Run [A Little], Lift [A Lot]

I’ve talked a lot about my diet [see here, here, and here], but I’ve been a little gun-shy about sharing what I do in the gym*. Sometimes I’m actually genuinely startled by my reflection when I see myself doing a chin up or re-racking dumbbells I can hardly carry.

Although it’s been 10 months since I switched my focus from marathon running to strength training, I’m still so much more accustomed to watching my shadow bop along beside me on the pavement. That swinging ponytail looks like it belongs to me; that contorted face in the mirror does not.

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I suppose this post is also so late in coming because I couldn’t think of an acceptable title. The word “routine” was my perpetual stumbling block, since in many ways the way I exercise now is specifically designed to avoid any signs of becoming routine-like.

My trainer and petit ami has perfected his uncanny ability to keep me in a constant state of agony [from across the Atlantic, no less]. The cycles he plans for me last anywhere from 2.5 weeks to 8 weeks – always with a 3-4 day recovery period in between. As a general rule, I workout 6 days a week [for between 30 to 60 minutes, in order to keep my body’s cortisol output under control] and I rest completely on Sundays. Running is no longer about jogging for hours to hit a weekly mileage PR; it’s about either doing nothing beyond flat-out recovering on an easy run or maximizing fat loss with HIIT.

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Beyond that, there aren’t many constants. In July and August, I was still running 3 or 4 times a week [with two days of speed work – either hill sprints, hill repeats, or tempo runs] in addition to strength training. But just a few weeks ago, I was in a phase where I was doing hardly any cardio at all [while continuing to lose body fat].

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In the gym, sometimes I lift heavy [4-5 sets of 5-6 reps per exercise] and take lots of time to rest in between [up to 3 minutes]…and sometimes I take more of a circuit-style approach [2-3 sets of 10-12 reps per exercise] with very little chance to recover [only about 45 seconds]. My favorite cycle so far has involved a combination of the two [heavier weights to begin, then less weight and higher reps for a good burn to finish].

Before I committed to prioritizing lifting over running, I did just one upper body and one lower body lift a week. Then I switched to total-body workouts 3 times a week…before a particularly painful period in which my boyfriend had me doing the 3 main lifts [bench press, squat, and deadlift] at the beginning of every workout, just to start. These workouts were no worse than my cycle’s worth of Saturday morning lower body circuits, which left me unable to comfortably sit or stand for 48-hour stretches at a time. Relatively recently, my upper body workouts have been divided into pushing and pulling sessions, where “push” refers to chest, shoulders, & triceps exercises and “pull” refers to back and biceps exercises.

So what am I doing right now? Every week for the next 8 weeks will look like this:

  • Monday: Legs
  • Tuesday: Push [chest, shoulders, & triceps]
  • Wednesday: Pull [back & biceps]
  • Thursday: Easy run
  • Friday: Speed work [intervals or tempo run]
  • Saturday: Upper body circuit
  • Sunday: Off

Friday’s speed work can be done outside, on the treadmill, or on the stair climber. It’s nice to have some variety. Saturday’s upper body circuit is an excruciating combination of pushing & pulling, with a few exercises I’m still pretty unfamiliar with.

Here’s where it gets a little tricky [and why lifting never gets boring]. I have a workout ‘A’ and ‘B’ for legs, push, pull, and upper body.

On weeks 1, 3, 5, and 7, I follow the plan for Legs A, Push A, Pull A, and Upper Body A…and on weeks 2, 4, 6, and 8, I follow the plan for Legs B, Pull B, Push B, and Upper Body B.

This is where I thank my lucky stars that I have somebody sweet to do almost all of the planning and to help me reach my goals [to lose fat and build muscle]. Are you still with me? I know this is a lot. I wouldn’t blame you if you took a break for some trail mix…and if there were absolutely no hikes in your immediate future.

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To wrap up, here’s what my workouts actually look like:

Legs A:

Squats, 3×6, 1min+ [rest between sets]

Front squats, 2×8, 1 min

Deadlifts, 3×6, 1 min+

Dumbbell lunges, 2×8 [per leg], 1 min

Leg extension, 2×10, 45 sec

Leg curl, 2×10, 45 sec

Split squats, 2×10, 45 sec

Standing calves, 2×10, 45 sec

Soleus, 2×10, 45 sec

Push A:

Bench press, 3×6, 1 min+

Dumbbell inclined press, 3×8, 1 min

Dumbbell overhead press, 3×8, 1 min

Machine overhead press, 3×8, 1 min

Dumbbell or cable flies, 2×10, 45 sec

Lateral raises, 2×10, 45 sec

Dips, 3×8, 1 min

Skull crushers, 2×10, 45 sec

Dumbbell overhead extension, 2×10, 45 sec

Pull A:

Chin-ups, 2xfailure then 2×6 assisted, 1 min+

Pull-ups, 2xfailure then 2×8 assisted, 1 min+

T-bar row, 3×6, 1 min

Cable row, 3×8, 1 min

1-arm dumbbell row, 2×10, 45 sec

1-arm lateral pull-down, 2×10, 45 sec

High inverted row, 2×10, 45 sec

Barbell curl, 3×8, 1 min

Dumbbell concentration curl, 3×10, 45 sec

Upper Body A:

Dumbbell flat press, 2×12, 45 sec

Inclined dumbbell press, 2×12, 45 sec

Dumbbell shoulder press, 2×12, 45 sec

Cable row, 2×12, 45 sec

T-bar row, 2×12, 45 sec

Lateral pull-down, 2×12, 45 sec

Machine chest press, 2×12, 45 sec

High inverted row, 2×12, 45 sec

Cable bar extension, 2×12, 45 sec

Cable bar curl, 2×12, 45 sec

Cable rope extension, 2×12, 45 sec

Cable rope curl, 2×12, 45 sec

Legs B:

Deadlifts, 3×6, 1 min+

Front squats, 2×8, 1 min

Squats, 3×6, 1 min+

Dumbbell lunges, 2×8 [per leg], 1 min

Leg curl, 2×10, 45 sec

Leg extension, 2×10, 45 sec

Split squats, 2×10, 45 sec

Soleus, 2×10, 45 sec

Standing calves, 2×10, 45 sec

Push B:

Dumbbell overhead press, 3×6, 1 min+

Machine overhead press, 3×8, 1 min

Dumbbell inclined press, 3×6, 1 min+

Bench press, 3×8, 1 min

Lateral raises, 2×10, 45 sec

Dumbbell or cable flies, 2×10, 45 sec,

Dips, 3×8, 1 min

Skill crushers, 2×10, 45 sec

Dumbbell overhead extension, 2×10, 45 sec

Pull B:

Pull-ups, 2xfailure then 2×6 assisted, 1 min+

Chin-ups, 2xfailure then 2×8 assisted, 1 min+

T-bar row, 3×6, 1 min

Cable row, 3×8, 1 min

1-arm dumbbell row, 2×10, 45 sec

1-arm lateral pull-down, 2×10, 45 sec

High inverted row, 2×10, 45 sec

Barbell curl, 3×8, 1 min

Dumbbell concentration curl, 3×10, 45 sec

Upper Body B:  

Lateral pull-down, 2×12, 45 sec

T-bar row, 2×12, 45 sec

Cable row, 2×12, 45 sec

Dumbbell overhead press, 2×12, 45 sec

Dumbbell inclined press, 2×12, 45 sec

Dumbbell flat press, 2×12, 45 sec

Machine chest press, 2×12, 45 sec

Cable bar curl, 2×12, 45 sec

Cable bar extension, 2×12, 45 sec

Cable rope curl, 2×12, 45 sec

Cable rope extension, 2×12, 45 sec

*A certified personal trainer [who has been with me every step of the way] generously created this training program specifically for me. Although I would applaud your enthusiasm, I wouldn’t recommend adopting this plan if you’re a beginner.

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