Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Weights Debate

I have something really bold and controversial to say, so brace yourself.

If you’re a runner, this may provoke more ire in you than a statement about abortion, the healthcare debate or what to do with illegal immigrants.

OK, here goes: I don’t see the point of weight lifting while training for a marathon.

Before you start pelting me with bananas (or dumbbells), let me make it clear that I’m not talking about cross-training in general. I get a lot from spin classes, and I recently discovered that yoga is my friend.

But strength training, particularly high repetition strength training, seems to be doing more to harm than help my running.

On Sunday I took “Pump It Up” at the YMCA, which entailed dozens and dozens of lunges and glute lifts done with weights. I’ve taken this class many times before (before I began marathon training) and perhaps because I didn’t run a dozen miles in the days following weights workouts, I always felt good afterwards and got a lot out of the experience.

And while I was in the class this Sunday, as I was curtseying and flexing and balancing my heart out, I felt absolutely fine. (OK, not “happy,” but not like I was out of my league, either.)

But four days and twelve miles later, I’m aching like I’ve never ached before.

It’s my legs. They hurt. This is really strange, because I’ve never really had “sore” legs during the six months I’ve been running regularly. Muscles that certainly had to be conditioned from all the running I’ve done—my calves, hamstrings, inner and outer thighs and hips—are seriously unhappy right now.

I could probably “break myself in” by doing more weight training every week, but my inclination right now actually is to do less of it—much less of it.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and I’m not sure why I would need to be able to do 125 squats with 8 lb. dumbbells in order to run a marathon; I’m not really sure how lacing myself into ankle weights and then lifting my calves above my hips is going to help me with speed or endurance.

The irony of it all is that I’m looking a lot more “muscular” these days than I ever did when I took “Pump it Up” every Sunday and did cardio just twice a week. My biceps are defined; my thighs don’t widen when I sit down; my stomach, even, is starting to pass for the stomach of someone who hasn’t necessarily had two c-sections.

So while I’ll keep cross-training, I’m going to choose how I cross-train very carefully in the future. Yoga, yes; curtsey-lunges, no thank you. (In any case, I’m pretty sure people in the super-crowded “Pump it Up” class will be relieved to have one less person competing for space and a riser.)

1 comment:

  1. I do core strength which is supposed to help balance and speed while running. I take a class at the Y that is like pilates on crack ( is the crack leaders website... she is brutal) but I think regular pilates would do the same thing. I would skip the weights and add some core. spin and running cover all the leg muscles...