Last week I ran at some unusual times for me: once at 6:30AM and once at 9:30PM. Why the strange schedules when I’ve been a fairly consistent “right after work” running gal? Well, because I am adding in something new and I wanted to check out some different options for run times. I’m adding in strength training.
Yes, I know I’ve been writing about strength training for awhile, and I’ve actually been doing it for several months now, but it’s been on my own in a somewhat haphazard fashion. Back in April, after checking it out from the library, I bought The Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises. The book is great in some regards, and if you want an encyclopedia of weight training exercises, this is a solid choice. There are hundreds of exercises to chose from with all sorts of variations, depending on skill set, equipment and so on. It also has some additional information and training plans, but those are not the main point of the book. The focus is on different kinds of exercises. That was exactly why I bought it. I used it to put together some weight training plans based on what I had, and what I thought I could do.
The problem is that I am really too new at this. I have no idea what I am doing. I used their training plans as a start, but modified them at will. The book makes it really, really easy to do that. Too easy, if you want to know the truth. I felt like I was getting stronger and doing some good work, but it felt really unfocused. I knew that I just didn’t know enough.
Then I read some glowing reviews for Mark Riptoe’s Starting Strength, so I picked that up. And it’s good, it really is, but it almost goes too far in the other direction. It is so technical, I find myself struggling to get through it. I think it is just too advanced for where I am right now. I’m a reader, someone who loves to learn through study, but I had to set it aside for a bit.
Then I read another blogger who was going through The New Rules of Lifting for Women, and so I took a look at that. And like Goldilocks, I feel like I found something that is just right. It has a lot about weight lifting in general, and some interesting information on nutrition (and I have changed how I eat based on it,) but what I love is their step by step guide. It’s a long term strength training plan, which was exactly what I was looking for. Like Women’s Health book, it has exercises with variations (especially helpful for those going to gyms versus those working out at home,) and like Mark Riptoe’s book it has technical information, but fortunately, it is at my level. Best of all is the seven stage multi-week training plan.
I’ve just started on it this week. The author warns that this is an intense program, but I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure I believed him. I mean, when I read through it, it looked really reasonable and, even dare I say, in the beginning stages a bit easy. Wrong! As soon as I got through the first day, I saw that this is going to be a challenge. Which is good! That’s what I’m looking for.
My goal is to strength train at least two, but pushing towards three, times a week. I also want to keep running. In a perfect world I’d run three times a week and lift three times, on alternating days, and take one day as a rest day. I’d prefer to do the strength training in the morning, using my morning dog walk as a warm up, and the run in the evening after work, with the evening dog walk to cool down. Which makes it all so pretty and logical, doesn’t it? However, life doesn’t always let us do what we want. Sometimes I am busy in the evenings, sometimes I haven’t had enough sleep to get up early. Life just is messy. I’ve already been running into this with my current workouts, and I really want to be dedicated to this, so I thought I should try running at different times. Also, I know that as much as I would like to alternate days, there are going to be weeks where I have to do both on the same day, that means being able to be flexible.
I’ve tried a couple of runs at night to see how that goes. One night this week I wanted to go running, but I had an extremely crazy, busy, frantic day. I said to myself that if I could wrap everything up by 9:15PM, I’d head out anyway. I was done by 9:08PM, so I threw on my running clothes and was heading down the road by 9:20PM. Then I had a day where I knew I was going to need time in the evening to work on a few projects. So, I got up early and, after walking the dog, went for a run in the morning. (It was so early that when I turned on the bedroom light, my usual Let’s go out! dog sighed and rolled over and went back to sleep!) So far, I like running both in the morning and at night. I did find out I have to eat something in the morning before I go though, rather than after. I could tell I didn’t have enough fuel in me, so I took it easy. In the future I will have to plan that a bit better, but other than that, I can easily see myself doing either, and you know what that means, right? No excuses.
Wait, you are running AND lifting weights?!? Don’t you know that’s CRAZY!
There seems to be a bit of war between these two worlds right now. The best I can tell from the interwebs is that it centers around marathoners versus body builders, and I see why. You don’t want to have a lot of bulky muscle to carry around if you are running marathons, and if you’re running all your body mass off, it doesn’t make sense to lift. However, the way it comes off to those of us that are new to all this is that there are two camps, one saying “Look you idiot – don’t eat protein! Stay super lean!” while the other is saying, “Hey fool – you don’t need to run! Get rid of cardio! Here – have a protein shake!”
Here’s the thing, I want both of what these worlds offer, and I want nothing.
You know what I want? I want to be a badass superhero librarian who can run, leap, climb, lift, row, ski, hula hoop and throw a mean punch – all while wearing heels, if I want. (No, I am not a librarian at present, but we are talking about what I want, not what it is.) I am not aiming to run marathons. In fact, at this point, I’m not running to be in any races, of any length. I might some day – some of them look like a heck of a lot of fun – but that isn’t my goal. At this point, I run roughly 30-40 minutes at a time. That feels about right for me.
Nor is my goal to be a body builder or enter body competitions. I want: strength, endurance, power, stamina, and to feel great in my body. I want all the gains I have already won against my asthma with running, and also I want to see how much I can lift. This is all about me, not about competing against others, in any forum. So yes, I am running and lifting weights – and getting better at both all the time.
Heavy Weight photo credit: apfelfred on flickr