How America's top marathoner packed on 40 pounds of muscle after retiring
Former Olympian Ryan Hall doesn’t have competitive goals anymore. He’s just looking for challenges. Three hundred is his magic number. He wants to bench press 300 pounds. He also targeted the 300 mark for his deadlift and he wants to be able to squat the same weight. These aren’t typical goals for a runner.
But Ryan Hall, who has the fastest half marathon time of any runner born in the United States, isn’t your typical runner. Not anymore. Hall retired from competitive marathons last year has since packed on about 40 pounds of muscle.
“I like to lift heavy weights,” Hall said. “I lift as heavy as I can.”
Hall was in New York to judge the annual Foot Locker and Asics "Real Live. Real Runners" campaign that invited filmmakers to document a runner's story in a short film illustrating how running affected their life (you can see the winner here). But for Hall, after 20 years of competitive running, his racing story had ended. He said his body had had enough. He just wanted to walk around and feel strong. So he did what most guys do, he started doing Internet research. Hall picked up Arnold Schwarzenegger’s book on modern bodybuilding and began studying workouts and tips from Bodybuilding.com. Soon he built a makeshift gym in his garage.
Hall, whose wife Sara is racing the New York City marathon on Sunday, has personal best for the full marathon of 2:04.38 is the fastest of any American. He went from a race weight of 127 pounds to a muscular 165, where he is today. In fact, when he first put on the weight, it created such a stir that he posted a shirtless picture of himself to Twitter, so that people could know his transformation was real.
Hall is a die-hard now. He doesn’t miss days. If Hall has a flight at 5 a.m., he’s in his garage—which has basic equipment like a squat rack, bench and adjustable dumbbells—pumping iron at 2 a.m.
He works out six days a week, mostly splitting his training sessions between chest and back or arms and legs. He keeps his rest periods short—just 45 seconds between sets and he makes an effort to superset all his workouts. “And I try to go to complete failure most of the time,” he said.
The short rest period make up for some of the heavy cardio he is no longer doing. Hall says he doesn’t do much running now, just a half hour per day, which isn’t much for a guy that grew accomplished to pounding 120-mile training weeks. He also changed his diet from carb-heavy to loading more protein.
“When I was running I was eating more like 60% carbs, 20% protein, 20% fat,” he said. “Now it’s shift to being 60% protein, 20% carbs, 20% fat. But I still eat in the same pattern as when was running professionally. I still eat six meals a day and take in about 4,000 calories. I try to have 50 grams of protein every three hours.”
Hall says he’s not racing anymore. But as soon as we started talking I asked him how much he’s running these days. He said “not much.” Then went on to explain that he plans on running seven marathons in seven days around the world in January. He plans to go start with a race in Antarctica then to Chile, Miami, Madrid, Morocco, Dubai and finishing in Australia. But he’s still not packing on any extra mileage. Hall likes where his body is.
“I like how it feel right now and I don’t really want to get back to running and change all that,” he said. “I’d rather enjoy my life and suffer for a week.”