Choose Your Own Adventure – Creating Your Own Weight and Strength Routine

Does anyone else remember those books? My favorite were the Goosebumps Choose Your Own Adventure. This one will be with a fitness twist, but we’ll get to that in a short bit.

So I was reading about this Schwarzenegger 5k challenge; the guise is to test a person’s speed AND strength. The participants are first asked to bench-press a certain percentage of their bodyweight until failure, wait 30 minutes and then go race a 5k. The 5k time is then adjusted depending on how many rep’s of the bench press the person did.
strong girl
I don’t think I’ll even attempt the title, as I’m sure I’d have to bench press more than the bar, so I don’t think I’d make all that many. BUT, it brings up a very important point: Runners DO need strength.

Over the years I’ve come to embrace…errr, tolerate the weights and core work. I just find it more boring than running but I know how good it is for me:

* Build your strength = faster times. The stronger your legs are the more power you’ll be able to generate with each push-off…think more speed. The more strength your arms have will further increase your stride speed because your legs will only go so fast as your arms can pump. Stronger core will mean you can retain more efficient form as you tire (stay upright) which will translate into a faster clock time.

* More strength = more miles.
You got it, the stronger you are muscularly the more miles your body can handle…at least handle safely and efficiently…again we get back to form.

* Better form and a stronger body = less injuries. Yup, you heard it here folks, core and weight work will lessen your chances of getting injured.

* More muscle mass = leaner you. You might weight the same, or even put on some pounds, but your body fat will go down and that means you’ll be rocking more muscle mass. Muscle burns more calories per pound than fat, so if you’re into that you’ll be increasing your metabolism throughout the entire day.

Now, the thing with weights and core work for runners is it’s more about higher repetitions and lower weights…we’re going for the leaner muscle tissue. Aim to work at least each major muscle group once per weight session (2-3 times a week on non-sequential days) and do it continuously. Move from exercise to exercise without resting; this will not only make it go by faster but keep your heart rate elevated.

Here’s where we make it ‘fun’, below I’ll list a category and then different exercises. Pick one exercise from each group, cycle through all the groups and you can then ‘choose your own routine’; though for each day that you pick a certain exercise from the group stick with the SAME one for all the sets. Though for the different days you can create plenty of diverse routines. Do 15 repetitions of each one and work your way up to three sets.

Group A:

  • Walking lunges (15 each leg)
  • Forward lunge – step forward into lunge than back to center (15 each leg)
  • Prisoner Squats – squat in place
dumbbell press

Dumbbell Press

Group B

  • Push-up
  • Raised leg push-up (put your legs on a chair or step so they are at an incline, these are harder)
  • Dumbbell press – lay back on bench, dumbbell in each hand, arms straight up. Lower arms until they are at an 90n degree angle and then raise back up

Group C

  • Bicep curl – use two weights, one in each hand
  • Bicep curls – using a long weighted bar
  • Running arms – weight in each hand do a controlled motion as you use them in running

Group D

  • Bench dips – facing away from a chair, put your hands on the edge and legs extended in front of you. Start with arms straight, lower down until your bum is near the ground and arms bent at 90 degrees, then raise back up
  • Tricep kick backs – weights in each hand, bend forward at the hips and keep your arms even with your torso so that they are bent at 90 degrees. Weights in hand, extend at the elbows and lift until your arms are straight, then lower back down
  • Behind the Head Reach – lie facing up on a bench with a bar weight in your hands, bent at the elbows. Start with the bar hovering above your chest then lower it behind your head, over the edge of the bench until your shoulders are even with your ears and then lift back up to starting position.
overhead reach

Overhead Reach

Group E

  • Overhead reach – weight in each hand sit or stand with your torso straight and extend your arms straight above your head. Lower arms down until arms are at 90 degree then back up.
  • Side flies – weight in each hand, sit or stand with torso erect. Bend arms at 90 degree and place the weights together in front of your chest; keeping arms bent raise them laterally until they are even with your shoulders then back down
  • Front flies – weight in each hand, stand straight up, arms down at sides. Keep arms straight and raise weights up in front of you until arms are even with your shoulders and then back down.

Lat Pull-down
Group F

  • Bent over Row – position yourself facing down toward a bend, rest your left hand and left knee on the bench, keep your torso straight from bum to head. Drop your right arm down so it is dangling over the side of the bench and with a weight in hand. Lift your upper arm straight up until bent at 90 degree and even with your torso then back down. Repeat on other side.
  • Lat pull-downs – face one of the lat pull-down machines and pull-down
  • Total body flies – stand straight up holding a weight in each hand; crouch forward into a 3/4 squat and bring the weights together between your legs. As you stand back up cycle your arms up over your head until the dumbbells are touching and your arms are straight. Lower back down into squat and repeat.

Whew…hope all of that made sense to you. The thing with weights is that it is also smart to mix-it up so that your muscles don’t adapt and stop reacting to the stimuli. Of course you don’t have to change it every single time, but so long as you hit each muscle group you will be getting the benefits and while it may be more boring than running…it will help your running. :)

PS- this was more upper-body focused and meant to be done if you’ve already done some cardio/running. I’ll do another post centered on more leg exercises but you can also do plyometrics to target your legs.

1) Do you do weight work? Do you like it?

2) Would you do that Schwarzenegger challenge?

3) What’s your favorite kind of core or strength work?
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17 thoughts on “Choose Your Own Adventure – Creating Your Own Weight and Strength Routine

  1. girl how did you know that i have been totally getting bored in my weight routine lately!?! this had the MOST perfect timing for me. I am about to head to the gym now to get my strength on :) I actually really enjoy weights…I just feel like it always is the thing that gets ignored when I am running late…would much rather get my cardio in. but since i am not technically training for anything right now…it has been awesome to make time for both and especially to actually lift legs again without worrying it will keep me out from my LR :)

    • heck to the YEA!!!! look who’s back and posting…watch out wordpress we foiled u!! :) seriously though, i’m so happy we solved that comment black hole mystery?!?!

      and i’m happy the timing of this post was perfect, i hope some of the suggestions helped. :)

  2. The last month I have been on fire with weights (ok, “on fire” for me means 30 minutes 2-3 times a week) but I fear that once I’m back to running I’ll forget all about it.
    I usually pretty good about upper body and core, but I end up neglecting my legs because I think – Hey, I’ve already been running! Gotta stop that.

  3. I love weight training, but find it difficult (timewise) to squeeze in both that and running. Plus, 97% of my running is done outside the gym. That being said, starting in Januray, I am doing a 30 day Jillian shred. So I’ll be weight training four times a week . I love the routine you created!!
    Favorite core is plank/body stability.

  4. love this and love love love strength training. i know that most runners hate it, but call me the exception i suppose. i like to do a lot of dynamic circuits because that is the only type of strength training that gets my heart rate going. in the middle of writing a strength training post because it seems like a lot of runners need a little push in the right direction.

    great info here!

    • hahaha…hmmmm, ya, i think u’re def an anomaly with loving the weights, i WISH i was more like u! :) i can’t wait to read ur strength training post!

  5. I REALLY am looking forward to doing more strength training in the upcoming year…

    I lifted weights LITERALLY ONCE during my life and it was two weeks ago (one week before my marathon) and I loved it and I can really see how it’ll make a HUGE difference one day. The next day I felt like I had gone on a long run, it was a wonderfully worked feeling.

    And PS your comments on my marathon stuff made my day, you are SO sweet!

    • awww, thanks, i’m glad my comments put a smile on ur face…it’s all true!! keep it up and when u do hit that weight room u’ll def see the benefits! :)

  6. I recently started adding more strength into my workouts and I love how it make me feels. Sure, I will never be Arnie, or one of those crazily muscular women but at least I can feel like I can bench press more than a cupcake :)

  7. Ahh thanks so much for the workout!! I do try to incorporate some weights or at least body-resistance work into my training , but I always feel like I’m doing really random stuff that may or may not be building the right muscles to help my running form lol! I usually focus on core, but I really need to find and stick with a program that’ll improve my whole-body strength!

    • hope the suggestions helped, let me know if u try anything and keep me posted on how ripped u get…hehe. :) u’ll be surprised how just some added strength will improve ur running.

  8. Pingback: The Hunger Games Get a Running Twist: Workouts that Awaken the Hungry Beast |

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