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Strength & Sanity

I walked up to the Expert at the gym yesterday morning in the middle of this: [10 mountain climbers, 3 push-ups, 10 mountain climbers, 3 push-ups]  for I don’t know how many repeats. Really, it was until he looked like he was about to puke.

[It was awesome.]

I had my own puke nirvana during the intervals of pushing “the sled” during my morning training session.

I am not sure the actual correct term for it, but “the sled” is synonymous with “hell” – and it’s this metal thing with weights that you push down the floor (think Rocky IV, when he was in Russia) and do it with explosive power like sprinting.

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Oh, so Rocky was pulling the sled.  So take the coach and put Rocky BEHIND him… then, that’s “the Sled.”  Only no snow, and no Rocky… and nevermind. Maybe it’s not even close.  Either way, with “the Sled”, my heartrate goes from 120 to 175 in seconds. Insanity.

Since January of this year, I have been spending some time in the gym – not swimming or running or spinning – but hitting the weights and doing other weird shit like pushing “the Sled.”

Many of you have emailed me and asked what my specific strength routine is, and I really can’t tell ya – because it’s not specific, and it’s a total crap shoot

(“Is today leg day?”  OH. Every day is leg day, got it.)

So I am a member of Lifetime Fitness and I do group training (5-8 people, depending on the day) twice a week with these other beastly (in a good way) women.

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So as background, I was an Olympic-style weightlifter (think: clean & jerk, snatch) from about 1993-2000, before I quit due to a never-ending back injury, general burnout, and the fact that I was headed to college which didn’t have a proper facility.  Back then I threw around weights – and NEVER did anything cardio-wise.  Fast-forward years later– two kids and 80 pounds of weight gain, and I did nothing–no weights OR cardio.  And then, I found triathlon –  and tried to do lots of cardio-things, but refused to touch a weight for the life of me.

The summary: I have a problem with balance in my life.

Duh.  (I tend to do one thing or the other, but not both.)

When I reintroduced weight training into my personal space in January with group fitness, I thought my body might remember that it was strong. But it had forgotten. It has also forgotten all of its structural foundation.  [Case in point: stepping up on a block and standing on one foot with my eyes closed.]

I started strength training, because I knew that my functional strength was jacked up. That I lacked the basics needed to get me–strongly and safely–from point A to point B on a race course.

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It’s been amazing the results that I have FELT from strength training.

I have SO many amazingly clumsy and ridiculous structural imbalances in my body.

Like I couldn’t stand on one foot with my eyes closed. (Try it, you might be surprised that you can’t either).

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On the first day of strength training ever, it was something as simple as: a 36 inch block. The trainer pointing at it, and saying:  step up on this, drive your other knee up, and repeat.

I was amazed at how:
1) hard it was;
2) impossible–coordination-wise for me;
3) frustrating; and
4) mean the voices in my head were.  “You REALLY can’t even step up on a block?”

No, no I can’t.

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And then I repeated these miserably hard sessions two times a week and little by little it got better.

I am finding that the imbalances in my legs and glutes are slowing dissipating – and I feel more even, more balanced especially when I run and swim. The core work is helping me too.  I have semblances of abs through a nice layer of fluff. (Work in progress).

An example leg day goes something like this:

  • Lunges down gym floor (approx. 40 of them)
    Kettlebell swings with 20 lb. kettlebell (40 x)
    Pushing the sled with 90 lbs on it (down the gym and back)
    Rope slams (40x)
    x 4 sets
  • Bench Press x 24
    Box / Bench jumps x 24
    Leg Press x 24
    x 4 sets
  • Maybe some crazy additional leg or chest set
  • Core work (planks, etc) x 4 sets

Basically, we get the heartrate fired up in the first round, and then focus on weights the second – maybe with a little more HR stuff thrown it. Really, it’s traditional HITS training, and then followed by heavy-ish weightlifting with some calisthenics.

Takes about an hour, and it’s a shaking-noodle-legged sweat fest.  [Then I try to run after. Ugh. That’s pretty. Let me tell ya.]

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Keeping Me Sane (Well, Relative Term)

I am enjoying the extra boost that slamming some ropes and jumping on boxes has given to my life, my body and my confidence – I really do like weights – it’s measurable progress too, which is nice.

The training has also, in all reality greatly helped my tri training–especially when I have been doing very little tri training to speak of – since the injury.

Without the strength training, there is no way I would have survived the sprint tri last weekend. Now that I have had some time to digest that race, I am realizing just how good of a day it actually was–and I know that I owe that to the functional strength work that I continued to do, even through the stress fracture.  So those are positive things.

Strength training has been my sort of new sanity lately. I am grateful for the outlet, and it’s new too.  New is fun.

As for the Expert, he’s been training 1-2 times a week as well with the weights and has seen amazing results in his training AND his body (hubba hubba).  As far as results, he started training in February or March, and then PR’d his 70.3 opener in May.  I know that us incorporating strength into his tri training was key for him as well. Suns out! 

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This week has also been a really great week on the tri training front:  e.g., I got my ass in the pool for two swims, two bikes, two strength sessions and two runs since Monday. [Thinking the swim bike run stuff might help to do triathlon and all.]  Plan to ride tomorrow and Sunday, and the the Peachtree Road Race for the 4th… we will see!

Start Somewhere

 

If you don’t know where to start with strength training, I would recommend talking to a trainer at your local gym and doing a few group sessions (lower cost) or personal sessions (higher cost, but more personal attention) to get the sort of method behind the madness.

Then you could always branch out on your own after that, or keep up with the groups.  If not any of those, then most gyms offer really fantastic group fitness classes that use weights and high intensity methods – great starts on your strength training journey.

Finally books: Holistic Strength Training for Triathlon by Andrew Johnston is a fantastic book on functional strength for triathletes.  My trainer at Life Time has also co-authored a book, Core Fitness Solution and it’s a really fabulous read on how CORE training is key to overall fitness.

[And y’all feel free to post YOUR favorite resources for strength training too!]

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Hope that answers some of the questions and helps with some insight on what the heck I’ve been up to.  (Standing on one leg with my eyes closed.)

Happy July 4th weekend everyone!

3 Comments

  • Laura

    July 1, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    I’m laughing right now, because I had a similar moment a few weeks ago. Stand on one leg, reach forward, return to standing. Repeat. Easy? Wow, absolutely not. How is such a small movement so hard? This week it was a bit easier.
    Have a safe and happy 4th!

    Reply
  • Bella

    July 3, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    Squats and anything one legged for the win! Seriously, I added in strength training for injury prevention and to balance out my horribly lopsided rowing body and my running improved significantly without adding in any additional mileage. I also like the way it feels when I am taking on a new weight (finally hit over bodyweight back squat!) – helps me respect my body and not get so down on how my legs look or how I wish I was 10lbs lighter etc. Strength training is good for the soul!

    Reply
  • Michelle

    July 7, 2016 at 9:41 am

    Good for you! I just started seeing a personal trainer to get stronger outside of running. Marathon training is great and all, but I was so weak in other places and also needed to work on leg strength. Finding the time to do cardio and strength train is probably the hardest part especially as a slower runner (~2 hours at the gym not including shower/getting dressed!)

    Reply

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