I’ve mentioned my new strength training program a few times without actually talking about it. I did that for a few reasons, but mainly because I wanted to give it a few weeks to make sure I liked it, would stick with it, etc. I was also kind of hoping to have some results (lost inches, or pounds) to brag about, but that hasn’t happened yet. I’ll get into why I think I haven’t in a little bit.
When it comes to strength training, weight lifting, whatever you want to call it, I am a total moron. I don’t know or understand how to devise a plan: how many sets, reps, how much weight to use, how long to do it for? Do I add in cardio? WHAT DO I DOOOOO?! Basically, I just want someone to tell me exactly what I should be doing.
For several years, I’ve heard a lot of chatter about The New Rules of Lifting for Woman by Lou Schuler, but I always ignored it because I thought that it may be too extensive, or I would have to join a gym…and the excuses went on. I Googled the book, found a bunch of reviews, decided to go for it and ordered it off of Amazon. If I read the book and ended up not finding it to be a good fit, or I didn’t stick with it then..…let’s just say it wouldn’t be the first time I spent money on a diet/exercise book only to have it collecting dust a few months later 😉 . But, because I had done a lot of research beforehand I had a pretty good idea of the principles of the book, and the workouts they had you doing; so as soon as the book arrived I wasted no time in getting started.
As I’m sure we’ve all heard by now, women can and should be lifting heavy. No pink Barbie weights, although, I am seriously embarrassed to admit I do in fact own a set of pink 2 lb dumbbells!
Not only should we be lifting heavy but we also need to be eating a lot more in order to support this kind of program. You are provided with a formula to calculate your caloric needs, but I found a much easier way online – this spreadsheet is fantastic! Just plug your numbers in and the calculations are done for you! My math hating brain was happy! Along with the daily calories, it also breaks down the macros for you so you know how many grams of each macro you should (try) to consume *. There are also sample meal plans and recipes to help you out, if needed. Or course, protein is listed at the most important/largest macro in order to help you build up the muscles, and a post workout protein shake is required (which I haven’t been doing). You are encourage to take before/after pictures (I never got around to that, but I’m thinking I’m still going to. And keeping them locked away to never see the light of day) and measurements to help you measure progress. because you may not lose numbers on the scale, but will still lose inches. I did take those, but to be honest, I’m hesitant to share. Mostly because I’m so self conscious and am just not sure how I feel about putting it out there. Maybe at the end of the whole program…maybe. I’ve also been tracking the weights that I use each time so that I remember and so I can see that progress as well. That is hugely motivating because that is absolutely progress I can SEE. That I will definitely be sharing as I complete the stages.
The plan. Ideally. :
You are given workouts that should take you the course of 6 month from start to finish, and can take a little longer depending on how you approach the program. He tells you 3 days is ideal (with a rest day in between workouts, which is why I’m always so hesitant to double up on days when I move workouts around) 2 will work and 1 isn’t enough. Because my main focus right now is marathon training, I opted for 2 days so that I can keep my Monday rest days…you know how much I love them! Right now, in Stage 1 there are 2 workouts A & B (clever, right?). You alternate back and forth between those workouts; if you do 3 days a week (A, B, A) it will take you six weeks to complete and if you do twice a week it will take you 8 weeks. As you work your way through Stage 1, you decrease the number of reps and then increase the number of sets. As you move through the program, the idea is that your weights should be increasing too*, as well as your rest time between sets. Right now my rest time is 60 seconds and that feel like just enough; I’ve flipped through the other stages and the rest time can get up to 120 seconds.
The plan, in reality:
This is where my asterisks come into play. The short version is, I’m following the plan…but I’m really not. In the very last couple of pages of the book, the author sneak this line in “Don’t try to train for a marathon and complete this program at the same time“. Ooops. To be fair, he’s kind of right. To build the kind of muscles he’s talking about, and to see big results, you need a fair amount of protein which by default (and necessity) lowers the amount of carbohydrates you consume. To train for a marathon, you need to eating a large amount (50-60+ % depending on your viewpoints) of healthy carbohydrates which aren’t going to build muscles, but will certainly fuel your runs. The reason stated in the book is “There’s just no point in trying to make your body smaller and more effecient at the same time you’re trying to make it stronger and rev up your metabolism”. Having said all of that, I also think that in the weightlifting community in general, there is a bit of disdain for endurance running. They aren’t fans of it, and some people have no problem letting you know that. That’s fine, bro. You do you. Most runners though, know that they need to be incorporating SOME kind of strength training into their plans. I’m already typing out a novel, so here, here, and here are some handy dandy links that remind us why strength is a crucial aspect to running. One of my goals this year is to stay injury free, and I know that strength training will play a huge role in that. So I’m not following the nutrition plan closely, which I know means I won’t see the best results possible, and I know that and am fine with it.
The other aspect is the heavy lifting part. I’m definitely lifting heavier than I think I ever have, but I’m still not lifting heavy enough and there are 2 reasons for that. The first reason is due to a combination of lacking some equipment and being concerned for my safety. I do all of the workouts in my basement with whatever equipment I have and I’m missing some things. My dumbbell/weight plate collection isn’t very expansive; so sometimes I could probably go heavier, but can’t because I don’t have a heavier weight. I’m slowly adding to that – buying sets as I need them but seriously cannot purchase a set of cast iron 12 lb dumbbells if my life depended on it. Every time I go to Dick’s, they are out. I also worry about my form for things like deadlifts so I will play it safe with a lighter weight to ensure that I don’t hurt myself. I do my workouts alone and my only supervision is a fat cat.
He lacks the opposable thumbs to assist me in getting a heavy barbell + weight plates on my back for squats, and is a terrible spotter so I play it safe and increase the weights sloooooowly.
The 2nd big reason is that when I do my A workout on Wednesday, I have a speed day on Thursday so I don’t want my legs to be totally trashed for that; likewise, my B Days are Fridays and I am heading into a high volume (for me) weekend with long runs and mid distance hill work. Right now, getting those runs in is so much more important to me than being able to deadlift an extra 15 lbs.
So, all in all, I’m seeing results…but I’m not, and I knew that was going to happen. I’m increasing weights, but not at the best rate and I am a little disappointed that the most physical change I can see is a that I finally have a smidge of definition in my biceps, but oh well. Once the marathon in over in May, I’ll be able to commit to the recommended 3 days per week, and the nutrition plan much better than I can now. Hopefully by doing that I will start to SEE the muscles!
So…why do it then?
If you’ve stuck with my this far, first, THANKS – you deserve a damn medal! And second, you’re probably wondering why in the hell I even bothered with this program if I’m not really going to follow it. Excellent question. The big reason is that I just needed a plan to follow. I honestly was having so much trouble trying to figure it out on my own, and was getting frustrated. At least with this, all of the guess work has been taken out. I’m also hilariously weak, so I wanted to ease into the program to get me used to the moves and making sure I have good form before I follow the program to a T and lift all of the heavy things. And as I mentioned before, but it was 8,645 words ago so you may have forgotten, the other biggie is injury prevention. Strength training absolutely helps with that and I want to get to this start line 100% healthy and strong. At the end of my training for Nittany Valley, I was starting to experiencing some knee pain that I’m pretty sure was related to some very weak hips. Since I’ve started NROLFW, I’ve noticed that pain is *knock on wood* practically gone! That alone makes this program 100% worth it.
So. There it is! The strength plan I’m kind-of-sort-of-but-not-really following for the Pittsburgh Marathon. What do you think? Am I nuts? Is this a bad plan? This post is already longer than War and Peace, so I’ll lay out Stage 1 in detail in the next post.
What strength plan do you follow?