It’s All Training for Something—How Strength Training Helped My Running

by Gabrielle Sasse



“It’s all training for something.” It’s a phrase my husband likes to tell me, usually as I look at him with a raised eyebrow as he suggests some insane elevation gain or long mileage of a hike. But it’s true. Everything you do, trains you for something else in your life.


I feel that sentiment more than ever as I begin training for my first ever half marathon. It’s going to be a trail race in Yosemite, so you can’t beat the location! My race is in May, and I’m on week three of a twelve week plan that I stitched together from some template plans to fit with the realities of my work schedule and realistic goals. My plan includes three days of running a week intermixed with strength training, cross training, and the ever important rest day or two.


The idea of a half marathon is not my lifelong dream. I’ve always just been a casual runner, signing up for the occasional 5k race here and there, but mostly taking my dog Leo out for a small run to keep him tired and happy. A few years back, I got extra spicy and completed a Tough Mudder, but I never felt drawn to long distance runs. Instead, I’ve pursued horseback riding and snowboarding, and flirted with kickboxing, group workouts, and occasional attempts at lifting. Generally though, I’ve tried to keep fit through random daily activities, like hiking.


Everything you do, trains you for something else in your life.

My casual relationship with workouts changed when we moved to Oregon, and I finally began to work out with a purpose. I started rock climbing, exploring trails full of elevation gains, and even summiting a few mountains. I felt a growing motivation to bump up my workouts to pursue taller mountains and bigger walls, but I still had a hard time finding a regular gym schedule.


Since we moved to Oregon, I have watched my husband pursue three ultra-marathons, and saw how he was able to craft and crush a training schedule. Hanging around the trail running community and seeing how supportive they were of all who even tried, I gave into the idea of at least signing up for a half. This has also been the year that I started working with a personal trainer, the fabulous Abigail Parker. Suddenly, my casual relationship with fitness feels like a lasting, long term relationship.


I have been amazed how my running has improved since incorporating regular strength training into my schedule, using both bodyweight for push-ups and pull-ups, and “big kid” lifts like squats, bench press, and deadlifts (my favorite). I am able to engage more of my leg and glute muscles during hills, feel the isolation of movements, and avoid just pounding on quads and hip flexors. When I ran casually, I found breaking three miles a struggle. Four miles was a big, big day. Now, I am able to confidentially add on mile after mile each week (although I may groan a bit the first mile as I loosen up from leg day). Just this week, I was able to go out on Wildwood Trail (shout-out to that Portland beauty) and bang out seven snowy miles with Leo.


Suddenly, my casual relationship with fitness feels like a lasting, long term relationship.

Strength training has helped to not only work and build muscle mass, but also to concentrate on important connecting tissues. Like many trails, Wildwood Trail is full of undulating hills, ridges, roots, sideways slopes, and the occasional big hill thrown in for good measure. I used to roll my ankle just hiking, and now I feel much more confident trotting along, dodging tree roots and rocks. Shaking up my workouts also means shaking up different stabilizers and joints. It’s all connected!


It’s not just rolling an ankle that can really screw up a training plan. Adding strength training into my running schedule also helps with injury prevention all around. It’s easy to quickly build up “big muscle” groups like quads, but just building those muscles without focusing on what they are connected to can really mess with your body. I recently learned that the issues I had been having with an old back injury flare up were actually connecting to knee inflammation that had been plaguing my runs. Combined with a physical therapy adjustment, engaging my glute muscles will actually help my knee. Strength training is an important part of engaging muscles and the connective tissues.


I’ve never worried about becoming too bulky or too masculine, because I just don’t have the right hormones to make that happen. Besides, what’s wrong with a strong AF female?

I have also found that adding weight training has helped not only to add strength but also to slim down. I’ve never seen the type of body change I’m looking for from just running alone. But adding in even just two days of lifting has toned my body overall, and I have noticed faster results in slimming down. Even with being hungry All. The. Time. But fueling the new muscles I’ve been building is an incredibly important part of the entire plan. And who knew that working on building your hamstrings would also mean a more lifted butt?! (#6ambootygains) A healthy mix of running, stairs, rowing, body resistance training, and some heavy lifts means that I am toning and building muscle while still burning fat and slimming down. I’ve never worried about becoming too bulky or too masculine, because I just don’t have the right hormones to make that happen. Besides, what’s wrong with a strong AF female?


Everyone needs to find the best training plan that not only works for their schedule, but also for their bodies and goals. But I can confidently say that weight training makes running easier. Not only for those who are trying their first half, but for anyone who wants to add running into their workout schedule. Find a schedule that works for you and stick to it! Look at YouTube videos; Find yourself a personal trainer; Try a new workout class; Look at how much time you have each week and put a workout in your day. I have my running plan posted in the kitchen, and I write what I actually accomplished versus the plan to see how the plan that I drafted is actually working for me.


Some days are not great days, but every day I sweat is a good day. Because it’s all training for something.

© 2020 by Abigail Parker

Design by Ashley Wu