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Finding The Right Workout Balance: Lift, Run, Stretch

One of the questions that I receive all the time is how to find the right workout balance between cardio, strength and mobility. I totally understand this question from both ends of the spectrum.

Mindset #1 – “I do this one thing and it’s all I want to do!”

I spent a good 6 years where running was my sole form of exercise. I didn’t strength train or do any yoga because a) I didn’t know or care much about it and b) I really just wanted to run and it worked for me…for a while. I reached a point where just running wasn’t working for two reasons. First, I was constantly injured and it was disheartening to have running become such a struggle. And second, I wanted my body to look different. (I will do another post at another time comparing my running 20+ miles a week body to my strength and yoga body.)

Mindset #2 – “I love so many forms of exercise…how do I fit it all in!?”

This is where I am now. Sometimes I joke that I have exercise ADD. I love it all. I wish I had time for swimming (I actually LOVE to swim but never make it to the pool), running, CrossFit, circuit training, HIIT, kickboxing, yoga, etc. but it’s not feasible from a time or financial standpoint. You’ve gotta get focused and you’ve gotta find the balance that works for YOU! I’m going to share what works for me but I would never prescribe it for everyone. We’re all so different in what feels good to our bodies.

The overall formula that has me feeling better physically than I have in 10 years is as follows…

2-3 CrossFit/HIIT/Strength/Circuit workouts per week (I aim for 3)
2-3 short runs (3-5 miles in distance and usually never more than 10 miles in a week)
As much yoga as possible (usually ends up being 3-5 practices per week depending on how crazy work is)

Each piece of this puzzle is extremely important to my overall happiness with my training and how I feel.

Lift

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The CrossFit, circuit and strength training give me a strong body while also regularly challenging me from a cardiovascular standpoint. Read this post for the specific benefits of strength training for women. I will tell you again and again and again, it’s changed both the way I feel in my body and the appearance of my body. It’s also made me so much stronger in my running and other forms of exercise.

Run

4.14run

Running has always been my go-to outlet for stress, anxiety, taking advantage of a beautiful day, fresh air, managing emotions, meditation, etc. It’s been a little bit of a roller coaster for me in dealing with injuries and also my anemia diagnosis that made running for 5 minutes feel like a marathon. It was REALLY HARD to let go of the runner identity that I spent years (and so many miles) creating for myself but I can honestly say that giving up distance running and becoming a “recreational runner” has been freeing and amazing. Running never hurts anymore and I feel like a new person in my body! I never where my Garmin. I only run for pleasure. And it’s still that outlet that I need it to be for all the things I listed above.

Stretch

4.2splits.jpg

I credit my yoga practice for sustainability. It allows me to continue to do the lifting and running that I love so much. I’ll share a story.

Last Sunday I did CrossFit Open WOD 14.5 which was…

For Time:

21-18-15-12-9-6-3 (reps) of Thrusters (65# for ladies) and Burpees

I wasn’t sure if I could do the 65# thrusters and initially put 55# on my bar. Right before I started the clock I decided to go for 65 and told myself that I could go down during the WOD if I needed to. I made it through this crazy tough WOD at 65# by breaking the thrusters into sets each round and I felt incredibly safe, strong and accomplished. I finished in a little over 16 minutes.

Annnnddd then I felt like the tin man for the next few days. I wasn’t even that sore…I was just tight all over. The last week has been insane with trying to get the first draft of my book turned in and work obligations so I had no time to practice yoga. It was the best I could do to get out for a short run or stay after training a client to do a strength workout or quick WOD and I went nearly a week without practicing. It was so clear how big of an impact my yoga practice has on my mobility and my recovery from workouts. I can no longer imagine how people who do high volume running or CrossFit every day can function without a focus on mobility, stretching or yoga. It was kind of beautiful to have to be really gentle and mindful in my body today to get it to open back up after a week of being out of routine.

So that’s where I am right now. Let me know if you have questions and please feel free to share what’s working (or NOT working) for you right now. I think we all learn when we share!

{ 67 comments… add one }
  • 1
    Samantha @ The Faithful Runner April 2, 2014, 8:19 pm

    I’m totally a mindset #2 person. I have way too much I love to do to fit it all in! Thanks for sharing your strategies and advice:)

  • 2
    Heather April 2, 2014, 8:42 pm

    I relate to this SO much!! I am the constant runner. I have Boston coming up (my last marathon) and a half Ironman mid summer. Right now I am not really looking forward to either of them, well until they are actually here. (I have been injured almost consistently for the past 2 years.) I am looking forward to after! I want to start Crossfit, building much needed strength and most important to just run because I want to, not because I HAVE to for an upcoming race. Thanks for this, I really needed it!

  • 3
    bridget April 2, 2014, 8:45 pm

    I’m having really hard time right now giving up my running identity. I ran 2 marathons in the past 2 years and have injured myself beyond repair just from wear and tear. I’m not flexible at all and can’t even touch my knees, let alone my toes. I know the only way to return to running is building flexibility….where do you even start? thanks.

  • 4
    Pam April 2, 2014, 8:49 pm

    I love this post and have forwarded it!!! Yoga works the body in a different way. Running and strength is so important but yoga is a must! I just love your blog!

  • 5
    Nathalie April 2, 2014, 8:50 pm

    I can’t believe your time for 14.5! Really amazing job. I got 24:26 and it was absolutely the hardest CrossFit WOD I’ve ever done in the 2.5 years that I’ve been training. As I broke up the set of 15 thrusters (which was definitely the hardest set for me) I found myself silently begging for mercy from the CrossFit gods and holding back tears each time I watched the barbell hit the floor. So glad I finished, though!

  • 6
    Charlotte April 2, 2014, 8:53 pm

    What about all the walking you do with Sullie too? Do you walk a lot each day since you live in a city and hop around between work and home, yoga classes, etc. I know it’s light exercise but you probably don’t sit still very much if you love being active the way you do…sitting is hard for me and makes me more sore. Would love your response on this.

  • 7
    Holly April 2, 2014, 9:23 pm

    I love this post and I love your dedication to your passion. BUT I would love to know how this will change when you one day have children….if you want them?! You workout a TON! If you count up all the workouts, there are some days that you workout twice? Just curious, how many days do you workout twice and also curious if you were given 6 days a week to workout one time what would that look like….2 days strength, 2 days cardio, 2 days yoga? I’m on a limited amount of time over here 🙂 and just wondering what you think would be the most efficient way to spend my time. Right now I do three days crossfit and 3 days kickboxing/running….no yoga 🙁 Would you recommend changing that?

  • 8
    Danielle April 2, 2014, 9:36 pm

    I started running and doing sprint triathlons about 3 years ago to get healthy, and also to lose weight. I was completely shocked when training for my first half-marathon (and I have now completed 2 half-marathons in the past 6 months) – I haven’t lost a single pound! And my clothes don’t fit any better. My legs look a bit better, but that’s it. All those long runs, being on the asphalt 5 days a week, and nada. I am so disappointed. So I am now trying to add in strength training 2-3 days a week to see if that helps. I am also a yoga lover, but I’m now having a hard time trying to fit it all in. I can’t wait to see your post on your “running body” versus “yoga and strength body” – I’m sure it will give me the inspiration I need to lift weights in my bedroom at 9:00 at night!

  • 9
    Meg April 2, 2014, 9:46 pm

    Great post! Quick question for you, do you do yoga even when you’re very sore from strength training? I do heavy strength training 4-5 days a week. I’ve heard that intense stretching (ie yoga) is not advisable with really sore muscles. At least one part of me is sore at pretty much all times! What are your thoughts?

  • 10
    Kate Emmenegger April 2, 2014, 9:50 pm

    This is something that I constantly struggle with – balance. I am an exercise major, so I have a fitness class 3x a week where we do cardio or stability/stretch. Then, I have my own workouts. I try to do a full body strength workout 2x a week, but would love to be able to be more flexible with this (i.e.: do another day of strength, sub some circuit training/crossfit style workouts in). I also try to go to yoga 2-4 times a week. I would absolutely love it if I could go every day, but my schedule doesn’t allow that. I am a college student and have a job also where I am on my feet for 4 hours running back and forth. I am hoping that one day I will find a way to balance it all and feel satisfied!

  • 11
    Jojo @ RunFastEatLots April 2, 2014, 9:53 pm

    Yoga has helped me so so much. I usually wake up feeling tight all over, and doing yoga in the morning really helps get me feeling more limber. I try to go as often as possible, about 3-5 times a week. It’s worth making the time for it!

  • 12
    Ashlee April 2, 2014, 9:59 pm

    I can’t wait for your running body vrs yoga/strength training body. I recently started doing barre workouts with my running and bodypump and ran my faster half marathon ever. I really didn’t event rain.

  • 13
    Julia April 2, 2014, 10:41 pm

    This is a great post! I am the opposite of you — I started with strength training/yoga but hated cardio. Now, I’m finding a balance and am slowly teaching myself to be a runner. I’m running my first half marathon next month! But I’m still taking a lot of yoga/barre classes and they are SO important to my training. I took a week off of barre because I had to travel for work and even in that short amount of time my runs really suffered. Finding a good balance is so important.

  • 14
    elizabeth April 2, 2014, 11:47 pm

    Running is also my best stress/anxiety reducer and I run most days. My feet aren’t always happy with too many miles, so I’m trying to cut down on the running so I can save it for the days when I really really need to run to reduce anxiety. I don’t race and am never really trying to get faster, but am usually just out for exercise with my dogs. I love yoga and practice often, but once again I’m not really challenging myself, since I do it at home and mostly use the same Rodney Yee DVD every time, but it stretches out and loosens up my whole body, which is what I’m aiming for. I have some circuit training dvd’s I do that incorporate 8lb weights. I don’t know anything about lifting heavy, I live in the country, far from a gym, so I’m not sure what to do on my own at home, any suggestions?
    What does this mean “21-18-15-12-9-6-3 (reps) of Thrusters (65# for ladies) and Burpees” does it mean you start with 21 thrusters and 21 burpees, then 18 thrusters and 18 burpess, and so on? I will have to look up what a thruster is, I guess it is what you are doing in the picture with the barbell.
    Swimming is great, hope you have a chance to get back to it! Have you found a good suit for lap swimming? I haven’t had a chance to swim for a while, but I used to have a hard time finding good goggles.

  • 15
    Rebekah {aCricketSang} April 3, 2014, 7:51 am

    Im still trying to come to terms with losing my cycling identity, but im starting to feel more freedom and joy in excersisng in different forms. I still get a little disappointed at times with the change, but sometimes life just doesnt give you time to ride all day!

  • 16
    Sara @ LovingOnTheRun April 3, 2014, 8:31 am

    Running will always be my #1 but I am trying to learn to love strength training again. It is so important but I always so quickly put it off. I really need to make it more of a focus. I don’t think I can ever give up my running – it’s my “thing”

  • 17
    Melissa April 3, 2014, 8:45 am

    Love this post! I’m the same way– I love mixing it up and trying new workouts! Definitely need to start incorporating more yoga, though!

  • 18
    Abbie April 3, 2014, 9:05 am

    This is such a great post! I try incorporate yoga as much as possible, but its limited with scheduling school and work I can only go 2-3 times a month. I’ve only gone to hot yoga. Have you been to hot yoga? Any thoughts on hot yoga versus regular yoga?

  • 19
    Lindsay E. April 3, 2014, 9:49 am

    Same questions as a few people above! If you had only 1 hour 5-6 times a week (which is about what I have) to workout, how would those hours be spent?

    Right now, I mix it up between with an average of 2-3 runs per week, crossfit or bodypump type workout and a spin class. I would love to incorporate yoga too, but I feel very intimidated!! If you remember from college, I am the least flexible person ever and just feel like I’d be setting myself up for failure! Plus, with the limited time I have to commit to working out, I feel like if yoga was all I did in a given day, I’d be losing out on cardio and/or calorie burn…. thoughts???

  • 20
    stephanie April 3, 2014, 9:53 am

    I LOVE your blog. I’ve always been pretty active and now that I’m pregnant I’m having a hard time. I just don’t have the energy that I did and after about 30 minutes I feel like I’ve had enough. The thought of running makes me queasy (and I usually LOVE to run) and weights are literally doable for about 10 minutes at this point. How can I avoid becoming a treadmill walker?!? That’s about all I feel up to lately and I really want to have a fit pregnancy. Any tips you have would be much appreciated!

  • 21
    JennyS April 3, 2014, 10:47 am

    Great post! Last year, I decided to give up distance running after 11 years. I’d just spent months training for a half marathon in which I crushed my PR – without losing a single pound. Despite all those miles over the years, I was always slightly overweight and “squishy.” So I decided to try something else. I still run a 3-miler once a week, but nowadays I mostly do CrossFit-style workouts in my basement. (Due to schedule constraints, I can’t go to a CF box, so I have to do it at home with basic equipment – pull-up bar, kettlebells, dumbbells, etc.) On weekends, I head to my local gym to hit the barbells – deadlifts, bench press, squats. I cleaned up my diet too. While I’m seeing strength gains, the changes in my appearance are happening much more slowly. The scale and my dress size aren’t budging. I often find myself questioning whether my at-home CF workouts are as effective as the “real thing,” and sometimes I wonder if I need to go back to hours of cardio and counting calories to drop my stubborn body fat. Do you have any words of encouragement? 🙂

  • 22
    DkotaGirl April 3, 2014, 11:47 am

    My favorite schedule is a mix of 5 days running, 2 days of (indoor) rock climbing and yoga when I can. I lead an active lifestyle (walk my dog every day, bike as much as I can to work, to run errands and for fun, play recreational volleyball, etc.) and don’t struggle with my weight. With that said, I also don’t have kids, and am not currently in a relationship so I have the time to spend doing those things (although even when I’ve been in relationships, those activities are still part of my lifestyle).

    One thing I’ve noticed in the comments is that many people didn’t see their weight change when they were running or started another workout program. I believe diet plays a huge role in weight/body composition, which isn’t mentioned in those comments. And I also think that if you’re working out only to change the number on the scale, you’re missing out on the beauty and other benefits that come from a body in motion, regardless of its size!

  • 23
    Laura April 3, 2014, 1:04 pm

    I’ve found the perfect blend for me is 4-5 runs, 2 full-body strength workouts, and 2 yoga practices each week. The strength work and yoga definitely have helped me increase my running mileage and remain almost injury-free for the last few years (following several very injury-plagued years that often did not involve enough of anything other than running). And I’ve also gotten faster! Luckily for me I truly enjoy strength training – always have, just didn’t always make it a priority.

  • 24
    Michelle April 3, 2014, 2:17 pm

    PLEASE do the before and after running body post!! I’m a runner and as much as I tell myself to strength train a part of me doesn’t believe it will change anything. I need proof! 😉

  • 25
    Heather April 3, 2014, 3:18 pm

    I was wondering with the strength component, how long do you recommend each session being if you do 2 a week? With the strength training do free weights and body weight work? Looking forward to your post how how yoga and strength changed your body.

    Thank you, Heather

  • 26
    Janice April 3, 2014, 4:30 pm

    I am so Mindset 2. I want to do it all. I love the endorphins. I want to do more weight lifting but get over whelmed by all the men huddling around the weights that I end up working on three machines then scurry out of the gym. Any advice on that? Also, any advice on how you put together your workouts? I know the importance of the push/pull in each workout so you have balanced muscles but just wonder how you determine which push goes with which pull.
    Love the blog! You are a great inspiration.

  • 27
    Tara April 3, 2014, 9:15 pm

    I’m still trying to find something that works for me. Last summer was my worst running summer by far. I took some time off and focused on yoga which was great for my mind and flexibility. I ran 1x per week on treadmill but that was it for winter. Now I’ve had 2 runs outside and felt just ok but w lots of soreness and aches which really is disappointing. I was really hoping taking some time off and focusing on yoga would help my running pain and fatigue. So far not so good but it’s still early. I’m having a HUGE issue trying to balance working 50-60 hrs per week work w workouts, home etc. I don’t let work or other things be an excuse to not work out. I feel if u have an hour for TV you have an hour for workout. But sometimes I wonder if I’m just burnt out or my mix of workouts is wrong? As someone else said I feel almost all the time that something hurts a bit. Looooove these types of posts!

  • 28
    karla @ finding my fit April 4, 2014, 9:42 am

    If I could turn my mind off to do yoga my body would appreciate it so much! I do crossfit 5x/week right now and come the end of the week I have that ‘tin man’ feeling. How do you get your mind to turn off during yoga and not worry about X-Y-Z that you need to do after!

  • 29
    Jennifer April 4, 2014, 10:19 am

    I used to be that Mindset #1 person, and the only thing that changed it was forcing myself to do yoga and seeing the amazing effects on my body. As a runner, my legs sometimes feel like they are made of stone, and my upper body isn’t much better in terms of flexibility (aka: almost none!) I have a few upcoming races that I’m already registered for, but my new goal is to incorporate as much yoga as possible. I don’t think I will ever quit running, but personal experience has taught me that striking a balance is so much better (and more comfortable!).

    All that being said… can certain yoga workouts be considered strength training? Or does true strength training have to involve something other than body weight?

  • 30
    Gina April 15, 2014, 9:43 pm

    What days do you do which workouts? You obviously must work out twice a day some days, since you might workout up to 11 times per week (3 crossfit, 3 days running and up to 5 days of yoga). So please provie a week sample of how you schedule these workouts. do you recommed barre class instead of yoga? I currently do CF 3 times per week and want to add barre or yoga 3 times a week.

  • 31
    Caleb April 16, 2014, 11:37 am

    Swimming is a great all around strength and cardiovascular workout for the entire body. It is good to incorporate a swimming workout in your weekly routine if you are able to.

  • 32
    Cate Grandy March 25, 2015, 10:39 pm

    I so needed to read this today. I’m not a marathoner, but I’ve been a moderate-distance runner for a few years. I signed up late fall for a 25k race in May, but fell in love with lifting over the winter. Today I officially transferred to the 5k instead so I could focus more on my new goals, but part of me is really sad about not being a “runner” anymore.

  • 33
    Joanna August 25, 2015, 11:37 am

    Hi! Loved your post! I have been doing yoga 5 days a week for 1 year and a half. Basically is all I want to do lol. Recently I was told that maybe combining it with Weight lifting was going to be good for me (helping me get stronger and avoid injuries) I am just so afraid of losing the flexibility that I have worked so hard to get! is that a possibility? Will it affect my practice? Thank you!

  • 34
    Ruth April 8, 2016, 9:48 pm

    I’m sweating the details. The exercises I love are dancing, running, biking – yoga and strength training make me feel good and make everything else so much easier. When am thinking about a workout program though I’m never sure when to do what. I’ve heard that stretching before a run can lead to injury? I work evenings, if I slot in my yoga prior to bedtime will it get my pulse up and keep me awake?

    What do you find the best way to work the yoga around your strength training and running?

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