It’s no coincidence that the best runners in the world are light and lean. Marathon world record holder Eliud Kipchoge is 57kg, whilst top female runner Mary Keitany is just 42kg! Now I’m not suggesting we all aim for these numbers, I like pizza too much. But as runners, we don’t want to be carrying around additional weight that brings us no further performance improvements. With this in mind, here are three common mistakes that should be avoided to ensure you don’t gain unwanted mass.
Don’t train in the wrong rep range
We generally recommend runners train for strength (low reps/heavy weight) or for strength endurance (high reps/low weight). What we should avoid is lifting for ‘hypertrophy’ – intentional muscle growth. This typically means 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps using a weight that is extremely difficult to lift by the final rep. Training this way will massively encourage increases in muscle mass (hence bodybuilders will commonly use this rep range).
Avoid calorie surplus
Regardless of training choices, unwanted bulk will be added if you live in a calorie surplus. In other words, if you’re taking on-board more calories than you’re burning, over time it doesn’t matter how much running or what type of resistance training is being performed, you’re going to put on weight be it muscle or fat or both. If you’re unsure about what you’re currently taking on-board, and you’d like to keep track, the My Fitness Pal app is a very simple and effective way to keep a food diary. Remember we aren’t trying to live in a big deficit either, just be cognisant of intake and output to maintain and improve performance.
Keep the miles up
When life becomes busy and other things crop up, it can be easy to let the volume of running you’re doing decrease. Missing the odd run here or there is not a problem if it’s a one off, but constantly missing sessions is not a good pattern to get in to as after all, consistency is the key to progress!
To avoid a decrease in miles covered, it’s essential to plan and record what you’re doing so you know where you are and if any changes need to be made. Keeping track of what you’ve done in your head is a tricky business, particularly if your memory is anything like mine! This article includes a video showing how I lay out my plan as well as a simple spreadsheet you can download for free. I think you’ll find it useful.
Remember that every stride you take requires energy and the more mass we are moving around the harder it gets. Planning and tracking these things will keep us progressing. The point is not to be light for the sake of being light, rather that we want our mass to be working for us not against us; better running performance is ultimately our goal!