Why my strength-training routine sucks

Last week Rita from the blog The Giggly Bits posted some thoughts about training versus exercise. Essentially, she said this (I’m paraphrasing, but included some key words that she used):

Exercising sounds and feels like something you have to do, an obligation. While the outcome is often to slim down, that can be a pretty broad, vague goal and, depending upon how much you have to lose, it can take a long time. Training is inspiring, dynamic and directly connects to some kind of outcome in the near future.

When I started my health and fitness routine, cardio work bored the everliving hell out of me. I love weight training and committed far more time to that than slogging away on a treadmill or elliptical. My cardio work was not dynamic–a prescribed 30-60 minutes on the elliptical. Later I added spin classes and the occasional walk.

In 2009, I decided to do the Breast Cancer 3-Day–a 60 mile walk that occurs over three days. As a result, I had to put together my very first training plan. Then this year, I decided to do a triathlon. I got to put together another training plan–one that was even more dynamic, including a variety of cardio activities over the course of the week, building endurance week-by-week. Not long after, I decided to do the Manchester Road Race, a 4.748 mile run this Thanksgiving. I put together another training plan and recently started to revise it to include interval training so I can work not just on my endurance, but my speed.

I now love cardio. I love the planning aspects of it and the ability to see my accomplishments week to week. I get to see more specific progress and on a faster timeline. A 2 mile run on Monday might be challenging and frustrating, but when the following Monday, I’m able to push it to 2.5 miles, it’s motivating and confidence-building. Additionally, I know with my cardio work that if I don’t do the homework, I won’t be able to complete the test (the race!) as well as I could.

In the meantime, my strength-training routines have lagged. After reading the Giggly Bits post, I realize it’s because I do not see how they connect to my current training plan nor do I have any specific fitness goal associated with them. I struggle to see significant results–sure I notice more muscle definition and toning, but that’s about it. I don’t see its impact on my performance. In fact, my shoulders are notoriously weak. I’m still doing the same 10lb shoulder press I was doing in April 2007. Sure, some of that is related to my lack of consistent training these past two years, but even in the first year that I persisted with a three day a week strength-training plan (alternating free weights with the machine to keep challenging my muscles), my strength did not increase.

So I’m curious… what is your strength-training plan? How do you make it dynamic and goal-oriented? What resources are good for folks who want to increase muscle strength to assist in their endurance and speed in running and triathlons?

3 responses to “Why my strength-training routine sucks

  1. If you’re running you need to strength train… you need to build strong quads and calves so they can recover… abs help you lift your legs on your run… weight training should be aligned to your race training… you don’t need only one or the other you need both whenever your training for an event…

  2. My strength training consists of Bodypump classes. I guess they are not goal-oriented, but I enjoy them. My goal is to do every rep of every track at my current weights, and then to increase my weights when I am not near total muscle fatigue at the end of each track. I have seen improvement in my endurance and weights since I’ve been doing the class. I used to do free weights and machines, but was lured to bodypump by a trainer, and I loved it. So I gave up other weight-training, and now bodypump four days a week.

  3. Like the commenter above, I also do a class. Mine is more of a boot camp than bodypump, but since it’s organized and regular, I always go. Otherwise I’d have the same issue as you — it’s easy to cross your runs off a training schedule when you do them, but much easier to skip the strength- and cross-training, even though you know it’s good for your running.

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