Running builds muscle for your legs, back and core. It strengthens the quadriceps, calves, quadratus lumborum, and lower back muscles. If you run hills, it will also strengthen the glutes and hamstrings.
But if you want to get stronger and achieve a better physique, you need to combine running with strength training exercises.
If you want to get started with a program that has both running and resistance training, be sure to do lower your weekly mileage at the start. You should also change up the intensity of your workout, volume and duration so as to ensure each crucial muscle is being worked on.
With strength training, you don’t need to spend hours in the gym pumping iron. In fact, you don’t need heavy weights – at least not at the beginning. You can start with resistance band workouts. And if you go to the gym like Blast Fitness or have access to kettlebells and dumbbells, you can start with low frequency strength training (1-2x a week) and high reps/sets which have been found to be very effective in helping build muscle overall.
That said, here are some important things to also keep in mind:
1. TRAINING VOLUME
Both running and strength training can be hard on the muscles. BUT they affect your muscles in different ways. What that means for you is, you need to alternate your runs and weight lifting. Over time your fitness level and metabolism will improve and that’s the time you can do both in the same day. Just be sure to give your body enough time to rest and recover (two days a week).
If you want to build and tone muscles as a runner, you need to take your nutrition seriously. Know your macronutrient and micronutrient intake so you can help your body promote protein synthesis and replenish glycogen stores. Protein synthesis is the body’s process of building muscle.
But now the question that’s probably running on your mind is, what kind of protein should I eat? Our muscle is made up of 80% protein and to build protein, you need amino acids. These are the building blocks of molecules and there are about 20 amino acids that make up protein chains. Our body produces amino acids but there are 9 that aren’t naturally produced. We get them by eating meat and certain vegetables like lentils, spinach and zucchini.
Another important nutritional component is omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3s affect our hormones and protein the cells from damage. They also aid in blood circulation and prevents inflammation.
Have you noticed that after a workout, you get dizzy or experience brain fog? It’s because when we work out, some of our fat stores are being used. Eating food rich in Omega 3 can help you stay alert and at the same time, help your body to recover. Foods like salmon, chia seeds and walnuts are excellent sources of omega 3s.
Finally, be sure to have carbs post-workout. High-glycemic-index carbohydrates helps with muscle recovery so be sure to chow down on some whole grain oats, squash, brown rice and other sources of carbs.
Sleep is crucial for muscle development and recovery. Not getting enough sleep prevents protein synthesis, adversely affect glucose metabolism and even lead to muscle function impairment.
An important thing to remember when you incorporate strength training with your running is to avoid overtraining. Doing so will prevent you from seeing significant progress and may even lead to injury.
Watch this video to know more about the importance of sleep for muscle building: