Bretton Curtis - TOBS
As weight lifters, we always seem to carry a negative connotation with running and cardio in general. "Will running hurt my strength training?" Is a common question, let's take a deeper look.
As for longevity in the gym, you can't ignore the benefits of cardiovascular training, some people say instead of cardio they just "lift weights faster" I used to fall into this category myself thinking that I didn't need to incorporate a cardio regimen into my strength training, this is a mistake.
At the bare minimum, you should be walking around 30 minutes a day just to keep moving. But are there benefits beyond this? Yes. A cardiovascular routine that is higher intensity than a brisk walk can greatly improve circulation, improving skin health, brain health and insulin sensitivity among many other positives. Running outdoors is my personal favorite form of cardio, I just feel so good afterwards and clear headed, it's like revving up an engine to burn off extra "gunk". It can also speed up recovery with moderation
How do I start running?
Depending on your baseline now, it may be best to start with a walk or incline walk, working into run/walk intervals and eventually into a full on run. If you have a history with running and have maintained a decent level of endurance, you may be surprised at how easily you can get back into your old numbers. Just remember, you want to keep running long term it's best to start conservatively. Do they try to run a marathon the first day and risk injury or strain, you also don't want to become so sore that you can't keep up with a routine and lose your motivation to continue.
If you are just starting, try walking a couple miles at an incline or going out and jogging for one minute and running one minute for a half hour or so. Take a couple days rest and reevaluate. Once you become comfortable running you can start pushing the envelope. Try to always stay at a "conversational pace" where you aren't so out of breath that you can maintain a conversation.
Will running affect my gains?
As strength athletes, we don't want to lose all the precious gains we worked so hard to make in the gym. Will running hurt my progress? Most information says yes, but only at first. Once the body adapts to the new stimulus and becomes efficient at running. It really depends on the speed you run, the intensity, the frequency and really boils down to what your goals are. You will be using different muscle groups in different ways than you are used to with much higher rep ranges and you may be stiff and sore for a while at first. Finding a good pair of shoes that fit your feet well and are made more for running can go a long way. (You wouldn't want to run a marathon in Chuck Taylors).
How long will it take to adapt?
According to Jim Schmitz, US Olympic weightlifting coach, it should take 2-6 weeks for a weightlifter to adapt to running. The opposite is also true for runners wanting to become weightlifters. He specifically sites the lower back muscles as the biggest factor in getting comfortable switching it up. He goes on to say "In weightlifting we use both sides of our low back (erector spinae / spinal erectors) muscles simultaneously, but in running they contract and stretch alternately; the result is low back soreness when you first start running. If you start slowly and easily, your low back muscles can adapt (and they will, I assure you) and the low back soreness common in the beginning will go away." He also makes an important note that running with emphasis on weightlifting should be done after lifting if you run on the same day you lift.
The bottom line
If you are smart with your approach and listen to your body carefully, you can successfully start a running program and make great progress in running without negatively affecting your weightlifting.