I'm a long distance runner (marathons and longer) and I'm beginning to incorporate strength training into my routine now that I'm in a bit of an off season for my races. My time for training is somewhat limited by work and family (my choice, priorities) but I have around an hour or so each day during lunch during the week to hit the weights (I have to devote the majority of my weekend to longer runs and I use that as a rest from the weights). So far (a month in) I'm seeing excellent gains and I'm just looking for some suggestions/critiques on my routine. I don't really have any room to budge on the running, that's priority, but I want to make sure that my lifting schedule is set up to maximize the time I have available. Here's a sample of what I'm doing currently:

  • Monday: 5x5 bench, incline DB, & dips followed by 35 minutes of easy running
  • Tuesday: 5x5 squats followed by 45 minutes of speed work (pace varies)
  • Wednesday: 5x5 OH press, front raises, lateral raises followed by 35 minutes of easy running
  • Thursday: 5x5 deadlift, 1 arm DB rows, chins followed by 35 minutes of easy running
  • Friday: OH DB extensions, kickback, barbell curls, incline curls followed by 35 minutes of easy running
  • Saturday: Running (varies, some trail, tempo, etc)
  • Sunday: Long run (12 - 30 miles depending on race schedule)

I take rest days from running as my body needs and won't hesitate to drop a run if my legs don't feel up to it. My diet is good, my weight hovers right around 195 and I'm between 10-15% BF depending on what tool I use to get it measured. I've increased my protein intake since I've added the weights and I'm getting between 100 & 140g a day when I lift. Carbs and fat are at good levels, too.

My question(s): Does my lifting program look okay? Are there any exercises I should be adding/removing? Should I swap the lifting schedule around?

  • What's your goal with the lifting? Is it there to maximize your running or does it have other purposes? Commented Mar 1, 2013 at 13:54
  • Dave, the goal is indeed to maximize the running. I'm already seeing benefits from the squats and deadlifts. I also want to be better fit overall and not look like such a stick when I'm running without a shirt (if I'm to be totally honest) :)
    – user5324
    Commented Mar 1, 2013 at 14:23
  • To be honest, weightlifting probably won't help your running much unless you are at the very pointy end of the stick. Muscle mass (especially upper body) won't help with the endurance, and will just be a weight drag. It will help with the stick look though :) There's a reason that Mo and Galen look like they do. Can you detail what your 5 or 10k and marathon paces are? Right now I'm guessing you are in the 40-50 mile range, which is 20-30 less per week than I would expect for a pure marathon trainer, and not sure why you are doing a 30 mile run one day a week.
    – JohnP
    Commented Mar 1, 2013 at 14:29
  • 1
    I'm not doing a 30 mile run each week, that was during the training phase for a 100k I did (realizing now how unclear that was). My long run is typically 12 - 18. I'm a 42 year old 3:23 marathoner shooting for a sub 3:15 this year and have no desire (or ability) to be an elite. :)
    – user5324
    Commented Mar 1, 2013 at 16:39
  • John, I am in the 40-50 mile range now, but that jumps when I start training for a race. I don't have anything on the schedule until Oct. right now.
    – user5324
    Commented Mar 1, 2013 at 16:40

2 Answers 2


3:23 marathon is ~ 7:45 per mile, and a 3:15 is ~ 7:26 mile. While not that far apart, it's going to take a bit of work to get there, but it is entirely doable.

What I would recommend since you already have a very solid base (And now the 30 miler makes sense, for a marathon that would be counterproductive), is to incorporate more up tempo work in your daily runs. Strides, pickups, fartlek/tempo runs, all of these are going to help.

So, if your daily run is something like 7 miles at 8:30 pace, I would add a segment such as 8x:30 seconds at 7:00 pace. The entire workout would be 20 mins regular pace, 8x:30 at 7:00, :30 easy (total 16 minutes), 20 mins regular pace. As that becomes easier, you can start doing it at 6:50 pace, etc.

On your speed days, I would separate them and work on both threshold (at or just below race pace on short rest), and interval (Above race pace, long rest between) segments. Interval segments will help raise your top end speed, and threshold segments will increase the amount of time you can spend at that speed. If you do one speed workout a week alternate weeks, if you do two a week alternate between days. If you come into a speed workout and are dead, it's ok to take a day off. Better that, than push on too much fatigue and get injured.

Also, Macmillan Running has a great tool that you can enter your numbers, and it will tell you goal paces for workouts. One of the biggest mistakes I see is that people go too hard on their easy days, and not hard enough on their tough days.

As far as the weights, I wouldn't do anything for legs. Any muscle you add there from lifting will not be really contributing to the marathon goal, and just adds weight and takes up oxygen. Arms, probably won't hurt much other than the weight. Common lore (And it's proven in my n=1 experience) is that each pound of weight either gained or lost is worth about 3 seconds per mile in pace for the same effort. YMMV.

  • 1
    Please note: I did not address a very critical portion of distance running, hydration and nutrition, solely because of the fact that the OP is already a 3:23 marathoner, and likely has their own strategy that works. For a beginner/novice marathoner, this is absolutely something that would need to be worked out and practiced during training and I would also recommend some preliminary 10k's and maybe 1/2 marathons to practice said strategy.
    – JohnP
    Commented Mar 1, 2013 at 18:14
  • 1
    I just got the Hanson's Marathon Method (amazon.com/Hansons-Marathon-Method-Renegade-Fastest/dp/…) and have started to read it. I think I may use one of their plans for my next race. Thanks for the advice.
    – user5324
    Commented Mar 1, 2013 at 18:25

If maximizing running plus doing a little upper-body aesthetic work is what you want, this sounds like a fine program. I'm not knowledgeable about long-distance running, but to me this looks pretty good. You're squatting and deadlifting to maximize your running strength, and doing some bodybuilding in your arms and shoulders. That's in line with your goals.

The only tweak I'd make on the lifting side is that if you're going to squat and deadlift, 5x5 is probably too much volume for someone focusing on running. (This might be true with the upper-body work as well, but I'm not sure.) I'd try 3x3, or 10 easy sets of 2, or warming up to a handful of heavy singles, but never go above three reps per set. I'd use more sets to add volume instead of more reps per set. I've heard several anecdotal reports of less running plus more of this kind of strength training improving short- and medium-distance (marathon and under) running performances. This would help keep your strength gains on the neurological side of things, rather than encourage added muscular mass. It will also be easier on your recovery resources, which I expect to be strained by all the running you do.

You may need to run more, but that's outside my understanding.

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