Since I announced I'm training for the Toronto Island Half Marathon, I've gotten a few questions about WHY I'm running again, and how I'm planning to train for the race. Let's chat all about RUNNING!
Why I'm Running a Half Marathon
My life motto: if it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you.
Running has never come naturally to me. In fact, I have to work REALLY hard, really consistently to even become an 'OK' runner. I always joke around with Mark and say that his 60% max effort is my 100% max effort - haha!
And that's exactly why I wanted to run this half marathon: because I suck at running and want to get better. I honestly get nervous before I set out for every run, even if it's only 3 miles. But I walk away with SUCH a feeling of accomplishment after I'm done.
A little side note/background info: I ran my first half marathon back in December of 2012. I was in college at the time, and belonged to a running group where we'd get together to run every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning. This was just a little while before I got into strength training, so literally all I was doing was running. I was also a vegetarian at the time (that lasted about 6 months), so my diet was very carb-focused and lacking in protein compared to now.
Also, I was sick of going into the gym and just going through the motions of what I "should" be doing. I "should" be strength training to get a lean, toned body. I "shouldn't" do cardio because it's not good for fat loss.
I was listening to all these outside sources telling me what I "SHOULD" do, instead of listening to what truly makes me light up with joy and enjoy my training.
Now, I'm in the mental place now of strictly doing things I enjoy.... Which leads me to HOW I'll be training for my half marathon.
How I'm Training for My Half Marathon
I started training for my half marathon this week, which is about 11 weeks out from my scheduled race on September 17, 2017.
I wasn't really running much at all before this, but I do sprints pretty regularly and HIIT circuit-style workouts, so I wasn't starting completely from scratch from a cardiovascular standpoint.
I'm following the running structure of Hal Higdon's Half Marathon Training Plan - Novice 1.
In addition to the running schedule listed above, I'm also going to lift 3-4 days per week (probably 2 upper, 1-2 lower body days).
I have a pretty solid base of muscle since strength training has been my focus for a few years now, so my goal is maintain as much muscle mass as I can throughout my training.
Does Running Make You "Skinny Fat?"
Before we wrap up here, can we just dispel the myth that "cardio makes you skinny fat"?
"Skinny fat" is commonly referred to as someone who is skinny, yet doesn't really have much tone or muscle definition, thus appearing overall 'softer.'
If running/cardio is all you're doing, it can certainly increase your cortisol levels which encourages fat storage. Cardio can also make you a lot hungrier than not working out at all OR just lifting weights, so people who do more cardio have a natural inclination to eat more.
BUT, if you are strength training and balancing your food/calorie intake, you should have no problem maintaining the muscle mass you have as your running frequency increases.
That being said, I would not recommend focusing on BUILDING strength at the time you're training for a half marathon, because those are two conflicting goals. There's a time and place for every goal -- no need to rush through and try to do everything at once.
If your priority is to build muscle, running a half marathon probably isn't the best way to do it. But if you already have a solid base of muscle from lifting weights over a few years, running a half marathon can be a great challenge for you and won't necessarily ruin your #gainz if you also plan to keep lifting a few days per week.