Marathon Training Program:
Weight Training

Incorporating weight training (also referred to as strength training and resistance training) into one’s overall fitness program can provide many benefits to a runner training for events ranging from the sprints to the marathon. In this section, the benefits of total body conditioning through a weight-training program will be highlighted. It is beyond the scope of this web site to discuss in depth the techniques and specific exercises regarding the use of free-weights or resistance machines such as Nautilus or Cybex. I recommend that you visit a gym in your area and consult with a weight-training or fitness instructor to receive a demonstration of the various exercises that can benefit your running as well as your overall health.

Benefits of a Weight Training Program

  1. mrt9.jpgUpper Body – A strong upper body helps minimizes fatigue and stiffness in the arms, shoulders, and neck areas that in turn, enables a runner to maintain form late in a marathon or long run. Legs move only as fast as the arms swing. The runner with a strong upper body will find more power for the sprint to the finish line, an easier crank up a hill, and better balance when running on trails. In short, all of these add up to an ability to run faster and more efficiently.
  •   Legs – Running creates a slight muscular imbalance in the legs as the hamstrings and calf muscles develop at a faster rate than the quadriceps and shins. Weight training helps address this imbalance. Additionally, strong quads and hips help protect these areas from a variety of injuries. Strong legs also offer protection from the possibility of injury when running at a fast pace downhill.
  •  Abdominals – A strong abdominal region helps protect the back while at the same time, assists in maintaining proper running form and posture.

Related Benefits of Total Body Conditioning Through Strength Training

  • Fat Burning – The increase in lean muscle
    mass that results from strength training is the key to your body’s
    ability to metabolize glucose and thus burn fat. This occurs because
    muscle cells require more energy (and also burn more calories) than fat
  • Body Composition Changes – As
    one ages, the body changes in composition as lean muscle decreases while
    fat deposits increase. Muscular strength also declines approximately 5%
    per decade for the untrained individual. Strength training slows down
    this process even as one reaches their senior years.
  • Bone Protection – Weight training
    helps protect bones. This is an important benefit, particularly for
    women, as decreased estrogen production causes bone demineralization.
    This in turn increases the risks of osteoporosis and the additional risk
    of incurring stress fractures. Muscles tugging on bone structure as a
    result of weight training facilitate bone regeneration.

  • Diabetes and Heart Disease
    According to the literature, weight training seems to reduce the risk
    factors for adult-onset diabetes as well as heart disease.

Guidelines – Precautions

  • If you are over the age of 40 and/or have a
    history of serious medical problems, such as heart disease, diabetes,
    high blood pressure, etc., check with your physician before beginning a
    strength-training program.
  • Seek the advice of a trainer to insure
    that you utilize proper form. If you are using machines, be sure that
    the seat and pads are properly adjusted to the correct setting.
  • Warm up with some cardiovascular activities such as running or cycling before lifting.
  • In planning your daily fitness routine, schedule your run prior to lifting.
  • Avoid weight training legwork on days before races, speedwork sessions, or long runs.
  • Make sure that your muscles get
    adequate rest between sessions by lifting every other day or a minimum
    of three days per week. Don’t forget to get enough sleep.
  • Emphasize lighter weights and more
    repetitions (12-18 reps) as opposed to lifting the maximum weight you
    can handle a few times.
  • Plan your routine so that you begin
    with the legs first, upper body second, and mid-section last. On a
    similar note, focus on the exercising the large muscle groups first
    followed by the smaller groups. For example, when working the upper
    body, start with the chest and lats and conclude with the biceps and
  • Don’t forget to work your abdominal muscles.
  • Don’t hold your breath while lifting
    weights. Breathe in on the relaxation phase and out while performing the
    resistance/lifting part of the exercise.
  • Move your body through the entire range of motion of the lift. Don’t “lock” your joints while performing the exercise.
  • Be sure to stretch thoroughly after lifting.
  • You may find it helpful to wear weight-training gloves.

Final Thoughts

It is important to keep in mind that you probably won’t lose weight when
you infuse a weight-conditioning program into your overall fitness
routine. Assuming that you eat sensibly, your percentage of total body fat
(the true measure of progress) should decrease. Thus, weighing yourself
on scales can be very misleading and perhaps may also be discouraging.

Many people who first begin a weight-training program express concern
that they will develop huge, bulky muscles. Unlike power lifters and
body builders who focus their workouts on lifting the heaviest amount of
weight they can handle for a few repetitions, the notion of
“bulking-up” is not grounded in reality. By following the
recommendations outlined in this section, you will instead become a
stronger runner with improved muscular tone and definition.

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