Bill Victor: Muscle growth, distance running require balance



Bill Victor is the owner of Victor Fitness System Professional Fitness Trainers, Flashpoint Athletic Speed & Agility Specialists, and Performance Nutrition Consultants.

Studying the body types of athletes, it is easy to see how genetics dictates an athlete’s overall size and build, but the athlete’s training regime and preferred sport determine the ideal body type for that sport.

We might never see a muscular, 300-pound person ever win the Tour de France. We stand a much better chance of seeing him on the offensive line in a football game.

Conversely, we will probably never see an NFL fullback with the body type of a marathon runner — narrow hips, smaller-boned, extremely lean upper body.

I have a few clients who split their passion between running on a regular basis and performing resistance training in my gym on the other.

For cosmetic reasons or performance reasons (sometimes both), the question invariably arises of whether it’s possible to build muscle while running long distances. In the May 2012 issue of Runner’s World, this question was answered by running expert Susan Paul.

Her response was “yes,” though it depends on the total mileage run by the person who posed the question. She differentiated the body types between a sprinter and marathoner.

Both of these athletes work off two different energy systems — the marathoner working within their aerobic levels (enough oxygen available to maintain speed) while the sprinter works anaerobically, forcing their muscles to contract with insufficient amounts of oxygen.

Emphasize nutrition

The key take-away of her article is that athletes who want to gain muscle while distance running must pay significant attention to three key components of getting the job done: running, weight training and nutrition.

Ironically, studies have shown that while running seems to compromise a muscle’s response to strength training, performing strength training not only improves running but also decreases the chance of injury.

Citing distance of 35 miles per week of training in preparation of running 5K and 10K races (culminating with a half-marathon), Paul concluded that muscle development was possible — provided that adequate caloric intake and a solid nutrition plan was in place.

Conversely, if a person is looking to build muscle mass, then distances such as those mentioned above would be excessive in an effort to develop more muscle.

In a nutshell, the more mileage logged, the less chance of building muscle. A greater emphasis should be placed on nutrition.

Proper attention

The benefit of weight training to enhance running performance is that when attention is placed on the negative, eccentric (muscle is getting longer versus shorter) aspect of weight training, injury potential is decreased and running performance is improved.

An increase in bone mineral density and balance of opposing muscle groups — agonists and antagonists (we are not talking about a Greek tragedy) — are additional benefits of training.

Critical to any true training program, is scripting your improvements, lifts and weights. In order to build muscle mass, try lifting heavier weights and perform fewer sets. Paul also suggests running in the morning and lifting in the afternoon (tough logistics, I know) seem to work favorably in managing muscle gain and a running schedule.

Never to be understated is rest. When a person rests, they are giving the body time to grow, repair, and let the magical things happen that help build a body into the best condition possible.

Bill Victor is the owner of Victor Fitness System Professional Fitness Trainers, Flashpoint Athletic Speed & Agility Specialists, and Performance Nutrition Consultants. He can be reached at and online at and