What Happened When a Runner Did Squats 30 Days in a Row

Molly Hurford
by Molly Hurford
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What Happened When a Runner Did Squats 30 Days in a Row

As an endurance athlete who prefers long, chill runs to high-intensity intervals, adding anything that involves grunting during a workout is a tough sell. So when my partner challenged me to do squats every day for a month to see what it would do for my running and my body (OK, my butt), I was only a little intrigued: Would I enjoy going back to my weight-room roots or was I now a full-on endurance queen?

I have fond memories of the testosterone-heavy, powerlifting basement gym at Rutgers University. But once I got into triathlons and running, my focus shifted from how much I could bench press to how far I could run. Back then, I said goodbye to the gym and hello to the sunshine and wind in my face.

But after a few years of more cardio than weight training, I started realizing the best of both worlds included a smattering of lifting heavy things and putting them down. So I dabble in HIIT classes and the occasional lifting session, but 30 days of squats was definitely outside my norm. Two times a month would be more my speed.

But, I like a challenge, so I added squats to my morning routine, and studiously followed it daily, despite a cross-country drive, no gym access most days and a hectic travel schedule.

Squats make a ton of sense for endurance athletes, when you think about it: They help improve our power immensely when done right, and you can develop some serious #QuadGoals (and #belfies, if you’re into that).

Lesson #1: Find a time that works for you if you’re adding a daily ritual like squatting, and make sure you leave time to warm up.

I decided I would stick the squats in the morning for one specific reason: I already had a habit of 15 minutes worth of core and yoga stretches I do daily, so — as habit expert Gretchen Rubin recommends — my squats would be “stacked” right after that, so I’d be sure to work them into my daily life. The other reason was a more physical one: Squatting isn’t a no-impact exercise, it requires some amount of warming up. The yoga flow was perfect for achieving just that.

I also made the call to shift between slower, steady weighted squats and quick, explosive ones without weight. It made sense to split them so I’d get the best of the lifting and plyometric benefits of the exercise.

Lesson #2: New to squatting? Find a trainer who can help you perfect the lift before you start adding weight and run the risk of seriously injuring yourself.

Before starting, I enlisted my husband, a coach and kinesiologist, to retrain me in my squat technique, because a poorly executed squat is, at best, pointless and, at worst, dangerous. Having slipped a disc in CrossFit in the past, I wasn’t willing to risk it.

 Lesson #3: What gets measured gets managed, so take a before picture or measurement. It motivates you to get to the after, and an objective view of your progress makes it easier to stick with it. 

I took a “before” photo and some measurements (butt, waist and quads) so I’d have subjective and objective evidence of where I started. Then, I got to it.

THE 30 DAYS … TRANSFORMATION

The first week, we happened to be in a tiny town with no gym, in a house with no weights. But there was a lake with some rocks around the edge and a nice running path, so on my weighted mornings, I got creative and lifted a 40-ish-pound rock, and did my squats holding that (probably around 35-45 pounds). I had sore legs after the first session.

The second day, I did 100 air squats, trying to keep my pace quick and heart rate up. The combination of the two ended up being for the best, I quickly realized: The air squats were almost like a recovery day for weightlifting, but the burst of cardio perked me up in the morning, and I could definitely feel the air squats in my glutes.

I continued alternating, adding reps and weights as the days ticked on, but never going too high with either. I wasn’t trying to win a strongman competition, so there was no reason to give myself DOMS for the sake of an experiment.

THE RESULTS

After a month, I redid my measurements and found my butt grew a half-inch while my waist had actually lost a half-inch.

More important, I got the chance to actually see the results of my squats when hitting hills as I started to prep for a mountain trail run looming this August. I could feel my glutes firing and helping propel me up the hills — and I even felt more stable on the descents.

I admit, since the month is over, I’ve cut down on my squats, sticking to a quick set of 25 goblet squats with whatever weight is around (usually 30 pounds) after my morning yoga. I tried to jettison the squats entirely, but after 30 days of having them as part of my yoga ritual, it seemed weird to stop. Hopefully that’s enough weight and reps to maintain the muscle I have grown, and I’ll definitely be getting in the gym more regularly for some heavier weight training again ASAP.  

Lesson #4: If you’re looking for a bit more strength, try out a squat challenge soon!

About the Author

Molly Hurford
Molly Hurford

Molly is an outdoor adventurer and professional nomad obsessed with all things running, nutrition, cycling and movement-related. When not outside, she’s writing about being outside, travel and athletic style on TheOutdoorEdit.com, or she’s interviewing world-class athletes and scientists for The Consummate Athlete Podcast. You can follow her adventures on Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat at @mollyjhurford.

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