Okay, the title may be a bit over-dramatic. It isn’t like I never do strength work. In the summer I fit in at least a light weight workout whenever I can. Over the winter I usually also attend Les Mills Body Pump as often as possible. Don’t look down your nose and think those designer strength classes are easy or reserved for yoga-pant clad women either. Go do an hour of body pump and you’ll know it the next day. I don’t care who you are. All that aside, I have come to the conclusion that to enjoy an active lifestyle, I must be more proactive about strength training and flexibility. It was time to add more weight workouts.
So where does one look for weight lifting advice as an endurance athlete? I certainly did not want to join the self-proclaimed “meat heads” who do nothing but lift, train, and flex but wanted weight routines that will both help with my chronic, scoliosis-induced back problems and lend themselves well to becoming a better, faster, older triathlete. I decided to refer to the all-knowing one and logged in to Google. A few keystrokes later and I found myself reading a strength program for triathletes designed by Mark Allen. Hmmmm. That seemed like a good place to start. He knows a thing or two about triathlon.
As I read through, I knew some of the exercises but otherwise thank goodness for Youtube. Like most gym-goers, it is a little intimidating doing new stuff that you may or may not know how to do. Nobody wants to be standing on the gym floor staring at a bench or machine trying to figure out exactly where you are supposed to put your feet or hands.
Well-armed with workout notes I set out for the gym early one morning before work. My planned workout was about 50/50 machines and free weights. I sort of knew where everything was but I had established my last weight routine with a trainer at my old gym and hadn’t really spent time examining the different apparatus at the new gym other than the things I regularly used. I was mildly alarmed to find my chosen morning to be an especially busy day at they gym. Oh well, let’s get going.
I began with Power Leg Extensions, using trial and error to set the machine. I’d done these before. After a bit of testing I seemed to find a good starting weight and noted it on my paper. I really need to start wearing my glasses at the gym. It either says 70, or “don’t forget to get milk on the way home”.
I then moved on to leg curls and other apparatus using similar trial and error to find the right settings or weight. Finally it was time for the bench press. I’ve always found the bench press particularly intimidating. It seems to be one of the more macho of the weight apparatus. When testosterone-laden men get together, there is usually some discussion about how much can be bench pressed with everything discussed from 100 lbs. to the Queen Mary. I walked past the bench a few times pretending to be heading purposefully to the other side of the gym while looking sideways at the bench trying to figure out how much weight to put on to start. 300 lbs? 200? Will I get kicked out of the gym if I can’t bench press enough? Maybe just the bar. It looks heavy. I wonder if they have a lighter bar or maybe an unused broom stick? I then examined the available plates. I wracked my brain trying to remember how much weight I might have used on the bench press before and realized I’m not sure I ever actually had bench pressed before. I wonder if they knew that when I submitted my gym application? I picked up a 50 lb. plate and hefted it. Wow. Two of these and the bar would be pretty heavy.
Out of the corner of my eye I caught the motion of a blonde pony tail attached to a very fit (and attractive) young woman. She was a gym regular who does a pretty vigorous morning workout just like most of the other early birds. I suddenly had this image of her having to help me get the weighted bar off my chest and perhaps calling 9-1-1 due to cracked ribs and a collapsed lung. I decided nobody ever got pinned to the bench using too little weight, returned the 50 lb plates and put two 25s on the bar. Be smart, start light.
Ultimately, the bench press was completed without embarrassment and I learned I would be comfortable using a bit more weight in the future. Having figured out the bench press I completed my weight workout with confidence. While it felt good and will be one of several weight routines I mix in, I have to admit no matter how hard I work at it, weights just don’t give me the endorphine high that running, cycling, or swimming provide. Still, it is necessary for strong bones and muscles and I can certainly tell the next day that I had a great workout.
Now, about that flexibility. Onward to Yoga. Stay tuned.