Gaining muscle during marathon training | 4 tips

Is it really possible to bulk up while you’re in marathon training?

There are tonnes of theories out there about training for different goals. Most of them based largely on physical norms.

Mo Farah is smaller than Anthony Joshua, and Eddie Hall is bigger than Tom Daly all for very logical reasons. But how do you merge two disciplines from opposite ends of the fitness spectrum?

It’s not uncommon for someone to want to take on a challenge like running a marathon, but not want to lose the muscle mass they’ve worked hard for. It’s also quite common to want to increase your repertoire of capabilities.

So to combine muscular hypertrophy (getting bigger) with building strong running endurance, there are five key points to consider, most of them nutritional.

  • Rank up the calories

“Maintain a balance and eat plenty. Your muscles are going to need a lot of fuel to maintain both types of training” says Fitness Nutrition coach Anne Melsaether.

About 2,600 calories are burnt in one marathon race, around 100 calories per mile. So factor in the energy needed to collaborate

  • Plan nutritional phases

You’ve probably heard of “the wall.” Marathon runners will experience it around the 18 mile mark. It happens when your body runs out of glycogen and has to start converting fat into energy to fuel the last few miles.

Fats are harder to burn than carbohydrates, so your body tends to go for the glucose in carbs before eating into your waist line. But it’s possible to train your body to burn fats faster. “Marathon runners who have high fat nutritional phases can burn fat at a higher rate per minute”

Take one week out of every month to lower your carb intake and stock up on good fats. This will force your body to speed up the rate at which it burns fats and help you on race day.

  • Make two training plans, then overlap them

Rather than thinking of the challenge as a two in one, design two separate training plans and then try to incorporate them into each other. There is no secret balance as each body will react differently to training.

Anne says “I suggest making a schedule for your running, and then make on for weight training”

Running in the morning, then giving your body time to recover and refuel before weight training in the evening is one way to do it, but see what works for you.

  • Get creative

“Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to training! Hiking, rowing, swimming,” says Anne.

By mixing it up, you’re forcing your body to react to changing demands, and it’ll get better at dealing with it. Introducing VO2 max building swimming sessions, and endurance boosting mountain hikes or hill runs, the body will learn to cope.

The second coup with this is that you enjoy your training. The best type of exercise is the exercise you’ll actually do. Are you enjoying clocking up miles or do you get your kicks from running down trail routes or through mountains? Change it up and you’ll stay interested, motivated and reach your goal.

When speaking to Anne she told me “I do believe someone can improve on their marathon time and still make gains in strength. The key is to find what works for your body.”

So take time to try and test what works for you, and remember you’re not trying to be Eddie Hall or Mo Farah, make your body what you want it to be this year. 🙂

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