Q: Can Max Weights and Marathon Training Play Nice Together?


I will be training for the Chicago Marathon this October. I will be running five days and resting or cross-training the other two. I want to add barbell squats and seated calves to my training regimen. I will be doing both on the same day once every four days. I’ll do four sets of each exercise almost to failure.
I love the benefit that both of these exercises give me but I wanted to know if I am doing so much that it will interfere with my running and race performance. I will tell you that sometimes it makes my legs feel heavy when I run. I never do the weight training the day before a long run. And I do intend to stop the weights two weeks before the big race.
Can you please let me know your thoughts on this? I would really appreciate any advice you have.

Thank you,

Thomas Reiling



Hi Thomas!

I’m not a big believer in near-failure weights for long distance runners, and while I do know athletes doing barbell squats and calf raises (myself included), I don’t know of anyone at the top levels doing them to near failure.  But what you do in the weight room is determined by what your overall goals are.

If your goal is to purely maximize your marathon time, you’d be better off doing more functional leg exercises like single leg squats, explosive step ups, or calf exercises that incorporate a bit of balance or bounce.  Or double leg squats where the focus is on activation and technique.  If you like powerful movements, add in some box jumps or other plyometrics once a week.

If your goals are to run a strong marathon and still have fun in the weight room doing a couple choice exercises that are non-traditional, than don’t worry about it!  You can definitely accomplish both of those things.  Its not going to kill your marathon if you are using proper technique to avoid injury.

In my opinion, you should always find ways to fit in the things that make you happy and excited to work out.  As professional athletes, we have to sacrifice a lot of the things we love to do because our JOB is to make every moment of training count maximally.  But if I weren’t a pro, I’d find a way to incorporate rock climbing and mountain bike training into my marathon prep!

My recommendations:

  • Do your weights in six week cycles, rather than 2x every single week from now until October.
  • Strategically back off the weights during weeks when you are ramping up your running training, giving your body a chance to adapt and absorb it.  Then when you are in a running grove, ramp the weights back up.
  • Remember that you are likely to feel the effects of heavy lifting up to two days afterwards.  If you long run on Sunday, don’t lift heavy after Thursday.

Good luck!