Several years ago, if you looked at my training journal, it would’ve only contained mostly running entries.
I caught the running bug. But I logged too many miles too soon, and an injury (plantar fasciitis) caused me to reevaluate my training. I backed off running and started incorporating more HIIT workouts. Soon, I began to see changes in my physique that further encouraged me to train smarter.
Before and After
While I don’t think I look bad in the the picture on the left, I am not as lean…even before having a baby. While I was training specifically for half and full marathons, I simply didn’t make time for strength training.
There are many runners that are very lean (not just thin), but I didn’t have the time (or desire) to devote so much time to running. My injury forced me to changed how I trained, and running wasn’t fun anymore. It flat out hurt.
How I Became a Better Runner
The picture on the left was taken during my second marathon in May 2011. The picture on the right is during the Hood to Coast Relay in August 2012.
Again, I don’t look bad in the pic on the left, but I’m certainly not as fit as the picture on the right. In fact, the addition of CrossFit helped me become a better runner and athlete. I felt stronger and faster by running less and lifting more. In fact, most of my workouts are around 30 minutes now.
There are several factors that contribute to an improved physique as a result of strength training:
1. More Muscles, Higher Metabolism
Lifting weights helps you build and retain lean muscle which in turn, ignites your metabolism. Plus, you burn calories during and after your lifting sessions…especially if you incorporate heavy weights!
2. Fat Loss
Doing only cardio means you might lose fat, but you could also lose lean muscle. The muscle is what does the work for us, so we want to do everything in our power to hold onto that valuable commodity. Adding muscle, increases one’s metabolism, which will likely mean shedding body fat.
3. Improved Physique
That number on the scale might not shift as you become more fit, but I bet you will look and feel better. That’s because muscle is more dense than fat. Your clothes will likely fit better, and you can see that muscle definition begin to reveal itself.
4. More Energy
Strength training improves sleep quality and contributes to higher overall energy. Personally, I feel my best after challenging strength sessions whether it’s within a CrossFit workout or simply a set of heavy squats.
And, I need all the energy I can get chasing after a toddler!
It is important to note, that training specificity will (and should) play a role in your workouts depending on your goals. So, if your goal is to set a personal best in a half marathon, then you have to train for it (long runs, tempo runs, and speed days). But, if your goal is to be more fit or lose body fat, then you need to incorporate more variation and weights into your workouts.