I often get angry letters from joggers because they say I'm too "harsh on running". But at the same time, these folks also complain about not being able to lose fat despite doing hours and hours of cardio per week.
The worst emails come from folks who are overweight, yet insist on running marathons. Here's what I think about that (note: This is sure to upset any overweight runners)...
If you are overweight and training for marathons, then clearly this training is not working for you. Frankly, I don't think running marathons is a healthy activity for an overweight man or woman. You are going to get hurt.
It's not a question of if, it's a question of how soon and how bad are you going to let the injury get before you stop trying to run marathons.
Most runners are smart enough that they wouldn't buy a beat-up used car for $300 and try to drive it across America non-stop, but they'll take their overweight, used up, beat up, weak bodies and try to run 26.2 miles in under 4 hours.
How does that make any sense?
The reason I'm so "hard" on running is because too many people do it that shouldn't do it. I have no problem with training for a marathon if your body is prepared to handle a marathon. But most folks have bodies that are not suited for running 26.2 miles in one day.
What you should do is run less, and do more resistance training, and decrease the carbohydrates in your diet (as most runners are guilty of justifying a high-carbohydrate diet due to their running).
Any general strength training program will help you improve your body composition and strengthen your muscles so that you have a reduced risk of overuse injury (from running).
But you don't need to be lifting three days per week - if running is going to remain your focus. All you need are two quick, total body strength workouts per week, doing 1-2 sets of a couple of multi-muscle exercises.
Master bodyweight exercises first when appropriate (i.e. pushups before chest presses). But if you insist on keeping marathon training as your main focus, just be careful not to do too much strength training that it gives you sore muscles.
I like to see runners do stability ball leg curls, 1-leg hip extensions, prisoner squats, step-ups, and split squats. Those are the basics to start with. Just pick two exercises per workout, and do 1-2 challenging sets.
But we need to address the 800 pound elephant in the room.
If you are an overweight runner focused on a marathon, the most important thing you can do is lose body fat. Your diet is probably the main problem. So fix it. Running 6 miles per day is not a license to eat whatever you want. That's a big mistake runners make.
So drop the fat and do a little bit of efficient strength training to help you get a better body for running before you hurt yourself.
Best of luck to you, and train safe.
Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Click here for a better weight loss program than running