Focusing On Strength

My mileage is back up to what I would consider a fairly reasonable level. Running 40-50 miles has always been a pretty comfortable place for my body, and it gives me the opportunity to focus on other area’s without ditching running all together. As much as running is my first love, and usually my biggest priority (in fitness), I do recognize that if I want to be a strong human overall, I have to focus on those other area’s more from time to time. So, for right now, my focus is on improving my strength and lifting abilities. I’ve certainly maintained a good amount of strength even while running high mileage plans, so I think it’s going to be interesting to see what I’m capable of with a little less focus on running and more focusing on strength.

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The boys and I didn’t do too much after church on Sunday, since the weather was pretty gross.  I did make it out for a little 8 mile run on the roads about lunch time, and we ended the weekend with a little BBQ that my husband managed to accomplish despite some drizzles.  The week was pretty average, with work and training.  I am not at all hating the shorter morning runs, and getting in just a little more sleep before work.  I’ve made it back to the house right before Enrique leaves for school a couple of times, and it’s been nice to be able to have a few minutes with him before he heads out.

Friday night we played a few rounds of Kerplunk while I baked some banana oatmeal cookies for the next day’s breakfast. Enrique has really gotten into having a game night during the weekends ever since we broke out Loteria on Christmas Eve. I met up with my girlfriend for our weekend trail run, and was able to make it back to the boys by 9:30. It is so crazy to not have my full Saturday completely devoted to running and recovering. A part of me misses the long adventures on the trails, but I’m also really loving the extra free time. The three of played a few rounds of bowling Saturday afternoon, and then went to a great BBQ restaurant that has outdoor seating and a playground for dinner.

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We spent a little extra time letting Enrique run around, since the weather was FINALLY nice enough to enjoy being outside.  We got home pretty early, and decided to watch IronMan 3 for the 2347th time.  Enrique set up his sleeping bag on the carpet, and ate all the popcorn.  That kid is really living the life.  One of the things that I love about strength training is how efficient it can be time wise.  Sure, there are plenty of ways to add in accessory work and mobility, but the actual workout portion can be done in 30 minutes most days.  With running, there really isn’t anyway to have a “short” workout if you’re training for an endurance run.  This week, I certainly took advantage of the extra time.

Focusing on Strength

Now that I’ve committed to really focusing on building strength for a while, I thought it would be a good opportunity to answer two questions I get about strength training consistently, and share my personal plans for shifting gears.  Anyone who knows me in real life knows that I’ve been CrossFitting for almost as long as I’ve been running, and I really feel like it compliments endurance running well.  But it’s hard to get better at two things at the same time.  Especially when both things have a tendency to make you feel tired AF.  So for the next few months, my plan is to focus less on my running, and more on my strength training.  Here’s the how and why.

How Does Being Stronger Benefit Runners?

I mean, honestly, I could write multiple blog posts on the benefits of strength workouts for runners. In fact, I did write an entire post about why CrossFit is perfect for runners. Being stronger in general (CrossFit or no) means that a runner is more resilient, balanced, and less prone to overuse injury. If you want to have a lifelong relationship with running, you should probably also have a lifelong relationship with strength workouts. Incorporating strength workouts into your training program can also help build muscle that can increase pace with decreased effort. That means running faster without feeling as fatigued.

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Having a stronger core can help improve running form, which is just another defense against overuse injury.  And strength training is particularly important for the lady runners, because it helps our bones stay stronger longer.  For me, strength training has also taught me valuable lessons about myself that running just didn’t.  Where running helped me learn to be resilient and tenacious, CrossFit has helped me to embrace my ability to push hard and take up space.

Can You Gain Strength While Running?

Like a lot of answers to fitness questions, the honest truth is yes and no.  If you want to gain strength, you do not need to stop running all together.  In fact, focusing exclusively on strength could have some negative impacts on your overall health.  If you are newer to strength training, it’s likely that you’ll see a lot of improved strength very quickly, no matter how much you are running.  It is the blessing of newby gains.  Once you’ve been lifting for a while, those jumps in strength come much slower, especially if you’re focused primarily on running.

You can absolutely continue to improve your strength abilities while continuing to run regularly. What you have to know, though, is that it is going to take a longer period of time to an increase in strength, and you’re going to have to place more focus on lifting than running. At least for some period of time.

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So how do I plan on getting stronger?  I’m so glad you asked.

My Plan

  • Decrease Overall Mileage – I won’t be cutting down mileage down to nothing.  Running keeps me sane, which keeps me employed and married.  So it’s important.  I do plan to keep my weekly mileage in the 40-50 range, which will allow me to have more time and energy for weight lifting.  It’s hard to lift really heavy after you’ve gotten in a double digit run, no matter how much time and effort you spend on recovering.  Decreasing the mileage will also help me to reduce muscle catabolism; which is basically my body breaking down muscle for fuel on my runs.  As much as I fuel appropriately, it’s hard to get your body to not turn to muscle for fuel here and there when you’re running 70+ miles.  And catabolized muscle is useless when it comes to lifting.  So my hope is that keeping my runs easy paced and shorter will allow all that muscle to hang around and make me stronger.
  • Keep Calories High – A lot of runners tend to reduce caloric intake when their training volume decreases.  Well this would be a huge mistake for me.  Plus, I REALLY like to eat.  A lot.  Keeping my calories high will allow me to have more energy available for strength workouts, which generally require a good amount of fuel.  It will also help ensure that the whole muscle catabolism thing doesn’t become an issue during my runs, since there will be plenty of fuel available.  Finally, the body needs fuel available for muscle recovery after strength workouts.  The purpose of the workout is to cause a small amount of trauma to the muscle; the body then repairs the muscle, making it stronger afterwards.  So more fuel means more muscle recovery, which will *hopefully* mean more significant strength gains.
  • Higher Emphasis on Lifts – And obviously, since my focus won’t be on high mileage weeks, I’ll be putting more effort into my lifting.  I still plan to use a CrossFit style method, with some metabolic conditioning, but I don’t plan on maxing myself out on these kinds of workouts.  I want to save as much energy as possible for lifting heavy, which should help me increase my strength.  So while there’s plenty of room in my training plan for running and workouts, the emphasis will be on lifting heavy.

This Weeks Workouts

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Total Miles: 44
Total Workouts: 4
How the Run Felt
Still keeping the mileage fairly low and reasonable at this point. I’m excited to have more of a focus on strength work, but I don’t think I could ever completely turn my back on running realistically. This weeks runs were all on the roads, and I kept up with the easy paces. I met up with a girlfriend for Wednesdays run in the gorgeous Dominion neighborhood. It’s got rolling hills and beautiful houses (like the one George Strait has on the market), and it definitely gave me a little pep in my step. On Saturday, I met up with her again for a little mix of mostly trail miles. The weather wasn’t great, but it was my first double digit run since the 100k, which I feel pretty good about.

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How the WODs Felt
I honestly did a lot of modifying this week; probably more than I usually do.  But I’m focusing on consistency and improving my lifts for now.  The lifts weren’t super heavy this week, but they all felt great, even after some pretty tough WODs.  The pistols on Monday were hilarious, but I was really happy that I can still do them at all.  Thrusters and burpees still make me feel pukey, but I don’t think that’s changing any time soon.

What I’ve Been Listening To
I’m still listening to Norco 80, and it is such a wild story.  It sounds so much more like a movie than an actual event.  A girlfriend sent me a link to episode 27 from the Murder Squad podcast, which was an in depth discussion on Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women.  I hate listening to how long this issue has been an issue, but I love knowing it is and has been on people’s radars.    I’ve also started listening to American Coyote; which is another one of those wild story podcasts.  It’s a first hand account from a man who stumbled into smuggling people across the US/Mexico border.  It’s a crazy ride so far, and ‘m definitely interested to hear how it’s going to play out. 

What Went Well
Finding a way to balance running consistently, while focusing more on strength workouts right now has been just what I needed.

What Went Shitty
I’m still struggling with some of the higher intensity workouts at CrossFit.  I’m so used to keeping my heart rate at an easy pace rate, so pushing hard for short periods is still a little bit of a mental struggle.

Plans to Improve Next Week
Keep the running easy, focus on the strength.

2 thoughts on “Focusing On Strength

  1. Great post.

    I do Power Clean Press once a week. I weigh 100 kilos at the moment and do:

    6sets of 6reps@40kg
    5sets of 5reps @50kg
    4sets of 4reps @60kg
    3sets of 3reps@65kg
    2sets of 2reps@70kg
    1rep of 75-80kg (never got past 80kg)

    15secs inbetween sets but then 1min inbetween each level to change weights

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