I'm currently training for a marathon with a training program consisting of 5-6 workouts for week. It's also varied workouts including pilates, football (read: soccer) and a weights session.

During all of these workouts, I'm not doing any specific leg exercises (squats, lunges etc) to strengthen my legs. My thinking behind this is that adding these exercises will make my legs ache for about 2-3 days afterwards and it might impact my running.

Am I correct in thinking that running with aching legs is a bad thing or should I be adding leg exercises into my weekly workout and just stretch properly before my run if my legs are aching?

  • 1
    Great question, I was constantly wondering the same thing during my own training!
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented Jul 26, 2011 at 9:05
  • Are you following a specific marathon training plan? And have you run that distance before? Commented Jul 30, 2011 at 2:30
  • 1
    Rule of thumb: if it's the kind of sore that gets better after about 10 mins, then it's ok to exercise. (of course, this doesn't directly answer your question, so it's only a comment)
    – VPeric
    Commented Feb 1, 2012 at 9:46
  • More than doing leg workouts for the sake of doing them, what you need to ascertain first is how strong (or how weak) the various muscles in your legs/feet are. If you don't, you might injure yourself, especially as you increase your distances.
    – talonx
    Commented May 28, 2012 at 8:02

5 Answers 5


I have found that running on really sore legs is a waste of time. My speed and endurance don't increase after those days and usually backslides. I will run on mildly sore/achy legs, but I will not run on really sore legs (the kind of soreness that does not go away after a few minutes running). If my legs are really sore, I stop and I don't run or do leg strength training until I regenerate (usually 2-3 days). After taking a break I find I come back faster and with more endurance, without slipping off my progression line at all...no pain, all gain.

To answer the second part of your question, yes I do mix leg strength training in with my running for my marathon training and I take a couple days off from running after those days. I have found that leg strength training (including kettlebell-swings and sprints) are significantly increasing my speed and endurance.


I just a middle of the pack runner, but what I have read over the years is:

  • It is okay to do leg workouts 1-2 times a week
  • Do not do the workout the day before or after your long run
  • Try to do it after a run, better to have an off day afterwards, great to mix with hill workout day
  • If your legs feel week take a break from the workout
  • Squat, Lunge, & Bridge are great

I would probably avoid leg weight exercises while marathon training. Your body is/will be under enough stress from that kind of distance; especially if you are already training 5-6 days a week. Running a marathon and training for one will strengthen your legs just fine.

I would also caution to make sure the aches are muscle related and not bone or joint related.

Make sure you are getting enough rest (both sleep and time off of your feet). It is not uncommon to take an anti-inflammatory like Aleve or Advil during or after long runs, but be cautious of doing it out of habit.

  1. If you want to be a runner then leg exercises in the gym aren't going to help you much. You will get better running specific strength adaptations by doing hill repeats. However, your goal may be to build leg muscle for other reasons.

  2. Some coaches believe that running lightly the day after a long run helps recovery.

  3. If you're really going for distance then a normal training technique is to do back to back long runs. This means learning to run when your legs are tired but definitely prepares you for ultras.

The science is that when your legs are sore it's because you've damaged some of the muscle fibers slightly. They'll grow back bigger and stronger but take a bit of time to do that. If you've done a really solid workout then trying to do any other really solid workout the next day isn't as effective as waiting a day or 3.


Over the past few years, I have been doing primarily weight training with very little cardio. Recently I have decided to start training for a triathlon and my regimen has changed dramatically.

The comments suggesting not lifting are dead wrong.

There is nothing wrong with weight lifting and training for long distance running. Studies have shown that distance running actually degrades your overall strength, while strength training improves your ability to run.

Lift for endurance, low sets, high reps. 2 or 3 sets of 12 to 15, 2 to 3 times a week Do a variety of exercises including leg exercises. Squats aren't just for your legs, they are an excellent core exercise and with the right amount of weight and reps are actually HIIT.

The key to this is diet. You have to eat, and eat right and eat often.

  • 1
    Could you provide links to these studies, and how HIIT training will help endurance running?
    – JohnP
    Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 16:25
  • ideafit.com/fitness-library/… Commented Sep 6, 2013 at 16:35
  • ". It has been suggested that although strength training does not interfere with the development of the maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max) (11-12,18), it could lead to improvement of endurance performance of untrained (11,12,18,19,25) or moderately trained athletes (13)." Commented Sep 6, 2013 at 16:36
  • If you could incorporate those into your answer, it would be dramatically improved. Although, your fitness-library link talks about HIIT, which is not the same as weight lifting.
    – JohnP
    Commented Sep 6, 2013 at 16:45

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