Hello, hello! It’s the weekend so that’s definitely something to be thankful for. I am grateful for the gorgeous day we’ve had today – any day where I can open my sunroof is a good one in my book! Anything fun planned for your weekend??
Coming at you today is a blog post all about weightlifting – why the weight room shouldn’t intimidate you, and how to get started today. But first, a quick workout sure to make your shoulders burn!
I kicked off one of my gym sessions last weekend with this shoulder circuit workout. With only 5 exercises, this workout is easy to follow and keeps things simple! I like that this workout repeats the same exercises several times, so you can challenge yourself as you move through, increasing the weights you’re using with each set.
After completing the above workout, I ran 6 miles (on the treadmill, yes!) I’m WAY too much of a wimp to run outside in the cold weather. I mean, honestly, I get cold on the 30 second walk from my car into the gym, so there’s about a 0% chance of a run outside happening.
So back to the topic at hand! If you’ve been following my blog for any amount of time, you probably know that running has always been my go-to workout. I began running the summer before my sophomore year in college to stay healthy (plus my mom had recently become interested obsessed with running, so I wanted to see what she loved so much about the sweat-dripping-down-your-face, gasping-for-air feeling). It didn’t take long before I realized why she loved the sport so much; a few months later and I was hooked!
Most of my workouts throughout college consisted of running. I participated in Zumba several times a week, which was still just another form of cardio. I didn’t know enough about working out to know the benefits of weightlifting. I joined a gym near my house when I was home for college breaks, only using the fitness equipment and never venturing into the weightroom. I simply held the mindset of I’m a runner, that’s what I do. Since running is great exercise and I enjoyed it, it didn’t occur to me at the time to cross-train or incorporate lifting into my workout regimen.
Fast forward a year, and at my mom’s urging, I decided to try out the ever popular Body Pump class at my local gym. Body Pump is a group fitness class that targets the major muscle groups by completing a higher number of reps with a lower amount of weight. Instead of completing 8-12 reps of an exercise, you spend an entire song on each muscle group (shoulders, biceps, etc.) Check out a previous post I shared about Body Pump for more information! It wasn’t long before I started to feel stronger when I was running, and I looked more toned in general. One of the benefits of weight lifting is that it doesn’t take long at all before you can see your progress.
I began taking Body Pump classes 3-4 times each week, in addition to running several times a week. I still loved running, but began to see the many benefits that weightlifting offers. The more I continued lifting in group classes, the more I was intrigued by lifting on my own in the main area of the gym. However, I would always think that I would look dumb if I tried to lift on my own – I didn’t know how all of the equipment worked and it all seemed a little intimidating from a distance.
So this past summer, when I saw a sign posted in my gym for a special they were offering to work with a trainer for 3 sessions at a discounted rate, I was all in. I was planning on just completing those few sessions to learn more about lifting on my own, but at the end of my 3 workouts, I wanted to keep going. (Yes, I’m sure that was the point of the discounted price … in any case, it worked!) I worked twice a week with a trainer for a couple of months, before deciding that wasn’t in my long-term budget. However, I felt like I had learned enough working with him to be much more comfortable lifting on my own.
I ventured into the weight room here and there after that, but didn’t have a consistent lifting routine since I still much preferred running for my workouts. When I did lift, I knew a few exercises to target each muscle group, but struggled with knowing how many reps of something to do, how many machines/exercises in one day, and things like that. My OCD, teacher, check everything you do in your life off, personality wanted a list of exercises to complete each time I lifted.
I began experimenting more and more with lifting, and everything I have learned so far comes down to one simple thing.
The only way to learn is through experience.
The more you lift, the more comfortable you will be. I now lift several times a week on my own and feel completely comfortable walking into the weight room and using most of the equipment. Through my trial and error experiences, I’ve learned the following tips that may be helpful to you if you are starting to lift weights on your own but aren’t sure where to begin!
There’s an App for that
I often looked up exercises online to give me ideas of exercises to do to target certain muscle groups. I’ve used the app “Nike Training Club” on occasion – download it for free in the app store!
I like this workout app because you can select your level of fitness at the beginning (—> see the upper right picture!) as well as your fitness goal. Once you choose a workout, you will be able to see all of the exercises included, as shown in the lower right-hand corner. Not sure how to complete an exercise properly? No problem! Just swipe the screen to the right, and NTC will walk you through each step of the exercise. I don’t use these workouts on a regular basis, but they are great for starting out, as well as for those days when you aren’t feeling very creative and just want a change of pace in your workouts!
Another wonderful resource I would recommend is Body Building. This website has nutrition calculators, workout programs, recipes, question forums, and more. I can waste a lot of time on here!
I especially liked BodyBuilding.com at first because of the 24902 workouts they have online. Simply search for a workout based on your fitness goal (transform your body, build muscle, lose fat, etc.) and your time frame (4 weeks, 6 weeks, 12 weeks, etc.). I downloaded the app for this as well on my phone (—> called Bodyspace), so it’s easy to check what exercise comes next during your workout. Once you choose a workout, this is a sample of what a workout would look like on your phone. If you tap the blue arrows on the side of each exercise, it will show you pictures for each step of the exercise and provide written directions too.
Watch other people
… Okay, not in a creepy way! But oftentimes if I am on the treadmill running, I will look around at others working with a trainer or using machines to get new ideas for a future workout or see how a certain machine is used. And yes, then I have a “Guess I was totally doing that wrong” moment as I watch someone working with a trainer. I just figure, now I know for next time!! This piece of advice is also a little hit-or-miss – when you watch what others are doing, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are doing it right either! But most of the time I at least get new ideas by doing this. Just try not to stare at people for too long, or it could get awkward
Work with a trainer
I highly recommend this one if you’re just starting out! Even if you can’t afford this all the time, just a few sessions at the beginning can help to kick start your lifting routine. Working with a trainer really helped me learn how different machines worked, what exercises to do, and build confidence to lift on my own.
Build up to it
(Get it, building muscle, build up to it??) I’m probably the only one that thinks that is funny, so moving on! But in all seriousness, it’s important to remember that a weight lifting routine does take time to build up to. You can’t expect yourself to walk into the weight room and start throwing 80 pound dumbbells around. I’ve learned that you should use a weight that feels relatively comfortable for the first several reps, and the last couple of reps are hard to finish. Don’t be afraid to try different things, either. I’ll grab a set of weights and start an exercise, and decide I could either lift them in my sleep or that I might knock someone out if I keep going, so I’ll trade them in for lighter or heavier weights. Sometimes I get several different weights to find what works best for me; before I know it, I have a pile of weights sitting in front of me, and everyone else at the gym is probably annoyed that I’m taking up half the weights and/or gym floor. Don’t be afraid to experiment – find what works for you! I used to lift just here and there, but now I’ve gotten more into a routine where I complete a leg day routine, shoulder day, back and bi’s day, and chest and tri’s day.
Don’t be afraid to ask
Even though I don’t work with my trainer anymore, I still ask him questions frequently – simple things, such as where a certain machine is, or if I’m doing an exercise the right way. Sometimes I ask so many questions, I say I’ll have to start paying him again!! But seriously, asking questions will only help you get better. Since I’ve started weight lifting on my own, I’ve been taking in as much information as possible from trainers, fitness instructors at my gym, articles online, and workout programs. Never be embarrassed for not knowing how to do something – we all start somewhere!
Lifting increases your overall strength, lowers your body fat percentage, increases your metabolism, and gives you more energy on a day-to-day basis. If you’re interested in reading more about the benefits weight lifting offers, check out the following articles:
- Do you lift regularly? Do you follow a specific routine or do your own thing?
- Favorite form of exercise?