One of my first exposures to regular exercise was watching my dad lift weights about six times a week at home when I was little. Sometimes I would grab the two or three pound weights and join in too. I didn't really get the purpose of what we were doing, but I thought it was pretty fun.
Flashing forward to college, I started taking group fitness classes to try to be more active. I tried some step classes that totally kicked my butt, and I really liked the instructor. She also taught some weight lifting classes, and I gave them a shot one summer. The classes, while open to everyone, ended up being only women and were really non-intimidating. It was a great introduction to weight lifting, especially for learning proper form for a lot of staple exercises.
Eventually, I felt like I would need heavier weights if I wanted to improve. (The dumbbells provided only went up to 15 pounds.) I also started getting a little turned off that our instructor always preached about how we shouldn't lift heavy because we would "bulk up like the guys in the weight room across the hall." I wasn't very educated about lifting at that point, but that seemed like fear-mongering to me.
However, I had no idea what I would do in the unstructured weight room. I really like having a specific training plan for running, so I tried to find something similar for lifting. After doing some research, I came across the New Rules of Lifting for Women book. Luckily, it was in stock at the local bookstore, so I was able to peruse it pretty thoroughly before committing to buying it. The book was laid out with exactly what exercises to do and exactly how to do them. I was sold!
The plan is broken into eight stages, though one of those is optional. I will admit I've tried following the plan before, and even made it to stage three once, but I've never gone any further. I think my downfall was not striking a balance between running and lifting, as well as not really holding myself accountable. I have also been following it recently, but there have been large breaks, what with three spring marathons, plus my move. (I also find slightly different machines for the same exercise cause me to use vastly different amounts of weight, which makes it hard to track my progress!)
I've done a lot of thinking about my training recently, and I believe I've set myself up for success (aka not getting burned out), by limiting lifting to twice a week. (NROLFW strongly recommends lifting three times a week, but does admit two is fine.) While another move is in our future (hopefully sooner rather than later!), I plan to stick with the same gym. The only remaining problem then is holding myself accountable. If only I had some public mechanism to do that....
Starting today I am committing to completing the NROLFW plan. I will still allow myself breaks when I'm tapering and recovering from races, but otherwise I will stay consistent with two sessions a week. I have been trying to finish up Stage One recently, but I'm going to begin again today. (I figure this will only benefit me in terms of strength.) I also plan to be more faithful than I have been in the past - including the recommended warm-up, for example.
Stage One consists of 16 workouts (plus two optional ones at the end, that I might just skip because of how it falls in relation to Missoula), so it will actually be quite a bit of time before I check back in on my progress. Wish me luck!
Do you have a specific weight-lifting routine?
Have you ever tried NROLFW?