Daily wisdom: Minimize strength workouts during marathon training

Runners can benefit from more sessions in the offseason.

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Lifting weights while training for a marathon can help keep you injury-free, but a new study in Sports Medicine says neglecting to give your muscles enough time to recover can seriously impair your running performance. Researchers from James Cook University in Australia found a single lower-body resistance training session can comprise 10 to 20 percent of an athlete’s VO2 max up to two days later, causing a long run to feel more exhausting, spiking your heart rate, and requiring more oxygen (and effort) than normal.


When your body is trying to repair the fibers to build stronger muscle after a hard strength-based workout, it lowers your VO2 max and can force athletes to reduce their mileage, speed, and/or training intensity, says study author Kenji Doma, Ph.D. But, whether you’re training for a 5K or a marathon, that definitely doesn't mean you should skip the weights. "There is ample evidence to support that stronger runners sustain fewer injuries and tend to be more economical in their running, which is very closely linked to performance," says Janet Hamilton, C.S.C.S, owner of Running Strong Professional Coaching in Atlanta.


Marathon runners should focus on strength training four days a week in the offseason and early phases of training, says Hamilton. Then shift to a maintenance program of one to two strength sessions a week as mileage ramps up. Also, don't lift either the day before or day of a long run or speedwork, adds Hamilton. If you must break this rule, Doma advises working in extra recovery, like stretching or foam rolling, pre-running. And if you wake up super sore, keep your run at a low to moderate intensity.