An Open Relationship: Strength & Endurance

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under the bar | lagniappe fitness

I’m coming up on about a year of lifting heavy, and it has been quite the year. I have accomplished things I never thought I would, my body has changed quite a bit, and so has my mind. There is no doubt that lifting anything from the ground, on your back, above your head, whatever, at your own bodyweight or above, is insanely empowering and gratifying. Life-changing, even.

I’ve talked about my struggle between falling in love with lifting and feeling like I’m cheating on my first love, running. This week, I figured out that I’m just going to be in an open relationship with both of them. And we’re all going to get along just fine. Let me explain.

I started running seriously in 2010. I ran my first marathon in 2012. I ran another in 2013, and two more in 2014. Preparing for those races had me prioritizing running, always. Typically, my schedule had me running four days a week, sometimes five. I would do a circuit style strength training workout once or twice a week, when I was really on top of things. Many weeks, it might be once, or not at all. Sometimes I threw in yoga, and I was also teaching Spinning for much of that time. So. Much. Endurance.

4 marathons 2 years | lagniappe fitness

Needless to say, that was only going to last for so long. Having to run, to get in the miles and the minutes to prepare for a race was just eating up my life. I like to run. But not when it becomes a burden.

So after my last marathon, I took a break. The pressure of a training schedule was just not something I wanted anymore. But I did want to keep my fitness up. So I continued to run sporadically. Always once a week. Sometimes up to three times a week. Sometimes speedwork, sometimes a longer run. No big plans though, despite telling myself maybe I’d race a 5k here or there. Nope.

Since I’m not one to just go without a goal, I turned to lifting. I took advantage of several training programs from some awesome coaches that I really look up to who have a lot of great content out there. Starting last summer, I used the following programs:

Lift Weights Faster by Jen Sinkler (Used when I needed a quick workout, not as a program. Still use it.)

Get Stronger Faster by Dave Dellanave (Used for about six weeks or so. I did indeed get stronger, which got me interested in a different program.)

The Modern Woman’s Guide to Strength Training by Girls Gone Strong (Used the Advanced program for about 12 weeks. I definitely saw results.)

Strong Curves by Bret Contreras and Kellie Davis (Used when I decided I wanted glutes. Like big girl glutes. I did the 12 week Glute Goddess Program and got really good results. That was the biggest game changer for me. Not just glutes, but my entire body. And, as Dave Dellanave likes to say, #PREveryDay. Boom.)

deadlift | lagniappe fitness

It did not take long to get hooked on strength, not to mention results. After the Strong Curves program, I pulled what I liked from all the programs and created my own workouts for a couple of months. I knew I wanted to stay strong, keep building muscle, and start to bring running back into the picture a bit more. I knew I wanted to train for a relay race in August and do well. And I was sure that my running fitness had dropped off considerably in the year I spent away from any endurance running.

Oh ho, my friends, not so fast. Hold that thought.

My 5k PR is 23:11. That was in 2012, after I finished my first marathon and wanted to test myself at a shorter distance. I was still running at least three times a week, doing minimal strength training, and also doing at least one workout a week on a high-speed, high-incline treadmill using Athletic Republic’s Speed and Endurance Protocols. I actually trained for that 5k, and trained hard. I was so ready. And I was so pumped with that time!

I ran a 5k time trial last week. On my own, not in a race, so no race day magic to skew the results. Just me, my lungs, and my legs. And my buff glutes too.

My time was 23:57.

23:57! Just 46 seconds off of my personal record. Excuse me? How can this be?

This can be because strength and endurance can exist in harmony. I just recently posted an article touting the benefits of heavy lifting for 5k performance. And there are many other studies (like this and this, and plenty more) pointing to strength workouts as very beneficial to endurance racing. Let me tell you, these studies are not bullshit. I don’t care what size the samples are, I’m a believer. I felt it in my own two feet.

Had I known three years ago how much strength translated to speed and endurance, I would not have been so scared to place a lot more emphasis on it. Sure, time on your feet is very important when training for a distance race. But it could be argued that strength and intensity are just as important. It also cannot be understated how important the other benefits of lifting heavy can be, not only for running, but for life and health in general.

So, gone are my days of feeling guilty for not going out for a run. I can feel A-OK about getting all giddy for a visit to the squat rack. I can feel zero guilt about my get-jacked goals, because they actually support my run-fast goals too. And I’m loving running again, because it’s on my terms. Like I said, this is an open relationship I can get into.

If you’re one of my running homies and you’ve been struggling with time, distance, or fitness goals. Let me suggest you prioritize your time in the gym. Try one of these programs, or give me a call and I’ll hook you up. Just give it a try. You know what? Give it 30 days. See how you feel. See how you perform.

You can thank me later.

  • Jess Manuszak


    • Kourtney Thomas

      Thanks, Jess! (And I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU.)