Weight Training For Middle Distance Runners

A number of people have asked about weights, and how to fit this into their workouts. Here are my recommendations for middle distance runners.

QUESTION #1: Should I do weights?

Yes, especially if you are an 800m runner. But only lift if you have been shown the proper form for each exercise. If you have never done weights, please talk to me before starting a program.

QUESTION #2: Should I do the whole body?

Yes, especially the trunk area. I do everything (legs, arms, chest, abdominals, lower back, adductors, abductors) all in one session.

QUESTION #3: How often?

Twice a week. Once a week is counterproductive because you end up sore every week. As for three times (which is what I was trained to do), the latest research shows that there is not much difference between two and three times per week. Surprisingly, the additional weight session gives only minimal benefit.

QUESTION #4: When should I lift?

This is the key question. NEVER lift the day before a race. You might as well shoot yourself in the foot.

And NEVER do leg weights before track practice. You're guaranteed to strain a hamstring.

Ideally, leg weights should be done immediately after intervals, i.e. Tuesdays and Thursdays nights after practice. Yes, it makes for a long day, but it keeps with the philosophy of hard day, easy day, hard day, easy day, easy day. Moreover, lifting leg weights after intervals has additional benefits: (i) your legs are warm so you're less likely to hurt yourself, (ii) you're prevented from lifting too much because your muscles are already tired and (iii) you're more efficient - you don't dillydally because the gym is closing.

Remember that, for middle distance runners, weights are meant to complement your running, not be a workout unto themselves.

QUESTION #5: Should I eat anything before lifting?

If you lift right after track practice, you should eat a power bar/soy bar or drink a protein shake.

QUESTION #6: What if I can't fit my whole weight routine in after practice?

Try lifting only leg weights on Tuesday & Thursday nights. And then do your upper body routine on the other days.

QUESTION #7: What if it's impossible for me to lift after practice?

If you can't do leg weights on Tuesday & Thursday nights, I recommend the following for leg weights:

Tuesday & Thursday
Tuesday & Saturday or Sunday
Thursday & Sunday or Saturday

Sunday & Friday
Sunday & Wednesday
Saturday & Wednesday

Any Monday (because it's your day off)

AVOID lifting on Mondays (or whatever your day off). Your body needs one day of complete rest. Many people lift on Mondays & Wednesdays, which results in four days of hard workouts. By Thursday night practice you'll be exhausted.

QUESTION #8: How many sets of weights should I do?

At least two sets, preferably three.

QUESTION #9: How many reps?

Like running, you need to taper your weights as you get closer to Nationals or Fifth Avenue Mile (or whatever race you are trying to peak for)

For example:

April 4 - June 13 — 3 x 10
June 15 - July 4 — 3 x 8
July 6 - July 25 — 3 x 6
July 27 - Aug 3/10 — 3 x 5 for 30+ (3 x 3 for open athletes)

QUESTION #10: When should I increase the weight?

If you find that you can do 3 x 12, then you need to increase the weight so that you can do 3 x 10. For example, if on leg press, you can easily lift 40 pounds for 12 repetitions for 3 sets (3 x 12), you should increase to 45 pounds and work your way up to 3 x 10.

Furthermore, every time you go down in reps, you should always go up in weights. For instance, on the bench press you can lift 50 pounds for 10 repetitions for 3 sets (3 x 10). When you reduce the number of reps to 8 (3 x 8), you would increase the amount of weight to 55 pounds. At 3 x 6, you would be at 60 pounds.

NOTE: Be careful when increasing the weight. Try to increase in small increments. (Do not to make big jumps. For example, if you curl 5 pounds on each arm. Move up to 6 or 7 or 8 pounds, not 10 pounds.)

QUESTION #11: What machines should I use?

Unfortunately, I can't answer that in an email. Please ask me at practice.

QUESTION #12: What if I can't afford a gym?

NY City Parks & Recreation has weight facilities throughout the city for $75 per year. Only $75 per year and that entitles you to go to any of their facilities. Many of these also have pools. The list of facilities is in the special government pages of the phone book under "NY City Offices - NY City Parks & Recreation" and on the Parks Department's website. The J. Hood Wright Center, (174th & Fort Washington, 5 blocks from the Armory), is open until 10 pm Monday through Thursday. The weight room at Fitness Center 59 (West 59th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues) is open until 10 pm Monday through Friday.

QUESTION #13: What if I don't have access to a gym?

No problem. You can do many exercises at home: push-ups, walking lunges, sit-ups, crunches, back exercises. Also, you can purchase small weights from stores like Paragon Sports for a minimal cost.

These are simply suggestions, but I hope these help.

Coach Devon Martin

  Walrus Internet