I’ve been a gym rat for too many years than I’d like to admit. Heading to the weight room has been a habit of mine dating back to age 17, and has been uninterrupted for a long, long time. During that time I’ve had points where I saw big-time strength gains, significant fat loss and more than my share of workout stints where I was pretty much mailing it in.
Par for the course with a lot of people, I’m sure. But I’ve learned a lot, coached a little and even helped some people in their training for bodybuilding competitions.
I had a running habit built up starting at age 16. I got burned out. Ran intermittently for years between then and now, but I’ve been a steady runner (and even a “competitor”) for the last few. I’m not fast, my miles are not impressive. But I’m getting faster, my miles are increasing and I’m learning a lot. I run streets, parks and trails. I enjoy it because it does one thing weightlifting can’t do – it gets me outside.
But there’s one thing happening that I’m not so thrilled about.
My calves are shrinking.
I’ve always had pretty beefy calves. Part of it is genetics, part of it is hard work. I’ll admit that some of the appeal is aesthetic. My calves aren’t any weaker, they’re just not as beefy as they used to be. It’s a common occurrence among distance runners. As the miles stack up, the body slims down. And let’s be honest – a pair of sticks for legs is not very impressive to look at.
While appearances are one thing, performance is another. I work hard in the weight room. I expect to not only maintain strength, but to gain. I like to try new things to challenge my body and make it more powerful, more fit and more able to do whatever task I take up, be it something in the realm of sports or just being able to move things, swing an axe or whatever daily task comes my way.
My concern is simple. If my miles continue to increase, will that undermine what I do in the gym? Will lifting add bulk to the point where endurance performance suffers?
Is there a happy medium?
That’s what I’m trying to figure out. I don’t need to look like a bodybuilder, but I don’t want to look like the latest Boston Marathon champion, either. I want the best of both worlds: to be able to pick up heavy things, throw things far and bust off 10 trail miles on a whim. I want to be able to climb a 14,000-foot peak in good form, but be able to haul a heavy pack in the process.
The goal is a strong heart, strong lungs, and a strong body.
Can this be done? What are the limits? I’m going to find out. My prescription is free weights using mostly compound movements; clean eating, with plenty of protein and good carbs; and a continued mix of long runs, hill work and intermediate runs where I push the pace.
Got any ideas? Let’s hear ‘em. Until then, today’s work will include a steady diet of squats, Romanian deadlifts, lunges, weighted bench steps, calf raises and some isolating exercises. In the days to come, a city run, a trail run and a long run.
On Twitter @RMHigh7088