Can You Lift Weights & Train for a Marathon?

Young woman exercising with dumbbells
Strength training workouts complement your marathon training program. (Image: Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images)

A marathon training program is designed to prepare your mind and body for race day and includes a variety of running workouts. These workouts range from long, slow distance, recovery runs, tempo runs and speed workouts. A commonly overlooked component to marathon training, however, is weightlifting, or strength training. Although not essential, you can supplement your marathon training program with weightlifting workouts to improve your overall fitness level.

Benefits

Adding a weightlifting routine to your marathon training program has numerous health and fitness benefits. The primary benefit is improved strength that relates to increased confidence. The increased strength allows you to maintain proper running technique with midline stabilization during a long run or track workout while preventing fatigue and extending endurance. Your midline is your spine; and its stability depends on a strong core, legs, hips and glutes. Strength training also provides increased stability for your joints; making your knees, ankles, hips, and back better able to withstand the impact of running a marathon distance.

Frequency

Running workouts take place three to six days per week, depending on your ability level and individual training program. The frequency of the weightlifting workouts should complement your overall training program. For example, if you are running only three days per week, you can increase the number of weightlifting workouts to three or four per week. Increasing the number of running workouts to five or six days results in decreasing the weightlifting workouts to one to three times per week.

Intensity

Weightlifting workouts should be limited to 30 to 45 minutes and combine about five to six exercises. Use a combination of total body functional exercises such as deadlifts, squats, presses, pullups, pushups and dips along with high-intensity exercises such as plyometrics and kettlebell swings. A general guideline for sets and repetitions is two sets of 12 repetitions per exercise.

Safety

Adding a weightlifting workout to your marathon training program can improve strength and fitness, but it also increases the likelihood for overtraining. Overtraining can eventually lead to injuries that will decrease performance. As a result, adjust the intensity and frequency of the weightlifting workouts according to how you feel. For example, if your legs are sore or fatigued after an intense running workout, adjust the weightlifting workout to include upper body exercises or decrease the overall intensity of the workout.

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