Is it possible to do both weight training and running?
October 25, 2010 7:45 AM   Subscribe

I recently decided to go to the gym and start exercising, in an effort to lead a healthier life. I'd like to start running, but also put on some muscle mass. Is this possible, or do I have to choose one?

I'm 5'10' and about 125lbs, so I'm pretty skinny. Like really skinny, and I've always been this way. I can eat pretty much anything, and I never put on weight, but recently my belly has been getting a little too big for my taste. Not a pot belly, but it's becoming noticeable sometimes.

My dad is also pretty slim, and has heart issues, so I know I can be thin on the outside but fat on the inside, so to speak. I'm also in front of a computer all day at work, and lots when I'm at home.

For many different reasons, I decided to start hitting the gym not just for my physical well-being but my mental health.

I've been going 2 weeks now, and I mainly go on the treadmill and run, because it feels good. I started off 5 minutes walking, 3 minutes running, and did that 5w/3r for half hour. The walking is at 3.0 km/h and the running at 5.5 km/h.

The last couple times I've managed to do 3w/3r, totaling 15 minutes running and 15 walking in the half hour. But I felt REALLY tired. Ideally I'd like to be able to run for half hour. I love running.

However, I'd also like to put on some muscle mass. I don't need to be all cut up, just maybe another 10-15 lbs.

Is it possible to do both? The running and the weight training? I think the general rule is too much cardio is going to make it impossible to put on weight?

I was speaking to a lady at a GNC pharmacy and she said to stop all cardio if I want to put on weight.

Also, should I start taking whey protein? What about weight gainers?

I read past questions about running, but didn't come across any asking about both.

I'd appreciate your advice, as I'm kinda at a crossroads right now.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Sure you can do both, just eat a whole lot and be sure to get a rest day. Don't take fitness (or probably even diet) advice from the clerk at GNC.
posted by ghharr at 7:59 AM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

You should do cardio, because not only is it fun, but it's good for your heart.

You can build muscle mass and do cardio at the same time, especially when you're starting from a place of being really not very fit at all.

Stumptuous has a great collection of resources in terms of weight training, finding a good balance between lifting and cardio, and proper nutrition. You probably don't really need to eat a bunch of fake food unless you want to; people are pretty well-adapted to eating a wide range of actual foods that grew in the ground or came from animals, and they obtained said foods from nature and not from the GNC (though the produce and meat aisles at the supermarket are a lot easier than hunting and gathering).
posted by kataclysm at 7:59 AM on October 25, 2010

grar, forgot to actually link to stumptuous...
posted by kataclysm at 8:00 AM on October 25, 2010

It depends largely on how much you're eating. If you're lifting heavy, eating a lot of high-quality food (lean protein, mix of complex and simple carbs, good fats), and not running yourself to exhaustion, it's possible. Strength and size gains for muscles also depend on adequate rest so the key is not to overdo it. Beginning weight lifters can realize significant gains from volume of training alone but that condition ends pretty quickly and can lead to injury.

I was speaking to a lady at a GNC pharmacy and she said to stop all cardio if I want to put on weight.

GNC makes most of their money selling fake "anabolic vitamin" compounds to surburban teenagers. Consider the source.

If you're 125 pounds despite a voracious appetite, you're going to have a much tougher time than someone who is of medium build and trying to gain muscle while maintaining a decent level of cardio conditioning. If after 10-12 weeks you're lifting heavy but not realizing strength gains you probably will need to dial back the cardio.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:03 AM on October 25, 2010

But running makes you feel good, and the cardio is probably what will give you the nice mental well-being boost. Don't get too close to your VO2Max and keep up with a run/walk thing like you're doing now, and add some weights on a different day of the week and see how you feel. If you like running, why not keep doing it?

You just need to eat constantly, like before you feel hungry, and more than 3 meals a day. I too have uber-metabolism and I recently discovered that if I want to keep my weight up while dong frequent cardio that I need to practically force feed myself in a way that would seem unhealthy when I was more sedentary.
posted by slow graffiti at 8:04 AM on October 25, 2010

You can run and put on muscle mass at the same time.

I follow a program called CrossFit, which can be scaled to your current physical condition and always challenges you. It's a combination of metabolic conditioning, weightlifting, and gymnastic movement in an infinite variety.

To gain weight, ramp up your protein intake. Whey protein is a good supplement. If you're trying to put on muscle, we're not talking about the USRDA-recommended 56g of protein per day. 1 gram of protein per day per pound of your goal bodyweight, minimum.

Mark Rippetoe, author of Starting Strength, tells his high school athletes who need to gain weight to add one gallon of whole milk per day to their athletic (i.e.: not junk food) diet. You probably don't need to go that far, but if you absolutely can't gain weight, you're most likely really young, or you're eating much less than you think you are.

Find your Basal Metabolic Rate and make your target 1.55 - 1.75 times that much. Even if you're not "very active" according to the Harris Benedict Equation, this should still help you gain weight.

Good luck!
posted by phoebus at 8:09 AM on October 25, 2010

First, good for you for getting active!

You're on the right track (so to speak) for running: alternate running and walking. If the last couple times you've been really tired, try easing off for a day or two; you may need to recover from fatigue.

How often are you going? When I was running, I found that if I ran more than three days a week my chances of getting injured went way up. I now get my exercise mostly from cycling, which is more forgiving on the joints.

In any case, keep going, with occasional rest breaks of a couple days, and gradually increase the length of time you run while shortening the length of time you walk. Eventually you can drop the walking entirely, though there's nothing wrong with a short walking break in the middle of a run.

If you're only running 30 minutes, 3-4 times each week, you should have no problem putting on muscle. First, you will be building muscle in your legs, slowly, as you run. So you should concentrate on your upper body. Once you've worked up to a 30-minute run, you could also start doing lower-body resistance training too. (Run first, then do resistance training.) If your gym has classes, or offers personal training, check them out. If not, find a good book. I haven't looked at Getting Back in Shape from Shelter Publications, but I own and have gotten very good advice from other books by each of the four authors, so it's probably a good investment. As a beginner, you shouldn't do resistance training more than 2-3 times per week. (Any less and you won't see much progress; any more and your muscles won't have time to recover.)

TL;DR: It's OK to start upper body resistance training while running. Once you've reached your goal of running 30 minutes continuously, you can add lower body resistance training after your run.
posted by brianogilvie at 8:09 AM on October 25, 2010

Cardio should be high intensity intervals for 20 - 30 min. Longer could inhibit building muscle mass.

There is a great program called strong lifts 5 x 5 which will grow your strength quickly, teach you simple "real" exercises, and is VERY easy.
posted by jseven at 8:16 AM on October 25, 2010

There's a lot of good advice here. The one thing I would add is that your weightlifting should be in the form of free weights, not machines.
posted by dfriedman at 8:20 AM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Completely possible. I started as a casual 5K runner type (you know, 30 minute 5K runner!) and trained for a triathlon while also doing free weights combined with Nautilus 2-3x/week, and built muscle as well as became a better runner. Eat well - don't skimp on protein. It's really not rocket science unless and until you start becoming a real hobbyist worker-outer.
posted by Miko at 8:29 AM on October 25, 2010

The best time to run is after your workouts. The second best time is on rest days. The third best time is in morning, hours before you workout. The last is directly before you workout.

I would keep your distances to less than 5K and the time under 30 minutes. Above that, it's quite easy to start going catabolic.

Gaining Lean Mass:
At your height and weight you sound extremely underfed. I don't think it would be out of the norm for you to put on 25lbs in a few months.

I don't do all the metabolic rate calculations and bullshit like that when eating to gain.
Take your weight and then multiple it by 20. That's the calorie amount to aim for. If you don't gain any weight that week add 300 more calories to the total.
When eating to drop I take weight x 15-17 and readjust every two weeks.

If you're serious, my tip for you is to eat everything in sight. Don't worry about eating clean at your weight, it's just not necessary. Big Macs 2-3x a week would be fine. Weight gainers for the most part are crap, you're going to need a lot of solid food.
You're going to have 3 very important meals every day. Breakfast, peri-workout, and post work-out.
Breakfast: This should be your largest meal. You're basically going to feel extremely full after this meal.
Peri-workout: About 1 hour before training. You're going to want some protein here and good fats.
Post-workout: DIRECTLY after training. Protein shake and some really simple carbs. I think for you ice cream wouldn't be out of the realm of acceptableness.
I like this thing called the hour of power too.
Once a week eat as much as you can for an hour (in addition to your normal daily eating, it replaces 1 meal.)

If the above seems too hardcore just go with the starter of 2500 calories (don't include protein shakes in that number) and drink protein shake before working out and after. You'll get OK noob results for a few months which will probably let you meet your initial goal.

Buy Starting Strength or 5\3\1 by Jim Wendler. Pick one, read it, read it again, and just follow it for at least 3 months. After that you'll know a lot more about your body.
posted by zephyr_words at 8:33 AM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

There is a lot of non scientific advice out there. I wouldn't trust anybody except actual research.

About weight lifting:

About cardio, go for high intensity training:
One paper

and there is a lot more research coming out on it now showing its physiological superiority.
posted by blueyellow at 9:42 AM on October 25, 2010

FWIW, it seems to me that most of the answers above are slanting more towards answering "can I add running to a weight-training regime". I think the OP's situation is the opposite; he's already running (and loves it) and wants to add weight training.

I'm not claiming expertise, but I run and I read a lot; and all I've read says that strength training is excellent cross-training for runners.

(And at two weeks in, you might be over-thinking it a bit? It will take a while for you to find what works for you, what you enjoy doing, and what you want to achieve.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:17 PM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

A lot of trainers I know recommend doing cardio after a weight lifting workout because the oxygen that is pumped through the body during a cardio session helps nullify the lactic acid built up in the muscles that give that terrible sore feeling the next day.

I've tried this with wonderful success. A lot of times I'll do a very hard workout and then jump rope for 9 minutes and feel great!
posted by eortega at 1:14 PM on November 19, 2010

Another good reason for cardio after weights is that you really want to maintain good form during weightlifting , and you can't do that nearly as well if you're tired out from cardio.
posted by Miko at 5:31 PM on November 19, 2010

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