Running is so beneficial for your health and fitness levels, but many of us shy away from it when we do different types of training, thinking it can’t be mixed. It can be done and it may even improve your performance outside of running, so read on to find out my top tips on balancing running to really reap the benefits.
I’ve been through lots of different phases when it comes to running. The first, age 20, was when I ran the Wilmslow Half Marathon having only really done Les Mills BodyCombat classes for training plus about three training runs, and surprisingly getting round without stopping running in 1:58 (but there again, I was 20). The next was using running to help cope with grief after losing my dad to cancer, which worked very well, and led to running being the only type of training I did. This came with its benefits – mostly the friends I made in running clubs and groups, a lot of whom who are still good friends now – but it also made me very slim and susceptible to injury.
When I booked to run the Manchester Marathon I was lucky enough to have a PT at the time who really understood strength training for running, and I began to understand how the two linked together. I got so into strength training that I neglected to run altogether, worrying that even just a 5km run would ruin all the gains I’d made in the gym, but I also missed the overall cardiovascular fitness I gained from running, and the time spent outside on my feet.
Now as I start training for my third Great Manchester Run I’m striving for a real balance in my training, to include strength work, high intensity cardio, low intensity cardio, and time spent moving my body in fun, unusual ways. This package includes running and it’s something I’d like to do twice a week, but knowing that my workout (and work!) schedule is packed and running does take a toll on the body, it’s something I’ll be careful about balancing. Here’s how you can balance running with different types of training, whether that be strength, CrossFit, climbing, or whatever you’re into.
Decide what your main goal is
If you’re doing a marathon this year then it makes sense for you to be running more than you do anything else. You’ll likely do some strength work and recovery sessions in the pool, but the run is your main goal, so that’s what you’re going to do most of.
If you have a strength or a hypertrophy (muscle growth) goal, then by no means stop running, but you’ll want to focus your programming on your gym work with running just being an added extra. Running does burn a lot of calories though, so make sure you’re eating enough to cover that – it’s unlikely you’ll get stronger or grow muscle if you’re in a calorie deficit, no matter how heavy you lift.
Ensure your training is fit for purpose
If you have a specific goal in mind, don’t meander between random training sessions and different classes – think of my BodyCombat training for a half marathon! Not great preparation. You’re putting a lot of energy into each training session so ensure 80% of them are working towards the bigger picture. It’s fine to do bit of what you fancy (that’s what the 20% is for) but otherwise be strategic with your time and energy.
Recover fully between training sessions
You might feel like doing more running and more training will get you much fitter, but if you’re not recovering properly, your muscles won’t be recuperating properly and your returns will begin to diminish. If you must do two sessions a day, ensure there are a few hours in between training sessions and at least one decent meal. Don’t skip sleep or relaxation for extra training, and if you’re feeling beat up, then it’ll be more beneficial fir you to rest then hit your next training session feeling refreshed and stronger.
Think about whether you really need gadgets
Running watches and smartphone apps are great for tracking distance, speed, heart rate, and elevation – but if you’re running for health, do you really need all of that data?
Tech definitely has its place if you’re working towards a speed or distance goal so you can keep tabs on pushing for the right pace. If you’re just out to feel good, gadgets could create unnecessary pressure to run faster or longer than last time, when really you’re just out to move. Leave the watch at home next time and see how you feel.
It’s okay to walk or just go for a short run
When I was really into running I would never bother putting my trainers on for anything less than a 5km run, and even then it’d have to be a fast one or else I wouldn’t consider it to be worthwhile. It’s still beneficial to add movement into your day even if it’s half an hour of run-walk-running (or “jeffing”) – whether you’re training for good health or for a marathon it’ll still contribute to your training as it’s time spent on your feet, and it’s activity you wouldn’t have done anyway.
Wear different shoes for each activity
It’s tempting to just wear one pair of shoes for all your training and running for ease, but really different activities need different pairs of shoes. Running shoes are highly cushioned and are made for forwards movement; training shoes tend to be much flatter to keep you close to the ground for strength training and lateral movements.
If you do only have one pair, go for the activity you do most of, although if you’re frequently running more than 5K then it’ll probably be a pair of running shoes you need.
Whether you’re training to get strong for running or you’re using running to complement your training, using these tips will ensure you’re hitting your goals, having fun and staying well throughout.