I’ll admit, I used to be a self-proclaimed cardio fanatic. I grew up on volleyball and track teams, running suicides and sprints like I was getting paid for it. As a kid, I would jog alongside my dad during his workouts, and as I grew older, I’d register for every 5K in town. I loved running. The feeling of lacing up my Nikes, popping in my headphones and cranking my latest playlist – it’s magical. Time. To. Run. Then a couple years ago, it all changed. I was introduced to the wonderful world of weight training. This wasn’t a completely foreign concept; after all, regular lifting sessions were always a fundamental part of my high school practices. But now, a good ten years later, my body had changed. Once I started incorporating weights into my workout, the results were eye-opening.
It was tough at first, and results weren’t immediate. (Unless you count the sore muscles!) It went against every fiber of my being to change my 1-hour routine, which was normally an 80/20 split of running and then maybe 10 minutes of free weights and a few ab exercises. I had joined a gym in January (part of the notorious New Years’ resolution crowd) and found my way into a group that was obsessed with lifting. This group quickly became my squad, and at least three times a week we would all join up to do our workout together. During these sessions, I had to cut my cardio down to about 10-15 minutes of warm up running, then the rest was all weights. It felt weird at first, but after a while I grew to see the changes and knew something was working.
The cool thing about adding weights into your routine is that it transforms the way your body responds to exercise. When your muscles are in better shape, it boosts your cardiovascular capacity as well as your overall level of fitness. So even though you can run five miles a day now, once you add strength training into your routine, you may find yourself able to increase that five miles to eight. “But I’m working out five days a week and haven’t changed my diet…why am I gaining weight?!!”
This doesn’t happen to everyone, and depending on what your diet consists of, it may not happen at all. However, often times reducing cardio and increasing weight training will result in some (healthy) gains. If you weigh yourself every day, I’d encourage you to put the scale away for a while. Daily weigh-ins can prove detrimental to your overall success, especially when you first start. I was guilty of it too — I freaked out the first few times I saw that number creep up. But you also have to remember that building muscle mass can change the way certain muscles appear, and to someone who relies on poundage alone to determine progress, it can feel defeating. But keep in mind that muscle burns more than fat. And it also weighs more. So as you continue to use strength training to tone and target areas of your body, you’ll start to see those areas become more defined and leaner, but the scale won’t necessarily match. Train yourself to be okay with that. The quicker you throw away the number, the easier the transition becomes.
“I have no idea where to even begin with weights.”
That’s okay! The Fitness Professionals at Innovative Health & Fitness are on hand to help – whenever you need it. Doing your complimentary Jump Start sessions is a great way to start; meeting up with a group of like-minded members who are into lifting can be very motivating; or even popping into one of the more than 100 weekly group fitness classes (like BodyPump) can also show you things you may not have been aware of before when it comes to lifting weights.
Take advantage of everything you have available to you at Innovative Health & Fitness. For instance, the awesome thing about social media today is that you can log onto Facebook or YouTube or event Pinterest and within less than a minute find a dozen tips and tricks from our staff to get you on the right course. The gym even offers Innovative On Demand so you can take your workout with you – wherever you go! Social Media is my primary source of new ideas and new moves, and I will shamelessly admit I fail at many of the new moves I try. But that doesn’t stop me and it doesn’t have to stop you. Our trainers work hand-in-hand with our social media accounts and can help you with any of the exercises or weight lifting techniques you find that you want to give a try. Bottom line is to start small, with 3-5 reps of low weight, and build from there. Even the jacked up body builders didn’t start off that way. They had to work up to their 350-pound squat reps too. Once you’ve mastered that weight, learn when to level up. Take a self-assessment: how hard was that last rep? Am I out of breath? Maybe I could add another ten pounds. Go ahead. Add it. If you can’t move the weight at all, take some off. But if you can still push through those reps, if you’re struggling and maybe grunting a little, you know it’s right. Those last couple should really make you work.
If you’re someone who loves the treadmill, try cranking up the incline and doing walking lunges with two 5-pound weights. One minute of those babies and your quads will be burning, I promise. Another treadmill move I like is side-step shuffling (also on an incline…I do pretty much all my treadmill workouts on an incline. It makes your body work harder, like you’re walking uphill the entire time). One minute on each side, then walk in between. You can boost your heart rate way up with these easy movements and it challenges your muscles to do something different than just regular running.
Lots of people enjoy the freedom of being outside in our short Wisconsin summers. So, if you’d rather run outside, try incorporating your own body weight into your workout. Use a park bench for incline push-ups or tricep dips. I also love running steps or trails, if there are some in the area. Even a kid’s playground can hold some hidden objects that work well in place of actual weight equipment. Get creative – that’s what keeps your body challenged and growing.
Be prepared to be sore, maybe for a few days. When you introduce your body to new movements, especially with weight involved, the muscle fibers break down and that’s when you can feel sore. Personally, I’ve learned to embrace the soreness. It means it’s working.