Pumping Iron or Dumping My Run? Conejo Joe's 20 Minute Strength Workout!

Pumping iron and running are not mutually exclusive.

Though my friends may not know it until I rip off my shirt and show them my pectorals the size of well, uh, medium sized chicken breasts, I've been working out in the gym regularly for the last 30 years.

All right, all right, I'm not exactly a big guy.  Some might call me scrawny at 5' 9" (on my toes) and about 142 lbs., but I consider the guy who used to hang out with Ricardo Montalban and say, "De plane, de plane" to be a little guy.  I'm big compared to him.

But my point, assuming I actually have a point, is that you can run, run well, even improve your running, by working out at the gym.  The reason I make this statement is that I've heard conflicting opinions on the matter.  Overall, assuming you have time to fit strength training workouts into your schedule WITHOUT impacting your running mileage, working out is a good thing to do.

Done correctly, strength training I believe is good preventative medicine for running. Strengthening the muscles, tendons and ligaments helps your running form and efficiency. 

I don't exactly "enjoy" gym workouts, but I do like feeling and looking lean.  Running does a lot of that by stripping the excess lbs from your body, but working out adds some shape. 

Some people I talk to are afraid that gym workouts will make their muscles "too big" and thus it will hurt their running.  I've never spoken with a marathon runner training 30, 40 miles a week with this problem.

Conejo Joe's 20 Minute Workout

My gym workout used to be an hour or more, but I don't have time for that anymore, especially with a family, a job and training for a marathon, not to mention slaving over the hot keyboard.  I've condensed my workout down to 20 nonstop minutes.  It goes like this:

  1. 1 set abdominal crunches (20 to 60 reps)
  2. 1 set chest exercise (high reps, low/no weight, like push-ups)
  3. 1 set back (10 to 15 reps, usually lat pulldowns on a machine)
  4. Repeat #2
  5. Repeat #3
  6. 1 set chest (10 to 15 reps, bench press, moderate weight)
  7. 1 set back (10 to 12 reps, seated or standing rows, moderate weight)
  8. Repeat #6 (slightly more weight)
  9. Repeat #7 (slightly more weight)
  10. Repeat #1
  11. 1 set traps (10-12 reps, shrugs, moderate weight)
  12. 1 set shoulders (10-12 reps, front cable raise, light/moderate weight)
  13. Repeat #11
  14. 1 set shoulders (10-12 reps, side raise w/cables or weights, light/mod weight)
  15. 1 set biceps (10-15 reps, dumbbell curls, light/moderate weight)
  16. 1 set triceps (10-15 reps, standing cable pushdowns, light/moderate weight)
  17. Repeat #1
  18. 1 set hamstrings (10-12 reps, lying hamstring curls, light/mod weight)
  19. 1 set quads (10-12 reps, seated quad extensions, moderate weight)
  20. Repeat #18
  21. Repeat #19
  22. 1 set leg squats (15-20 reps, standing squat machine, moderate weight)

Whew, all done!  22 sets, 20 minutes.  Trust me, this is do-able because I do it 3 times per week, M/W/F. If I miss a day during the week, I make it up on the weekend.


  1. No resting between sets, unless you ENJOY hanging out at the gym! Move from one exercise to the next, primarily as motivation to get OUTTA there!
  2. Focus more time on larger muscles as doing so also impacts the smaller muscles.  For example, chest exercises also benefit the shoulders and triceps.  Don't waste more time than you need to on smaller muscles!
  3. I don't do a lot of leg exercises since I already beat them up on training runs all week.  I stopped doing calf exercises as I feel my uphill running takes care of them.  But if you feel like doing a set or two of calf raises, go for it!
  4. I noted the exercises I typically do but often change them when the gym is crowded and I don't want to wait or I just feel like doing something different.  Learn different exercises so you have flexibility in the gym.
  5. To learn more about various exercises search for "gym workouts" on the web or find a personal trainer to help out.  Or check out one of these many local gyms or boot camps in Ventura County.