Fitness Friday: Why I Like Lifting Heavy Weights
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:
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.