Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Strengthening and Stretching

Although I truly enjoy running, and other endurance type athletic activities, I think it is critical to maintain a strength program to keep my muscles from always doing one activity.

Unlike many runners, I actually ENJOY going to the gym and strength training. Many people say they find working out at the gym boring... but I think that if you are prepared with at least an area of the body you want to focus on, or a list of exercise options, you can make it interesting and fun!

Here are some ways to mix it up:

1) Focus on a different part of the body each day you go. While this may not be ideal if you are only making it to the gym one day per week,

2) Try doing some super sets. Instead of just sitting around and waiting for a while between sets of exercises, do two or three exercises in a row. It will help you keep your heart rate up and keep you moving. Your super sets can be focused on one muscle group to make it extra tough, or do a few muscle groups (like, quads then hamstrings) to rest one group before coming back to it.

3) Work out with friends! Just like running, having a workout buddy can make the gym a lot more fun since you will have someone to talk to. Plus, I've found the time it takes your friend to do a set is often the perfect amount of rest.

4) Do a workout video. I don't mean an aerobics video, I mean a strength training one. A few popular options right now are Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred, or the P90x program.

5) Do a workout from a weightlifting book or magazine.  A few magazines have great workouts in them like Oxygen or Women's Health. I also have a few Women's fitness books that I really enjoy, which you can see more about below.




Fitness or weightlifting books can help you learn more about building a routine, learn how to do the moves appropriately, or see which exercises target which muscles. One of my favorites is The New Rules of Lifting for Women. This book gives a basic program to follow with two different total body workouts. It describes why women should not be afraid of using weights to have a strong and healthy body.



A second great one is the Women's Health Big Book of Exercises. It not only describes exercises for each body area (chest, back, arms, glutes, quads, hamstrings, core), but also explains why weightlifting is important as well as nutrition and some goal-specific workouts depending on your goals.

If you are interested in understanding more about the muscles used for different exercises and the anatomy behind them, you should also check out Strength Training Anatomy.

Another idea would be to get a weightlifting routine set up for you by a trainer at the gym if you can. These trainers can customize a workout for you, and make sure you are performing each exercise the right way to not get hurt. If you haven't done many weight exercises, they can also help you get a feel for what weight to use.

Can't make it to the gym? There are so many body weight exercises that you can do at home with no to minimal equipment like pushups, pullups, squats and lunges. The Women's Health book I mentioned also describes a ton of exercises you can do without any weights.

Do you have any favorite gym workouts to share?

9 comments:

  1. For whatever reason, I am so bad at being motivated to do much strength training. I do some stretches after runs when I am running a lot, but my motivation for strength is just non-existant. Wish I had something better to share!

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  2. I love getting my weights on at the gym, so this is not a problem. I am motivated by how much it helps me run, and it helps me avoid the dreaded "runner's body." I always try to work out muscle groups and pairs when I go, so I always have a goal and a plan.

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    1. I usually go in with a specific muscle group/pair in mind too. Helps keep you focused and get some good weight training done.

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  3. I definitely struggle with keeping myself consistently hitting the weights! I can take a month off at a time..ughh. However, it only takes a couple of good sessions to get back into it - I love feeling stronger!

    I really want to read the first book - heard so much about it!

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    1. I agree, it is awesome to feel STRONG!

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  4. I never go to the gym :( I do exercises at home though. Planks are amazing! I'm actually starting to really enjoy them. I also like to do two exercises at a time- ex. bicep curls and squats. It's a great use of time ^^

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    1. great suggestions on the planks & combination moves.

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  5. great post and WAY to be a lover of the gym work...u're right, it is so good for us. so while it's not my favorite i do embrace the core and weights because i know it pays off. :)

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  6. I am a fan of strength training - but I think it has just been beat into me. I know that if I want to avoid injuries then I have to do it. I am always trying to switch it up with free weights, but if I need to get in & out I default to the machines.

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I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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