Weight Lifting VS Cardio

Last Updated 11/08/17: If you’ve been around on the blog for any length of time you will probably know that our primary focus is on strength training. Whether that be powerlifting, weightlifting or just generally using weights to get stronger. But not many people know that I actually ran a marathon in 2012, before I ever started lifting weight, before I ever even saw a gym. My 10k times were good 42 minute PRs, for someone who only did this as a hobby it was generally all good….Except it wasn’t.


Around the time I began training for the marathon, like most people you start to increase your volume, so you run a lot more and you run a lot further (obviously right) the issue was when the training began I was already pretty skinny, and I mean zero muscle, I had never been in a gym…Not even once, I knew nothing about strength training or building muscle and I didn’t really care to be honest with you.

So long story short, I did the marathon and completed it but boy was it tough, only in 4 hours 30 mins, and well it was just insanely difficult, mainly because of 1 reason, to this day I don’t think it was anything to do with poor training plans or overtraining, it was because I was “too skinny” – Now I know what your thinking “The people on the TV are tiny and run marathons in 2 hours….” – Yes those are professional athletes, 99.999% of us aren’t. The problem is this: I weighed about 9 stone 3 lbs on the day of the marathon…. To put that into perspective I was an 18 year old 5 11 guy, BF% would have been stupidly low too. To cut a long story short I was extremely “fit” but I was not very healthy.

Anyway the reason why it was so bad was 2 fold, the first was nutrition, when you are training for a marathon or any long duration event, and you are already very skinny, you should be eating 3,500+ calories a day. Now that is a lot of calories I know, but it has to be done to ensure you don’t lose what little muscle you/I have.

The second and probably most important aspect was I did not integrate strength training into my routine, there was an interview with Dean Kamazes (the ultra marathon runner guy who runs 200 mile races against teams of 12 on his frecking own!! Let that sink in for a second. Anyway part of the interview he talks about how he does strength training in his workouts… This is a guy who ONLY Runs. And look at the guy, he’s lean (as you would expect) but he’s not marathon runner thin.

My point is this. In a race as long as a marathon or a 200 mile team relay that you decide to do on your own, you need muscle supplies that you can burn. Burning muscle is not a good habit to get into! This is what you do if you haven’t eaten in weeks or if you are in a life or death situation where your body simply cannot give up otherwise you will die!

Can runners build muscle – Yes! Can bodybuilders run marathons – Yes. It’s all down to the amount of effort you put in and the programmes and knowledge you are following. Below the video we have a section for individuals looking to build muscle whilst improving their running performance. Read that, but watch the below video first.

Weights Or Cardio? – Which to do | Is one better than the other?

When I tell people about this guy and my story most of the time they don’t believe me and the reason is the professional “drug free” athletes they see on TV. But that’s an article for another time. Instead we are going to talk about weights or cardio which one should you do, or how should you mix it?

It All Comes Down To Goals

When selecting a training programme it all comes down to your end goals you want to achieve. Depending on the goals will depend on how much of each you should do. If we think about someone who is a professional boxer, chances are they will be training both weights and cardio,but with an emphasis on speed. Remember most of the time these individuals don’t want to bulk up too much for 2 reasons. 1.) They want to be in a certain weight class. 2.) They need to be lean enough to be fast. If there is one thing I’ve seen around the gym its that the biggest guys are very very slow!

On the flip side, if you want to be a professional bodybuilder then size and body-fat percentage are your 2 primary goals. You want to be as big as possible whilst being as lean as possible. This means you will go through bulking and cutting cycles. Generally bodybuilders will train 4-6 times a week in the gym (weights) and maybe once a week doing cardio, or 3-4 times a week if they are on a cut or leaning out for a show.

How to Train for Both Running and Weightlifting

This is probably the reason you are here in the first place. How can you become a better, faster, more efficient runner, and at the same time build muscle, become stronger and have a great physique! That’s the million pound question and I’m going to answer it below so stay with me.

Step 1 – Initial goal and nutrition

Unlike setting the goals I just mentioned above, the goals I am talking about here are the increase/decrease weight ones. For example are you looking to (generally) increase weight, decrease weight or stay roughly the same. Depending on your answer you will need to establish your general daily caloric goals, including getting enough protein in. Once you have done this you can move onto the training element.

Step 2 – Your Timescale

Most people have varying levels of commitment usually this is down to “not having enough time”, so base the following training on how much time you can integrate into your schedule. Personally I would recommend at least 1 hour per day for pure training, this doesn’t include stretching and mobility work which you should be doing anyway!

Step 3 – Integrate Weight Training First

Weight training will generally have a larger strain on your CNS (central nervous system) than running and as a result we want to integrate this into our training first. I would recommend a 3-5 day split for training. If you are an experienced athlete then a 5 day workout routine is great for you. If you are a beginner then I would opt for a 3 day per week plan. Remember to align this training with your running goals below (for example don’t have a legs session the day before your longest run.)

Step 4 – Add the Running Training

Now you have your weekly schedule in place its time to align your running. Again I would recommend between a 3-5 training session split. Depending on the intensity of each session. Integrate this into your schedule and ensure you can complete the entire week, it’s no point aiming for 10 sessions a week and burning out by Wednesday or Thursday. Start slow with 6-7 and build it up from there, you can increase the intensity of each workout later on.

Step 5 – Recovery & Nutrition

I know I’ve mentioned it already but nutrition is huge! If you are working out 7-10 times per week you will need to consume a lot of calories. Most people struggle to hit their caloric needs but it isn’t difficult if you know what to eat. Full fat milk, nuts, oily fish, peanut butter are all high calorie, healthy snacks that I integrate into my diet. Recovery is so important too, along side basic mobility you should also be taking a few supplements to help prevent injury and keep your joints healthy. And remember to include 1 off day every 2 weeks. For example the 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month will be a complete off day, this allows your body to recover and helps prevent any of the overtraining symptoms from coming into play.

I hope you enjoyed the article and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below.