The best of both worlds…


Is it possible to build muscle AND train for distance running?

This is another question I get asked a lot and it is a predominant motive which fuels many young men (and women) to avoid cardio like the plague! Of course it is easy to see why when you look at the musculature of a sprint athlete compared to a distance runner. However, unless you are looking to travel to Rio in the summer and partake in the 10,000m, it is highly doubtful that you will be putting in the same mileage as the likes of Mo Farah any time soon. If you are looking to run a 5k, 10k, or even a half marathon whilst attempting to up your strength game, then with the correct fitness programme and nutritional planning, it can most likely be achieved. Here are my top tips for doing this:

Luke RussellThe first tip, which must be adhered to if you are looking to master both disciplines, is ensuring your nutrition in on par. If your nutritional needs are not met then your body will go into a catabolic state, meaning muscle will be broken down and used as fuel. This means that more carbohydrates, fats and proteins will need to be consumed if you are training hard to up your mileage whilst keeping those muscle gains. A qualified PT or nutritionist can help you determine your daily calorie requirements and even design you a plan to ensure your macros are correctly balanced during training.

Luke RussellThe next tip to consider is to progress and prioritise your training through effective programming. For both training approaches to be effective, you must first devise what goals you are looking to achieve. For example, are you looking to add 10kg on to your bench press? Or maybe you want to run a sub 45min 10k? Regardless of what goals you set, always make sure they are SMART (specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and timely). Your training programme must also look to stratify and prioritise your training goals. For example, it probably wouldn’t be the best idea to schedule a high tempo run on the same day as you’re training legs! As well as this, your programme must incorporate the correct amount of rest to allow sufficient adaptations to occur. It is during your rest period that you get bigger, faster and stronger and it is therefore often the key to reaching your goals.

Luke RussellThe final point. Although correct nutrition and tailored programming will no doubt help you on your way to upping your strength and running game, the largest proportion may already be predetermined in your genetics! Don’t be disheartened if you make progress in one area more than another – for example, if you are naturally more of an ectomorph with a larger lung capacity then it is likely to expect that your running will progress quicker than your muscle gain will. In contrast, if you are leaning more towards the meso-endomorphic end of the scale, then you may be more responsive to muscular adaptations. Not sure what body types are? Have a look at the picture below for reference.


For more information on optimising your running and/or muscle gain potential, contact me through my Facebook page here: LGR Fitness & Rehabilitation.


About Author

Luke Russell

Luke is a qualified personal trainer based in the University of Cumbria sports centre. He trains clients from all around Carlisle and surrounding areas with the option of training at home, outdoors or in the gym. He is also a Sport Rehabilitation BSc graduate and has a great deal of knowledge in overcoming recent injuries and preventing reoccurences.


  1. Wow, I truly had no idea that genetics played a role in running and strength training. But it definitely makes sense! I have never been a great runner, even when I’ve spent hours and hours training to run. Great advice and very informative post!