Strength Training- What It Is and Why You Should Be Doing It


The first time I added strength training into my fitness routine was 5 months after the birth of baby #2.  I had a 3 yr old and a 5 month old, I was chunky, and TIRED. I hated the way I looked and I was determined to do something about it.  I joined a gym, shelled out some mega bucks for a personal trainer, and proceeded to soak in as much as I could about strength training, lifting weights and becoming stronger from the inside out.

I became a gym rat.  I was lifting weights or doing some type of strength training 2-3 times a week and cardio 3 times a week.


Then I got pregnant, broke my toe, had another baby, gained a bunch of weight, broke my other toe, took much longer to get back on the weight loss bandwagon, approached 40 yrs old,  watched my metabolism slow way down and eventually took up running.  While running has been awesome and wonderful for my physical ability and my mental fortitude, it was only when I added strength training back into the fitness mix that the MAGIC HAPPENED.

What is strength training?

Strength Training: the use of weight resistance to tear, repair, and build muscles over time.

Different types of strength training include :

  • Resistance training
  • Free weights- Lifting weights using a barbell or dumbells
  • Body weight exercises- squats, lunges, push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, plank, crunches
  • Weight machines- using the machines at the gym to lift weights
  • Taking a lifting class at the gym like Body Pump.  If taking a group fitness class, read the description of the class beforehand, choosing classes that say things like *strength training* or *resistance training*, build strength, or get strong!  Other classes that improve your strength are pilates (improves flexibility too!), circuit training, plyometrics, core work, boot camp and more.

What are the benefits of strength training?

  1. Maintain or lose weight. Strength training improves your metabolism and your body’s ability to burn fat.  Muscle burns more calories/fat, even in a resting state.
  2. Increase bone strength for aging women.  As you age, muscles mass naturaly decreases.  That means if you don’t use it, then you lose it.  According to this article  from the Mayo Clinic, “If you don’t do anything to replace the lean muscle you lose, you’ll increase the percentage of fat in your body,” says Edward R. Laskowski, M.D., a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., and co-director of the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center. “But strength training can help you preserve and enhance your muscle mass — at any age.”
  3. Prevent injury.  Strong muscles, less injury.  Weak muscles- more prone to injury.  Plain and simple.  Once I figured this out and started to strengthen my muscles, all major running injuries went away (for me).  Sure, I still get sore and aches here and there, but that is a FAR CRY from being injured and UNABLE to run at all.
  4. Improve sports performance.  It doesn’t matter what sport or activity you want to improve, having a stronger body will help your overall performance.  Strength training builds endurance and strength for other fitness activities, like running, biking, etc.
  5. To look and feel good.  Need I say more?

How do I get started?

  • Pick your class and GO.
  • If you have the budget, then invest in a personal trainer to get one on one attention and all your questions answered.  Learn the correct way to do these exercises.
  • Find a video to workout at home. P90X, Chalene Extreme, Beach Body, Jillian Michaels, and more.  There are tons of DVD’s to choose from.
  • Youtube.  Use the search engine on youtube and find workouts that way.

You don’t have to do ALL of these but you do need to pick 1 (or two or three), commit to the workout and then JUST DO IT.  A few times a week, with a rest day in between workouts.  Week after week after week.

I don’t belong to a gym- can I do this at home?

YES.  See above.

Some of my favorite at home workouts include:

  1. Our very own Shrinking Jeans Boot Camp, guaranteed to get you all nice and sweaty and your muscles burning.
  2. Nerd Fitness.  I have done the Beginner Body Weight Routine and Advanced Body Weight Routine and like it very much.
  3. 20 Minute Circuit Workout.  I am loving this workout right now!  I add in a 0.5 mile run warm-up and 0.5 mile run cool-down for awesome calorie burn!  With the extra runs plus stretching, you are looking at a 35-40 minute workout.
  4. Full Body Circuit Workout. I haven’t tried this one yet but I have my eye on it!
  5. Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred DVD. This was one of the FIRST strength/cardio workouts that I ever did (after baby #3).  It is awesome and HARD at the same time.  20 minutes flies by and at any given point, I thought I might die (but I didn’t and you won’t either!).
  6. Run Like a Mother.  One of my favorite strength workouts for runners is in this book.  It combines normal body weight/machine exercises with sprints- ouch but also…awesome!

Talk to me.  Do you strength train?  What is your favorite workout?  If you don’t strength train currently, do you want to?  Do you have any questions?

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I’m a runner, on my way to becoming a marathoner. I am 42 years old and have found a peaceful acceptance of my body. Through running, I have discovered who I am, besides a mom to three kids and a wife to one. I truly enjoy sharing my love of fitness with others while empowering and motivating women to conquer their fear of the unknown. In my spare time, I manage the Run with the Sisterhood Facebook page, work here and there for Zooma Women’s Race Series, and work part-time at our local YMCA.