One of the biggest concerns you hear from runners is the loss of muscle mass that can occur from running long distances. It’s no surprise that short-distance sprinters have a much different body type than ultra-marathoners, and for those who love running long distances, loss of muscle can be a legitimate worry. Can runners truly have it all? Can you keep your running mileage and never fret about muscle loss? The short answer is, it is possible. However, there are a few things you’ll have to consider first, such as body type, nutrition, weight training, and running style.
Your best bet in maintaining muscle mass as a runner is to find a balance between your nutrition and the amount of weight training you do, but first, you need to look at your body type. Do you have that much muscle mass to begin with? Are you on the muscular side but afraid of losing the muscle that you do have? Answering these questions for yourself will help you better understand what your goals are when it comes to running and muscle mass.
Your running style will also have an effect on your muscle loss/gain. Some runners have chosen to fight muscle loss by incorporating High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) while they run. This involves simply running at normal pace for a duration of your run, then running at a higher speed and intensity for a while, then returning to your normal speed and cooling down. HIIT is great cardio, helps strengthen key muscles, improves balance, and keeps the heart healthy and working at its best. HIIT isn’t for everyone, and you should consider your physical capabilities before diving right into this type of training.
Strength training in the legs such as the calves and thighs, will not only help reinforce muscle mass but also help make you a more powerful runner. Some runners never see the need for weight training, and to each their own, but if you’re worried about losing muscle in these areas, weight training will be one of your first steps to prevention.
Nutrition will also play a role in developing or hindering muscle mass. If you're trying to pack on the muscle, consider high protein diets and meals that supply the body with enough carbs so that your muscles can turn it into energy while you exercise. Keep a log of your calories and carbs. You may even want to speak with a nutritionist first, to develop a dietary plan that’s right for what you want. In conclusion, there are plenty of steps you can take if you’re worried about muscle loss from running; finding a balance between all these factors has proven successful when it comes to keeping that muscle mass.
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