Race Training Balancing Act

by tinareale on August 12, 2013

This fall, I will be participating in the Women’s Running Series Nashville race series through FitFluential. As part of that partnership, each month I will share a running related post. This post is sponsored by Women’s Running Series. Let’s #beamazing and run stronger! You can join me in Nashville using code FITTNTINA for $10 off your registration.


You’ve heard me talk about strength training alongside running before.

You know it’s beneficial.

You know it should be a part of a solid training plan.

You even know the common areas that runners can strengthen to help with running performance, as I shared last month in my post about strength training for runners.

But what good does that all do if you don’t know  how to actually incorporate strength training into a training plan? You have X number of miles to run, X number of days to train, and life to still live. You don’t want to waste your time or your training. You want a plan that maximizes your workouts. You want to know how to fit it all together – how to manage the race training balancing act. I do too. And over the past couple of years, I have found some general weekly training schedules that help me to fit it in and to have that balance with my training – strength and running…and perhaps even a little yoga or other conditioning work in there too.

Running and Strength Training

5 Key Things To Consider In Fitting It All Together

  • During race training, running will often still be the main focus. When you have a particular goal you are working towards like getting a PR in a favorite distance or aiming for unchartered mileage territory to reach a new race distance, your training plan is likely aimed to push you in some way with running. In order to train safely (and wisely) you don’t need to put a ton of additional stress on the body with excessive strength work too. A couple of full body or shorter, more targeted sessions per week is plenty for your goals during race training.
  • Have ample rest days. What does that mean? Don’t take the days you have off on your running schedule and automatically make those your strength days, leaving no rest days in your week. Your body needs rest. You will likely benefit more by adding a strength workout (even a short one!) on to a day you already have a training run, then fully resting another day.
  • After, not before. If you choose to do a strength workout the same day as a training run, you will benefit more from putting your main focus first – the run. Get your run on, then immediately follow it up with a quick core or upper body workout before stretching it all out. Or run in the morning and later that afternoon/evening, do one of your full body workout sessions for the week. If your schedule doesn’t allow you to do both on the same day, then try to schedule key runs like speed work sessions, hill training, or long runs the day before any strength training so you don’t deal with DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) during those runs. If you split it up, always make sure you still have at least one full day of rest each week though.
  • Keep lower body work lighter. You’re not aiming to max out your squats and deadlifts while also upping your speed work or mileage are you? Please. Don’t. The best complement for running isn’t so much maximum strength, but stabilization, endurance, and general conditioning. Yes strength factors in to that, but that doesn’t mean you need to hit heavy leg day every week as some other athletes do. Both goals are great, but different.
  • When out of race training, up the conditioning ante. If you aren’t in training for a race and either running less mileage or maintaining a comfortable weekly total, you may then benefit from focusing a bit more on strength work. This can serve as extra preparation for your next training cycle. Use that time wisely. Make it an even more regular part of your schedule during race down times.

Sample Weekly Training Schedules


TRAINING RUN = Whatever general training run  you have on your schedule. Preferably something of light to moderate intensity. Save the higher intensity workouts for those labeled SPEED.

EASY RUN = Make sure this is a lighter intensity run to help with recovery before or after more challenging training sessions.

LONG RUN = If training for a distance, complete your weekly long run instead of a general training run.

SPEED = Any speed training such as sprints/intervals, tempo runs, or even hill training because it is a more intensive workout.

STRENGTH = Strength workout. I suggest two full body workouts. To get the most out of your time, use compound movements that work the upper and lower body together, as well as exercises that work some of those key areas to strengthen as I mentioned in my previous post on strength training for runners. You can check out my Strength Training Workouts page for additional ideas…or join in Best Body Bootcamp where many other runners have found success. **Note: In the 3 Runs Advanced sample, I give LOWER/UPPER/FULL BODY as guides for the strength workouts to fit in there.

XTRAIN =  Cross training of your choice: elliptical, cycling, a group class, Pilates, yoga, etc.

Of course, you can shift the days to suit your needs. These are just some example ways to fit together the tips I gave above into a weekly schedule. I hope this helps you get started on fitting it all in together!

For more info, tips, inspiration, and discounts for other races from Women’s Running Series, be sure to follow WRS on Twitter or follow WRS on Facebook! And if you’re looking for a fall race, don’t miss out on these great options from WRS!

September 28 – Nashville TN
November 3 – Scottsdale/Tempe AZ
November 24 – St. Petersburg FL


1 Pamela Hernandez August 12, 2013 at 7:48 am

I love showing runners are strength training can really help their performance. Great information!

2 Linz @ Itz Linz August 12, 2013 at 7:50 am

great post! and you’re so right – itz very important to include strength training during race training!!

3 Madeline @ Food Fitness and Family August 12, 2013 at 7:58 am

I pinned the same schedule for future reference because I KNOW that a race will be on my calendar once this baby pops out and strength training is so important too!

4 Heather Murphy August 12, 2013 at 8:03 am

Thanks for all the tips! I tend to want to do strength on days I am not training, thus leaving me with not enough rest days. Maybe since someone else is telling me that’s not okay I will listen!

5 Lauren (@PoweredbyPB) August 12, 2013 at 8:40 am

This is really helpful. I’m just getting back into strength training after a few months off, and I’m trying to figure out how best to incorporate it alongside half marathon training. I did a heavy leg day last week and was sore for about 4 days afterwards- no bueno.

6 tinareale August 13, 2013 at 7:14 am

I did the same thing when I first started training for races – tried to keep with my old style of heavier lifting. Quickly realized it wasn’t going to mesh well when I could barely sit on the toilet, let alone run. Haha! Hope you find your balance soon. :)

7 Laura @ Mommy Run Fast August 12, 2013 at 9:35 am

Awesome tips, Tina. I had to learn a few of these the hard way, unfortunately!

8 Danica @ It's Progression August 12, 2013 at 9:51 am

Great post! The example weekly training plan you have here is almost exactly what mine looks like, which I made on my own.

9 Samantha @ 10000 Squats August 12, 2013 at 11:24 am

Nice weekly training schedule! I could use something like that.

10 Tiff @ Love Sweat & Beers August 12, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Great tips! This makes me eager to start running again.

11 Debbie @ Live from La Quinta August 12, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Great post Tina! This is so helpful for runners trying to fit in their strength training and who aren’t sure exactly how.

12 Karen @ the mile report August 12, 2013 at 6:44 pm

thanks for this post! I always have a hard time fitting strength into race training, so I usually end up skipping it…and then getting injured!

13 tinareale August 13, 2013 at 7:22 am

I hope this helps you find a good fit for you!

14 Coco August 12, 2013 at 10:06 pm

Great tips, Tina! I will try to put them in practice for my fall training!

15 Christine @ Oatmeal Bowl August 13, 2013 at 2:20 am

Man, its tough to fit everything in when on a training schedule. Training for this marathon and getting in yoga, swimming, working, and taking care of kids is not so easy. And sleeping in on the weekends… ha. that’s gone too. But my IT band is acting up. I totally need to incorporate strength training in my routine. Plus I miss it. Great tips. Thank you.

16 Amy Lauren August 13, 2013 at 4:03 pm

I do BodyPump a lot, because the weight is lighter and it’s more reps, so it builds endurance (which I obviously need for this marathon). Lots of runners avoid weights and then some will say they don’t want to do any lower body stuff… I don’t lift 3-4 times a week, but it’s important to do it sometimes, you just plan it on the days when you don’t run as often or something, kind of like what your plan calls for (btw, that’s really helpful). Without doing any lower body weights, you never get the strength and power you need for parts of the course that are hilly!

17 [email protected] August 13, 2013 at 4:52 pm

Such a great post & great advice!!

I agree with everything!

18 [email protected] August 13, 2013 at 8:11 pm

Love this!!

As you know, I am a huge proponent for strength training while training for running races! I think that’s why I was able to do the minimal amt of training for the HIM & still do pretty well. Good post!

19 Danielle @Labelsarefor tincans August 14, 2013 at 4:30 pm

This is just what I needed! I am training for a 10 km and have been struggling to fit in strength training without tiring myself out. This will be put to good use!

20 Lisa @ RunWiki August 15, 2013 at 9:09 am

Strength training has really improved my running, these tips are spot on! I am running the WRS in Scottsdale, but I Nashville is on my bucket list!

21 Suzanne @WorkoutNirvana August 19, 2013 at 5:07 pm

Fabulous Tina! Thanks much for sharing. Convincing runners to fit in strength training is so important for SO many reasons. Good job!

22 Kim @ Fabulous Fit Foodie August 29, 2013 at 11:08 am

Thanks for this great post Tina! Very helpful.

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