Fitness Friday: Why I Like Lifting Heavy Weights

March 4, 2011 at 5:33 pm 5 comments

Every so often, in order to stay focused on fitness, I ask myself why I work out. The answer changes over time, but it helps me to keep my training specific, efficient, and purpose-driven. In 2010, I was working on increasing my energy level and my overall fitness level. This year, I’m training for running performance while attempting to maintain or improve my body composition (i.e. less fat, more lean meat).

Last year my workouts were primarily circuit training workouts four times a week at this fitness studio. The classes are 45 minutes in length including the workout demonstration and instruction at the start. Each exercise during each circuit (usually) lasts for about 45 seconds. That is short. You come in, do your work, and get out. Of course, to improve body composition you need to eat properly as well, and that is a whole other post for another day.

You also have to work hard while you’re in the studio. Working hard looks the same for everyone, no matter the level of fitness. It looks like sweaty rosy cheeks, breathing that makes it difficult to talk in full sentences, and maybe even the odd pause in an exercise.

So what happens when picking up the 10 lb weights for a shoulder press doesn’t give you that feeling anymore? Do you keep using them because you don’t want to “bulk up”, or do you make the most of your VERY short workout and pick up the 15 lbs knowing you might have to pause halfway through the 45 seconds?

Of course you pick up the 15s. And then the 20s, and maybe, after two years you’ve occasionally got 30 or 40 pounders in your hands. You get stronger. You still get sweaty and red-faced during class. Your heart is pounding in your chest and your muscles get stronger, a little bigger – yes, but not much bigger, just stronger, and you continue to see progress. Your lean muscle tissue burns more calories per pound than fat, and your bone density increases.

Or you don’t work hard, and you stop seeing results. Seen it, heard it, done it (at other gyms).

And now this year, I’m trying to get faster in my running. So what do I need to do? I need to continue with my circuit training for muscular endurance, agility, explosiveness (anyone who knows me knows this is a stretch), calorie-burning and fun. And I need to continue to build strength, strength for speed on the flat parts of a course and strength to power up the hills without digging into my anaerobic stores. My shoulders and upper body needs to be strong too (I wasn’t aware of how much this can help running), and my core needs to stay strong to help me avoid injury and stay upright when I’m tired.

So I continue to lift heavy weights. Heavy means different things to different people at different stages of their fitness journey so I’m not talking about specific numbers. I’m just talking heavy as in, it takes an effort to lift it and you can’t go on and on for 30 or 40 repetitions with only a little exertion. You are truly wasting your time (tough love, sorry – BTW, I’m wondering if Body Pump has changed over the last 10 years to include less reps on the same exercise – can anyone fill me in?)

These days my Friday workouts are primarily dedicated to strength; this will change closer to my May 29th run. But right now I usually do a traditional three-set-per-exercise workout. Sometimes we shake it up with supersets or whatever you call it when you lift the heaviest weight and then keep going with lower and lower weights until you can’t lift it anymore (if someone who knows you comes in when you’re at the end and doing bicep curls with 8 lbs, it can be kinda funny).

But for the most part, it’s a lot of bench presses, squats, lunges, rows, presses, push ups, curls with low repetitions (sometimes as low as just 6 reps). I am always shaking and feeling like I need a nap by the end. The nap feeling only happens after this type of workout, never after one with cardio in it.

And after all is said and done, I again ask myself why I am working out, and I remember that the ultimate goal is to be healthy for life. So, when I easily use one arm to hoist my 45 lb son into the car kicking and screaming during one of his “episodes” (which by the way, have been absent for the last month or so – knock on virtual wood) or I pull a sled with 100 pounds of boys and 40 pounds of ski gear through a gravelly parking lot, I thank myself for investing in strength and fitness.

I was searching for a photo to illustrate my point in this post, but I have only a very few photos of myself.

This action shot of my bro and I playing on the beach is one of the two photos of me in a bathing suit from our trip in January. I don’t think I would be posting it if 1) it weren’t for the strength training, and 2) I was easily identifiable (as in, you could see my face).

The other bikini photo from the trip is a full length posed portrait taken by my five-year old – you ain’t gonna see that here.

So this week:

Running Rundown

Everything is posted in kilometers. For those of you who only do miles, 1 km = .625 mile OR 1 mile = 1.6 km

Saturday – 17 km outside in the cold on the ice with Elation Centre Run Club –  6:10 per km pace. Felt really good and could easily have kept going.

Monday – Beginning of running recovery week. 9 km easy run on the treadmill 5:4o per km. I’m watching a very bad, but very addictive BBC series called Mistresses on Netflix – seen it? It’s great running viewing.

Wednesday – 7 km easy run on the treadmill 5:40 per km. Then I wanted to see the end of Mistresses Episode 4 so I walked at a 4.0 incline for 15 minutes. She’s pregnant and it’s not her husband’s baby!

Strength Training Stats

Monday: Greco Lean and Fit class

Wednesday:  Greco Lean and Fit class in Kanata. I love that the different studios have different atmospheres. It adds to the variety.

Friday:  Personal training workout with Matthieu. I had promised that this week I would post my detailed workout, but of course, today we didn’t work on our usual strength plan. Instead we played with some new equipment they got including a fancy ab roller and a new speed harness. I was primarily working core strength will a whole bunch of other muscle groups thrown in here and there. Maybe next week you’ll get to see what I mean by a strength workout.

Speed Harness

Ab Wheel with Foot Straps - Fun for doing push ups, planks, pikes and traditional ab roll outs.


Entry filed under: Fitness. Tags: , , , , , .

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. bearrunner  |  March 4, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    Nice post, great information! I excersize on Fridays mostly to get it finished haha… Need the strength to compliment the running and the muscles and the running to burn of the fat.. Quite the balancing act…


  • 2. Pat  |  March 4, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    Liisa, love the fact that you are lifting heavy….not enough people incorporate heavy weights into their training. In addition to stimulating more muscle fibers, and therefore building true strength and muscle, lifting heavy has great hormonal impact in terms of encouraging the body to burn fat and retain muscle tissue more efficiently. When it comes to training for athletic performance, ie your upcoming run, beware of too much circuit training. It is more effective for general fitness, and even then is likely better as a change of pace workout for most people. In your post you spoke of your “explosiveness”…circuits are actually the definition of anti-explosiveness…check out this old post of mine for some more info….

    • 3. fitforakid  |  March 6, 2011 at 3:22 am

      Thanks for your comment Pat! Great info on other benefits of strength training from an expert. And yes, I get that the circuit training is not particularly sport specific and better for functional fitness, but I enjoy it and think of it as a calorie burner or cross-training session. I remember reading that post (just read it again though) and nodding my head as I went through it.

      But I do have a question, what type of training would be best for explosiveness (though I’m not sure that explosiveness would be good for endurance training, but it might be useful in other sports or perhaps for chasing after a runaway preschooler so I thought I would ask!).

      Also got another specific question for a future post so look out for a FB message from me this week.

  • 4. Finola  |  March 8, 2011 at 2:13 am

    You look awesome!!
    I have been doing the heavy weights too at Marshall’s gym in Hintonburg. Great place too, and I love it!

  • 5. Jan  |  September 13, 2014 at 12:33 am

    Amazing blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere?
    A theme like yours with a few simple tweeks would really make my blog jump out.
    Please let me know where you got your design. Kudos


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