I’ve had a few questions in the comments section about how to balance strength training with the rest of your cardio schedule. Others wondered why it’s so important to strength train while working towards a larger goal like a triathlon. I asked Coach Marni to weigh in….


Oh, by the way, Marni (and her husband) finished the Lake Placid Ironman.  I’ll be sure to post a link to her recap when she blogs about it, but suffice it to say, she kicked butt. Marni set a personal record and qualified for the World Championships in Kona for the third time!  Impressive, right? 


This is why I listen to and do whatever she tells me to do. Smile


Okay – here’s Marni’s thoughts on strength training…

kona run

Coach Marni says:  I am a firm believer that strength training should be included in a balanced training plan for athletes.  Even if you’re not working towards a race goal, I highly recommend incorporating strength training into a fitness routine. I have been strength training since I was 11, and I feel it has helped me in so many ways – from  confidence with my body (feeling strong as a woman) to having healthy bones (a combination of diet + strength training).


When you are training for an event, time can feel precious.  When I work with athletes, my motto is that strength training should enhance your cardio routine, not make you suffer while doing cardio. Of course, any athlete who starts something new may feel soreness the first few sessions. This is why many athletes stop strength training.  They don’t give the body a chance to adapt (same can apply to a new cardio routine for a fitness enthusiast – you have to get through those first few sessions to have a breakthrough!). Also, many athletes have the idea that strength training should involve lots of exercises and reps, but it needs to be sport-specific and planned properly to integrate with the rest of the training routine.


I am currently reading this book: Triathlon Science. It has a lot of helpful information on it for strength training and overall training.


Here’s a few general suggestions about strength training:


  • Overall, to gain the competitive edge and to be consistent as an athlete, you want to focus on the big picture. Yes, improving endurance, stamina, and speed will help you prepare for an event or improve fitness, but so will good sleep, a positive attitude, a good race day game plan, proper use of gadgets and pacing, good nutrition, stretching, yoga, and of course, strength training. Everything helps when it comes to creating a strong, healthy body with a fun, active balanced lifestyle.


  • I encourage athletes to strength train full body on swim days or lighter workout days, as it takes the body time to recover.


  • I believe in hip focused work daily, even if it is for 5-10 minutes. Many females suffer from hip- and lower back-related issues that contributes to a weak core and pelvis stability.  Here’s a blog post that I wrote on hip strength.




To improve endurance, VO2 max, fat burning and increase lean muscle mass, intervals are recommend during cardio training. Strength training, as another component of training, is encouraged but should NOT be done on the same day as intense cardio unless the cardio workout is short (ex. in a study 4-5 x 30 sec sprints w/ 4 min rest) and recommended less than 20 minutes.

Research shows cycling or short sprinting is better on strength training days if you have to do both in one day. However, to maximize endurance, strength training should be done as the primary workout in order to improve endurance (ex. it’s not recommended to strength train in the morning or in the evening and do a separate workout of an hour running or an intense 2 hour group bike ride. You should allow at least 24 hours to recover from intense exercise, like strength training. To increase endurance and lean muscle mass and NOT muscle hypertrophy (speaking to endurance athletes/triathletes primarily) , power lifting is encourage such as plyo’s or 40-60% 1RM (explosive).


This is a lot of info for any individual (athlete or fitness enthusiast) to apply. My suggestion is to keep things balanced: incorporate 1 – 2 sessions of full body strength, focusing on weaker body parts if you are time limited. Completing 12 – 15 reps is ideal – you should feel the burn with 2-3 reps to go. I suggest no more than 6 – 8 body parts in one strength training session, as your cardio routine will also strengthen your body. Again, I always suggest core/hip work daily, which can be easily done at home… in front of the TV. Smile 


Happy strength training!



  • Sara @ LovingOnTheRun July 31, 2013, 8:04 am

    I 100% agree that strength training should be combined in training for either a triathlon or a half marathon, marathon, really ANYTHING! I will be the first to say I am not good at making sure I get my strength training in every day – mostly due to time constraints. I really want to focus on core strength and leg strength. I think those are the most important items when training for my Boston Qualifying Marathon. Great post!

  • Amber @ Busy, Bold, Blessed July 31, 2013, 8:25 am

    We always start our CrossFit classes with a hip circuit… I should really do it every day though! The simple hip exercises always challenge me. I love strength training!

  • Karen @ Runner Girl Eats July 31, 2013, 8:44 am

    Thanks for sharing! I have finally started doing strength training two months ago but have been having a hard time knowing how to balance running with it. This was super helpful! And thanks for the reminders about hip work. I am guilty of almost never doing it!

  • Debbie July 31, 2013, 8:52 am

    This was a super useful post. Thank you! I know you’re not blogging eats really, but would you consider doing a 3-4 day spread of veggie, dairy-free eats that include 20g of protein at every meal? I’d LOVE some new ideas! I’ve been reading for years, but usually just lurk 🙂

    • Caitlin July 31, 2013, 10:56 am

      Sure! Thanks for reading!

  • Kinsey July 31, 2013, 9:39 am

    As a runner, I highly value strength training. When I slack off, my tendonitis in my knees starts to flare up again, but regular leg work keeps them healthy and happy!

  • Emily @ The Good Era July 31, 2013, 10:32 am

    I totally agree! My first half marathon, I focused only on running and felt exhausted after. This summer I decided to run a 10k instead of the half, but had been strength training as well. On the day of the race, I felt like I could keep going and felt really strong. What a difference it made in my running too! I was a LOT faster and didn’t even realize 🙂

  • Amy Q July 31, 2013, 12:40 pm

    Love the pic of Marni and her husband sitting in the olympic oval at IMLP- I live one mile from there and do 2x a week morning boot camps right in that spot where they are sitting! 🙂

  • danielle July 31, 2013, 1:09 pm

    I completely agree with strength training helping make you a better, more well-rounded athlete. It also prevents injuries which is key when training for endurance events!!

    I hadn’t noticed you incorporating any strength training into your HIM training plan yet–does that start at a later stage of training? What kind of strength stuff do you plan on doing?

  • Kaitlyn July 31, 2013, 1:18 pm

    This post is sooo helpful! I’m currently in PT for a lower back/hip injury (with some sciatica thrown in there), and my PT has told me that biggest thing I need to do to prevent this from recurring is core and hip work. I checked out Marni’s post and loved it!! Her exercises are definitely going in my weekly routines 🙂

  • Sara @ Zero to Sixty July 31, 2013, 1:38 pm

    This is something I lack big time. BUT as someone that is new to really working on their fitness I have a kind of embarrassing question to ask. When you are doing a fitness routine and they say “strength training” does that imply “go lift weights” or can you do classes like a body sculpting class your gym offers?

    Thank you! 🙂

  • Whitney July 31, 2013, 2:06 pm

    Just what I needed! Was thinking of lots of excuses why I shouldn’t go to the gym and lift today… haha be there or be square! 🙂

  • Kim July 31, 2013, 4:39 pm

    Great post! I was doing strength training 3 times a week (BodyPump classes) until I got injured during a marathon. Since then, my schedule has changed a bit and I’ve fallen out of my regular routine. Because of it, I feel like I can tell a difference in my performance when I run. I’m not racing as well as I was a few months ago (the summer heat may play into that as well).

    That’s really interesting about the hips being a weak spot for women! A lot of my running friends have been having hip-related injuries and I too have recently had some hip pain from running. I’d wondered if it was due to my lack of strength training over the past couple of months! I’ll have to give those exercises a try!

  • Marni Sumbal July 31, 2013, 9:01 pm

    Love these comments! Keep up the great work with your strong bodies, ladies!!

  • Lucie August 1, 2013, 7:39 am

    Im just starting out with strength training and found this post (and your blog – love it!) so helpful 🙂 you are wonderful m’lady!

  • David August 4, 2013, 11:45 pm

    Strength training is the absolute greatest. Only kind of training that I do

  • Dominique @ That's What Domi Said August 5, 2013, 9:05 pm

    Strength training is so important, so I love that you’re talking about this! For me, it’s actually the opposite- I love lifting weights and doing bodyweight exercises, but I have to really push myself to do any kind of endurance run/bike (and just forget swimming! haha).

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