I know there are many runners out there that are afraid of “bulking up” from weight lifting or adding extra weight that will slow them down. Here is some information that I hope will answer questions you might have about this topic.
“Won’t adding more muscle just slow me down?”
“Won’t women get bulky from lifting?”
“Muscle weighs more than fat, right?”
These are a few things I hear quite often and want to explain the answers to help you on your quest to become a better runner.
I’m going to use myself as an example of how adding muscle can be beneficial and will not slow you down. At 37 years old, I weighed 165 lbs. and had approximately 140 lbs. of lean body mass and 25 lbs. of body fat. Over the past 10 years, I changed my body composition with a combination of strength training, running, and paying attention to my nutrition. Now 47 years old, I have added 8 lbs. of muscle and lost 8 lbs. of fat. I still weigh the same as I did 10 years ago, I’m just stronger and leaner. So, adding muscle did nothing to my overall weight and didn’t slow me down.
It’s important to note that we all lose muscle as we age, usually starting in our 30’s. Strength training, combined with proper nutrition, will help maintain or increase our lean mass and keep us running strong even as we age.
As far as “bulking up” from lifting weights, it’s hard to do. You really have to focus specifically on nutrition and weight training protocols that help build size if that’s what your goals are. There are certainly some people that have a much easier time gaining muscle, but it’s a pretty small percentage of people that this applies to. Usually, runners are not going to fall into this category. I like to give the example of Jordan Hasay, holder of the second fastest US women’s marathon time in history. If you look at Jordan’s Instagram page, you’ll see videos of her performing barbell squats, deadlifts, and many other strength training exercises. Jordan is by no means big or bulky. I realize that she is an extreme example, but her strength is impressive, and she talks freely about how much strength training has helped her running. Sure, you can eat 4000 calories a day and gain a bunch of weight, but it’s likely going to be a good percentage of fat gained along with that muscle. Bottom line, it’s highly unlikely that you will “bulk up” from strength training if you are training smart and paying attention to your nutrition.
Lastly, a pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat. Muscle happens to take up less space which is why you can weigh the same but your favorite pair of jeans will fit better with improved body composition.