My New Strength Program – The New Rules of Lifting for Women

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.

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Gizmo approves

 

The premise:

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! 

You thought I was joking, didn't you??

You thought I was joking, didn’t you??

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.

I'm sure you're jealous of my mauve remnant carpet in my basement. Back off. You can't have it.

I’m sure you’re jealous of my mauve remnant carpet in my basement. Back off. You can’t have it.

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?

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NVHM Training Week 3 – Kind of Another Wash

Oy. These last 3 weeks could be described as “1 step forward, 3 steps backwards”. My first week of training was kind of a wash, thanks to an abscessed tooth and a root canal. Week 2 was FANTASTIC – solid runs, good speedwork, and a great long run. Week 3? Pretty much another wash.

My tendonitis started to flare up again, and true Drama Queen fashion I spazzed. I was convinced that this half marathon was kaput, my spring race  already in jeopardy, etc. Thankfully, Jennifer talked some sense into me, and told me that it was going to be A-OK. She reminded me that one or two days wouldn’t destroy my training, and that most importantly, I know how to handle this injury and how to fix it!  I took an extra rest day this week, so I ran a total of 3 days, for…wait for it….10 miles. Honestly, I’m not upset by that. Disappointed? Eh, sort of. I’m disappointed that I apparently haven’t learned how to take care of myself, but not disappointed that I’m still running, even if it’s only half of the mileage that I originally planned for.  It’s better than nothing!!

I took Tuesday as an extra rest day, and picked back up on Thursday. 2 slow, easy AM miles on the treadmill. I didn’t care about pace…just making sure that I got myself moving without any problems. I also remembered that I’m supposed to be attempting to run on the dreadmill treadmill once a week to get used to it, so this was a good thing 🙂 .

treadmill

Friday – 2 more miles. Outside this time…still no pain! YAY! Another note about this run? I got chased by the flippin’ turkeys again. Jennifer suggested that they may be chasing people because they’re protecting their babies, but I don’t think that is the case. These jagoffs were laying in wait for a total sneak attack on me. I do a lot of my running in a cemetery because it’s super close to my house and it has a lot of good paths to run on and is usually safe minus the turkeys…  Anyway, I try to keep an eye out for them so I can avoid the pack and I didn’t see them anywhere. I shit you not they were hiding behind some headstones waiting for me!! As soon as I ran past, 2 or 3 of them jumped out from behind some graves and started the chase. I screamed SO LOUD, and took off with those jerks in hot pursuit . Again, one of those time I really wished I had my phone so I could have (tried) to get a video of that.

I moved my long run to Saturday, since I will be at my nephew’s birthday party on Sunday! I wasn’t sure how long this run would actually be. I didn’t want to overdo it, so I figured I’d cap it at 6 if I could make that far and had every intention of stopping the second it started to hurt. LUCKILY, it never did so I was able to get all 6 in with no problem.

Even managed a good pace!

Even managed a good pace!

I was also super responsible when I came home and iced, AND stretched before doing anything else.  Post run, my leg was a little tight but totally manageable.

I’m not sure what next week will bring. Of course, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to get 4 solid days in but I’ll be happy with any running and am also fine with taking an extra rest day or rest week if necessary. Ok, that’s a little bit of a lie. I won’t be “fine” with a full rest week, but if that’s what I need then…that’s what I need. Look at me being so responsible and stuff.

Back in the Boot

I had a whole woe is me post written out and ready to post the other day, but something made me stop.  Maybe I didn’t want to sound like a whining 5 year old in a public forum…

Yes, I am back in the boot.

You know you're jealous of the pasty complexion and freckles

You know you’re jealous of the pasty complexion, freckles, and grubby sock

To say I’m frustrated is an understatement and I definitely had a pity party for myself earlier this week but I’m feeling ok now.  

This was completely my fault, and I know that. After two difficult runs back-to-back, I should have been much more diligent about my icing/stretching and…plain and simple, I wasn’t.  And, let’s be honest…that 9% grade wasn’t the best idea either.

Dumbass

Dumbass

My original post basically had me convinced that I wouldn’t be able to run this half, and that my spring race was already in jeopardy. Just a little dramatic, no?

Fast forward a few days, and I’ve been icing and booting (not sure if it’s a word, but if it wasn’t before it is now) and stretching and resting. I skipped my scheduled run on Tuesday and moved my Thursday evening run to this morning for 2 sloooow miles on the treadmill to test things out.

treadmill

 Luckily, the pain/tightness is almost completely gone and there was no discomfort running this morning. The big test will be tomorrow night – I’m going to shoot for 3 easy ones after work.  I’m also going to take my long run easy – no huge hills like last week and no looking at my watch.  THEN, when I get home? ICE, ICE BABY.  If  have to, I’ll take all of next week off and even though I hate skipping runs, I have to remember that I would rather miss out on a week’s worth of running now rather than 3 or 4 months down the road. I’m also incredibly frustrated because I was coming off a strong week and was hoping to keep up with that momentum and had to take a step back. Womp Womp.

This was a wake up call that I need to take seriously and make the time to recover properly. I am hoping that I can get ahead of this before it becomes a full blown case of tendonitis.

Injury Update (Hopefully the last!)

A while ago, I shared that I was having some major issues with what ended up being diagnosed as Achilles Tendonitis.

I was given this bad ass boot to wear at night, a prescription for physical therapy 3 times a week for a month, and a follow up appointment 4 weeks after my initial meeting with a foot doctor.

And now it’s time for me to share that I never went to PT, and never went to my follow up appointment. Oops. In all fairness I really wasn’t able to commit to that kind of time this past summer, had to cancel my follow up and was never able to reschedule it.

Having said all of that though, I’m relieved to say that I am finally pain free! WAHOO!

How did that happen?

I did a few things on my own that helped immensely, and I feel really helped me get back on track

(1) At home “physical therapy”

Basically, I Googled ‘PT for Achillies Tendonitis” and did what I could at home, on my own schedule. Super cheap (FREE!), and very easy. I use two main stretches to help keep things loose:

The Stairs:

I place the ball of my foot on the edge of the step (and hold onto the railings because I can’t balance to save my life) and push my heel towards the floor.

Doesn't look like much, but, man does it feel GOOD!

Doesn’t look like much, but, man does it feel GOOD!

stretch 2

Don’t laugh at my cankles!

Feels so.good.!! To make sure I get the most out of this, I stretch on each step going up and hold it for about 5-10 seconds per foot. By the time I get to the top, there is no lingering tightness (is that a word? If not, it is now)!

   Tennis Ball.

Love this one so much. Gets all of that “tightness” out of my arches and my tootsies feel like new when I’m done. LOVE!!!

You're welcome for keeping my socks on for these pictures, by the way. I can assure you, it's not pretty.

You’re welcome for keeping my socks on for these pictures, by the way. I can assure you, it’s not pretty.

The second, and my most favorite…

(2) Wearing high heels again!

Can I get an AMEN?! When my tendonitis started to act up (back in FEBRUARY!!), the first thing I did was ditch the heels and wear flats EVERY single day. I assumed, incorrectly, that the heels were a contributing factor to my problems. Every single article, blog, etc. that I read said that heels are terrible for runner and to burn them all. At my (only) doctor’s appointment, however, he told me to put those heels back on. I almost hugged him!! Honestly, I can’t remember the exact reason, but I think it’s because it takes some of the pressure off of the tendon. I could also be completely making that up, so don’t hold me to it.

So far, it seems that wedges work best for me and I’m now on the hunt for a pair of fall ankle booties that are sassy and stylish, and *hopefully* have a wedge as the heel! If you’ve seen any, point in the right direction mmmmkay? I still wear the flats, but never on running days. Anything to keep these legs happy!

(3) Taking time off.

When I made the decision to not run the Air Force Marathon, I really let up on my running schedule. Then, a week later, my stepfather passed away and running fell to the bottom of my priority list. For the entire month of August, I ran maybe 14 miles, and I was really happy with that. I was soo tempted to run the Montour Trail Half Marathon (my first ever half 2 years ago!) on the 6th , but I was feeling too good and didn’t want to rush back and risk having a full blown flare up again. I remembered my long term goals, and decided that there was no reason I needed to run that race. There was also no reason to rush back into an intense running schedule. I’ve been doing what I can, when I can and am A-Okay with that. Having said that, though, I am getting really excited to start a real training plan again and am really looking forward to running a race!

Taking that time off ,I think, is what really allowed me to heal.

I am so grateful to be back in “fighting shape”, and can’t wait to tackle training for the Nittany Valley Half in December! Hopefully you’ll still be following along 🙂 !

Running is a gift

Since I still have a month before official training for the Nittany Valley Half Marathon starts, I’m taking September nice and easy! I’m running 2-3 days during the week and both Saturday and Sunday, and so far I feel great!

I’m keeping my weekday miles low, using Sunday as my “long” run day (right now I’m sticking to 6-9 miles), and making a real effort to dedicate one day per week to speed.  I’m not sure if it’s because the weather is changing (I can feel fall in the air!), or what, but running has just felt so good lately! I’m hitting paces I haven’t seen since I don’t know when, and certain routes that used to kill me I’m running with relative ease.  Running is fun again!  

My biggest concern right now is keeping my tendonitis from flaring up, and I’m doing that. It’s been great to go out and if I have to cut a run short due to tightness (has only happened once, so far. *knock on wood*) I do it and don’t worry that I’m “slacking” and missing out on miles. I’ve been able to enjoy every single run and appreciate the fact that I’m out there, doing what I love and grateful for every second of it.

Sometimes, I think it’s too easy to get caught up in the training and the goals and look at a run as necessary and ‘I HAVE to get these miles in!!!’ and dread it, when in reality – it’s a gift. Make sure you enjoy it!!!