Can you have your ‘cake’ and eat it too?

To stay engaged in my workout routines I realized after college I needed to set challenging long term goals that gave each of my workouts a purpose. I think it’s definitely a personality thing that I like structure and focus on specific goals. If I just go  for a “random” jog or walk into my studio with no plan for what I’m lifting, I have no focus, motivation or that inner drive to have a good workout. I also just enjoy writing exercise programs, I mean duh right, it’s my career 🙂

 

So, back in September of last year (2018) I found motivation from my wife and manager to run around Pewaukee Lake because she had ran the 13 miles around the lake in August. Around the same I was starting to read up on something called “hybrid training.” This training protocol helps athletes who want to set goals that are often on very opposite ends of the fitness spectrum. For instance, running a marathon and deadlifting 600lbs for 1 rep on the same day (or at least the same week). You can imagine that training for a marathon AND training for a deadlift that heavy would take some serious planning. I thought this sounded cool and challenging. I was getting into distance running for the first time in my life, but I didn’t want to lose all the muscle and strength I had worked so hard for the previous 5 years since college.

 

I had to take that Pewaukee Lake run to another level by setting a goal of back squatting 315lb for 10 reps on the SAME day as my run. I set the goal for before my wedding date…April 27th 2019. This gave me 6-7 months to complete. I was excited for the training, but quickly realized I was in for maybe the hardest fitness challenge of my life. To be able to squat that much weight (alot for me FYI) while running further than I had ever run, it took not only focus, but constant adjustments to my programming each week and month. My body was being pulled in two directions. The training for back squats is something that hammers the quads ….hard. The training for a half marathon (13 miles) also hammers the quads. A few weeks in and I knew my legs were already taking a beating more than I had originally expected. I had to dial back some lifting because my legs were cramping up on some runs. They were just over worked! Now, I was finishing my workouts, but that isn’t the point. HOW you complete workouts and how you feel the next few days as you recover is what matters much more. If your workouts are affected days later from what you do today…you are doing TOO MUCH.

 

I write 4 week blocks of workouts for myself and my clients because its a good time frame to measure progress (weight lifted, mileage run, form improvements etc) but not too much time where you lose focus or have to completely scrap weeks of a plan because you planned too far in advance. Every 4 weeks this fall and summer I  had my “end goal” in mind, but every phase I adjusted my running volume or lifting days to better fit how I was feeling. Then three months in I had to come to terms with myself. I had over estimated my potential. There was no way I was repping 315lb for 10 reps by April. Maybeeee by the end of the 2019, but I was just running out of time and my legs were too beat up nearly every workout. I changed my goal to 275lb for 10 reps and moved on. Goals can be adjusted when you have more knowledge and experience. This doesn’t mean you failed, it means you got smarter. Your expectations of your body and fitness come with time and experience. You will set goals that are not achievable in the time frame you set them for. Adjust and move on. Fitness is a “life long book club” remember” 🙂

 

 

My weeks looked like this:

  1. Sunday: Long run (6-11 miles)
  2. Monday: Heavy lower body day (focused on back squat 225-315lb)
  3. Tuesday: Heavy upper body day (2-6 reps of exercises)
  4. Wednesday: Moderate weight back squat + 3-4 mile jog
  5. Thursday: High volume upper body day (8-20 reps of exercises)
  6. Friday: High volume back squat day (AKA hell…50-75 reps at moderate weight) + 5 mile jog
  7. Saturday: Arm day or REST

 

Fast forward from January to April and everything was rolling along smoothly. I actually had repped 275lb for 10 reps a few weeks previous so I knew I could accomplish half the challenge. I had run 11 miles around the lake in late March. So, I figured adrenaline would carry me through the last two miles when I got to the “test” day. It was a beautiful Friday afternoon. Sunny and mid 50s. PERFECT running weather. I had crushed the 1o reps at my studio that morning. I was feeling confident and fresh. Two hours later I was laying on my living room floor cramping up in both hamstrings and both quads for 10 minutes, but I had finished what I set out to accomplish last fall. I had run around Pewaukee Lake (13 mile half marathon distance) the same day I could squat 275lb for 10 reps. The beer I had that night tasted a little more refreshing than normal 🙂

 

 

Some people have endurance goals like running half marathons or 100 mile biking races. Some people have lifting goals like how much can they deadlift or bench press. I wanted both because I think that truly embodies who I am as a trainer and coach. I talk about “fitness” a lot. I also talk about life balance a lot. Balance in nearly everything in life is so crucial for your physical and emotional health. I have found that having more balance in my life with strength AND cardiovascular endurance has gotten me in the best shape of my life. And I don’t mean the best I have ever looked (personal opinion), but the best version of myself physically and also mentally. The addition of distance running to my life has made me become mentally stronger. It is out of my comfort zone much more than lifting is. I needed this. At the same time though, it opened my eyes to what is realistic for me and my body while having a busy life running a business.

 

Can you have your ‘cake’ and eat it too?

 

^^Can you have great strength, layers of muscle, lungs to run a marathon and legs to fill out those jeans (this is my goal)?

 

You can. It is physically possible to have all of that. But, do you have the time, patience and guidance to have all of that? Your expectations and the time frame you give yourself matter much more here than if you can physically accomplish a task this difficult. Having muscle, strength and endurance takes much more time and effort than I think I even realized. I also struggled with the balance of my run times slipping as I gained weight and muscle. It was just going to happen, whether I wanted it to or now. I didn’t want to run around the lake “fast” and this is the key here. I had a BIG goal, but was also realistic about what I could accomplish with the time frame I had given myself. So, what I am getting at here?

 

When you start your “journey” take a look at your life from 10,000 feet above. Look at the whole picture. Do your best to predict the future. If you put too many goals on your plate you won’t accomplish any of them. Sometimes it might be best to set either a strength goal OR an endurance goal. Sometimes it could be best to have more balance. Here are some tips to help you decide what is your best path for fitness:

 

  1. If you are just starting out your journey, set one fitness goal. GET STRONGER.
  2. When you reach your desired and healthy goal weight/body composition range then you can contemplate switching your focus to endurance activities. This is for safety of your joints. At the very least, slowly add endurance training as you lose weight. 
  3. Prioritize your goals 90% of the time. Choose a strength goal and go “all in.” Hit it. Then move on the next one. 
  4. After years of experience lifting and endurance training cycling back and forth through different goals, then you might be ready to try this “hybrid training” protocol. 
  5. Use the guidance of a coach to help you program your lifting around running, biking and lifting. Remember there is a difference between lifting once per week as a runner to avoid injuries and lifting 3-5 times per week to keep and gain muscle WHILE training for a long distance race. EVERYTHING needs to be calculated, planned and focused or injuries will happen.
  6. Be ready for an ego hit in some areas of your fitness. You can have some of the ‘cake” but you will definitely lose some strength in some areas of your body and you might run slower. Expect this to happen so you don’t get frustrated. IF you want to be super strong…go “all in” on that and don’t worry at all about endurance. If you want to run a FAST half marathon, then drop your lower body lifting, be OK losing strength and crush the half marathon. Sometimes you just have to prioritize either strength OR endurance.
  7. Make sure you give yourself enough time to hit your goals. 6 weeks isn’t enough most of the time. Commit to 6-12 months minimum. 
  8. Life happens. Be ready for injuries, bad weather, work stress etc. Don’t plan on the “perfect” scenario. Plan for the worst and be ready to adjust. 
  9. Make sacrifices. Double work out days probably need to happen. Less drinking at night so you can wake up early and run before its too hot. Lifting when you are exhausted AND sore. Running when you don’t want to. Planning your entire schedule around your workout program. 
  10. Make nutritional adjustments. Be ready to eat a lot. But, don’t sacrifice quality. Eating like shit and training like this will lead to poor workout quality and even worse recovery. This leads to injuries and frustration. 

 

 

If you can do all of those things you can be muscular, strong and run marathons all at the same time! This is how I see my fitness being for years to come. I love to lift weights. I have learned to enjoy the challenge of distance running. I feel “fit” and its cool to talk about running with runners AND talk about lifting with lifters. Now, I won’t always set such a BIG goal like I did this past year, but I see myself wanting the balance of having “good” strength and “good” endurance. I know training like this won’t lead to AMAZING strength or AMAZING endurance, but there is a threshold I know I can keep so my “fitness” is balanced.”

 

So, do you know what you want and CAN achieve?

 

Ryan

 

 

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