements in the metabolic response, to name a few of its many benefits. Not only will this article help explain how and why running should be incorporated into the workout regimen of novice lifters to the most seasoned of gym vets, it will also give you every piece of information you need to start down the running trail.
Benefits of Running
As most of you readers already know, weight training is vital for the health of the human body. It aligns posture, increases metabolism, increases flexibility and fixes muscular imbalances (when done correctly). However, to increase the effects of weight training, some sort of cardiovascular activity is crucial. By adding cardiovascular activity, you can burn fat, increase natural hormonal release and lower your risk of heart disease.
But how does this help you achieve your weight training goals? By participating in cardiovascular exercise you are prolonging your body’s ability to train and therefore increasing growth potential. By increasing training ability, all that you’re essentially doing is allowing your body to train for longer periods of time. For example, instead of working out for 60 minutes, you are now giving your body the ability to train for 90 minutes, thus more potential for gains in size and strength.
In this section, so far, I’ve only referred to cardiovascular activity, and not particularly running, well this is why; simply all cardiovascular activity is done for the same reason and has the same potential. Cardiovascular activity is what the name implies, training of the heart and circulatory system.
Sports that fall into this category are swimming, cycling, boxing, as well as running. Swimming is great, but for the majority of people, they can’t find competitions to meet their competitive edge. Boxing is a personal favorite but causes muscular imbalances through force production and time under tension in the pushing phase with minimal tension in the retraction phase.
Boxing, like swimming, may be hard to compete in with minimal competitions combined with the high skill levels of those competing. These also require a pool or ring, respectively, which can be hard to come across, and memberships to these clubs/facilities can be costly. Cycling creates muscular imbalances through the repetitive circular motion in the plane of movement that the pedals rotate in. Cycling can be as costly, if not more so than swimming and boxing.
This leaves only running. Running is a great cardiovascular activity that can be done anywhere. Because it comes naturally to the physiological design of the human body, the learning curve is minimal and muscular imbalances (especially when paired with proper weight training) are unusual.
Although most gym rats, myself included, enjoy seeing our bench press rise by a few pounds or striving to add a few inches to the arms, powerlifting and bodybuilding may not be for us (I have a feeling I’ve made quite a few enemies at this point in the article). For the majority of average lifters, powerlifting and bodybuilding may be too taxing on the body, as well on the wallet. However, running may just be what you need to fuel you’re competitive edge.
Another benefit of competitive running is its regularity, whereas powerlifting meets may be months apart and hours away from your home. In your town alone, you shouldn’t be surprised to find several races a year. This will not only give you a date to work for to achieve a goal, but will give you an annual way to mark your progress.
Types of Races
- 5K - (Approx. 3.1 Miles) This is the most common of races you will come across. Commonly done by charities and nonprofit groups as fundraisers, these are a great race to experience with friends. These races can be competitive because with an average crowd of 100+ it is easy to find someone to match your skill level.
- 1 Mile Run - This is a good sprint event. Although not as common as 5k races, it’s a good way to develop speed and a good way to track running progression.
- 10k - (Approx. 6.2 Miles) This event is better for more seasoned runners as it is more demanding. 10k races can usually be found sponsored by running clubs in your area. Because of its skill level, they are good place to go to find information about races for more skilled and challenging runs.
- Challenge/Trail Runs - My personal favorite because of their difficult nature. These events can vary in distance and difficulty. In some challenge runs you may find yourself jumping over fires, trudging through muddy water and climbing obstacles. Another positive to these is in certain cases is free beer (for those 21+) after runs. A downfall is they are rather costly ($50-$200). Trail runs may give you an opportunity to enjoy the sights and sounds of nature that you’ve never noticed before. These are also a great motivational tool to run more because its beauty makes it so enjoyable.
- Marathons - I consider myself a moderately experienced runner, but I still steer clear of these. 26 miles of straight running isn’t exactly what I consider fun or within the limits of my physical capabilities. However, if you decide to ignore my advice, make sure you have 2+ years of running experience and log an average of at least 25 miles a week. You can find more information on these at local running clubs or online on your favorite search engine.
- Ultra-Marathons - (50-200 Miles) Like I said before, a 26 mile race is extremely challenging, which puts these races past the borders of rationality. If you decide that this is what you want to do, make sure you have 3+ years of running experience and have successfully completed multiple marathons. Some of these have qualification standards to make sure all athletes are physically suited for such a challenging race.
- Other Races - I’ve just skimmed the surface here with the most common races. If you find other races, be sure you are healthy enough and prepared for whatever it may be.
Benefits of Racing
Besides the health benefits of running in itself, these races have unseen benefits. At first, spending $30 on a 5K may seem like a loss of money, but in reality, you get much more than that in return. Many races give out t-shirts with early entrees. This t-shirts can actually be of decent quality and may be a moisture-wicking material. The race fee also includes a race tag (the number pinned to the shirts of runners), which I personally like because I enjoy writing my time on them and hanging them in my home gym to see time improvements.
Post-race refreshments, depending on the event, may also be covered in the fee. Sometimes, these events can be catered, and after a long and tough run, the food tastes amazing. Also covered in the fees can be a running-style goodie bag. I’ve done many races where the sponsors have gotten together coupons, trial-gym memberships, as well as many other freebies.
Free stuff aside, these races give you a chance to bond with people that enjoy the same sport as you. I’ve made many lasting friendships through races and have learned of many people’s stories and struggles. The people you can meet at these races are inspiring and give you a reason to continue running.
Races can create unmatched fellowship through common interests and competition. Since most races happen on the weekends, usually Saturday mornings, can you really come up with an excuse not to compete?
Adding Running to Your Workout
If you’re like me, you’re going to want to continue weight training while you run. A program that work swell with running is my training program “Density Giant Set Training” which can be found on this websites workout section under fat loss/tone.
These are the three different types of runs I associate into my training program every week:
- Speed Run - What I classify as a speed run is generally anything under 5 miles, it varies week to week, some days it can be a route I’ve mapped online, a timed mile at a local track, or a race route. Also, during the summer when I’m frequently doing races, I will replace the race with my speed day workout. When I replace speed day with a race day, I always follow up the next day with a recovery run.
- Challenge Run - This is the most variable, because I’m from a fairly rural area this is easy and can be changed regularly. My challenge run consists of a trail run varying in length and location. This varies the terrain you run on and slows the adaptation response in the body to allow for elongated gains without a plateau. Speed varies drastically because of terrain variances.
- Distance Run - The distance run is usually done on a road/paved and flat environment. Distance day grows by 2 miles every week to allow myself to develop the stamina necessary for running a marathon in the spring. If it is the off season, my long run is usually approximately 7 miles and is done typically for maintenance. The speed is moderate, but fatigue adds up towards the end of the run.
- Recovery Run - I’ve always done these on and off the days after my distance runs and races. When you have the time, they are a smart idea and allow the body to recuperate faster. Recovery runs are usually done at a moderate to slow pace for approximately 3 miles.
Here is how I incorporate running into my workouts, along with some tips for the best results:
- Monday - Day 1: Speed Run
- Wednesday - Day 2: Challenge Run
- Friday - Day 3: Distance Run
- Saturday - Recovery Run
- Running is typically done after workout.
- Recovery run allows for recovery of lower body exercise as well as running.
- This running plan is shown in conjunction with Density Giant Set Training, but can be done with any workout, or by itself.
- Add/remove exercise to fit your body type and ability level.
- Weight training and running can be split up throughout the day if on time constraints
Wrapping it Up
I hope you’ve made it through this article and looked past my blasphemous beliefs on power lifting and bodybuilding and maybe even got something out of this. Running does nothing but help you. It allows you to train longer and gives you a place to channel your competitive nature without breaking the bank.
Running can be a lifestyle in itself, but it can also be applied to the gym rat mentality to give you the best of both worlds. So, the best of luck to you in your quest to conquer the gym and happy (running) trails.