What the hell I do in the weight room for an hour

Last week when posted my workout log, commenter Jess asked about my strength training routine.

Let’s all go ahead and thank her for providing some blog fodder. Otherwise I probably would have subjected you guys to a post about the fruit fly problem* in my kitchen.

And for what it’s worth, I didn’t take her question as judgey. I did take it as implying that my workouts might not be as efficient as they could be, which is a totally fair point. So let’s talk about that.

As I’ve mentioned, strength training is not my favorite activity. But during my “summer vacation” from running, I’m trying to get stronger, and lifting weights is a good way to do that.

Typically, when I head to to weight room, I first decide whether I’m doing upper body or lower body. Then, I make myself do ten exercises, which I select as I go.

For example, that week’s upper body workout was: (1) Bench press, 75#, 3X10; (2) Lat pull down, 70#, 3X10; (3) Low row, 65#, 3X10; (4) Assisted dip, 80# assist, 3X8; (5) Assisted pull-up, 80# assist, 3X10; (6) Back extension w/ 25# plate, 2X15; (7) Bicep curls, 15# dumbbells, 3X12; (8) Overhead shoulder press, 15# dumbbells, 3X10; (9) Overhead tricep press, 20# dumbbell, 3X10; (10) Push up ladder, 10 down to 1.

Sometimes I’ll add core work in, too.

A few things to note:

– In spite of the fact that I dislike lifting, I know my way around a weight room pretty well. A few years ago, I worked with a trainer pretty extensively and learned a lot about proper form and such. I go for free weights instead of machines whenever I can.

– As I mentioned in my response to the comment on the other post, an hour of lifting doesn’t seem like that much to me. Ten exercises, five minutes on each, plus a few minutes of transition time or whatever.

– I try to lift relatively heavy. Generally, I shoot for barely being able to complete the tenth rep. If I can do 12+ reps, I go up in weight. If I can’t get through 6-8, I lighten it up. (Sometimes, there are exceptions: for instance, I’d like to go up in weight for back extensions, but the the weight of the plates jumps from 25# to 45#. So I just increase the reps and call it good.)

– My trainer used to say that if I didn’t doubt that I could finish the set, I wasn’t lifting heavy enough. I think that’s a pretty good guiding principle.

– I try to focus on more on the big muscles, less on the “beach muscles.”

– Because I’m lifting pretty hard (to failure/exhaustion), I take quite a bit of recovery between sets. (Maybe too much, and maybe that’s why I can’t get in and out of the gym in under an hour.)

– I dawdle quite a bit. My gym happens to have excellent people watching. But that’s a post for another day.

– This approach to strength training is definitely different from what I’d do if I were in training for a marathon. Lifting heavy makes me sore and exhausted.

– Although, interestingly, it doesn’t seem to have affected my running pace as much as I thought it would. Last time I went through a lifting-heavy phase, I eventually stopped because I was annoyed at how slow it made me. This time around, I’m still able to run decent workouts. At least so far.

– But it does make my body tweaky and cranky. I blame squats for my achy hip. And I blame my achy hip for my DNF at Saturday’s 5K.**

– Then, because I didn’t want to aggravate it by running, I went to the gym on Sunday. And lifted weights. Maybe I don’t hate strength training as much as I thought I did.

SO. That’s what I’m doing in the weight room for an hour.

I’m not sure that this was any more interesting than a diatribe on kitchen pests. But that’s what y’all get for asking questions.

And seriously: I’m sure a lot of you are better weight-lifters than I am, with your NROLFLOLs and WODDDDs and such. If there’s something I’m doing stupidly wrong here (i.e. taking a six-minute “water fountain” break***), I’d be happy to discuss it.


**Yep, I DNF’d a freaking 5K. I suck. But my hip was hurting and I wasn’t exactly on PR pace. I don’t want to talk about it.

***Which is really just an excuse to eavesdrop on the two guys who are having a very serious conversation about whether they are more Charlotte or Samantha or Carrie or Miranda.

21 responses to “What the hell I do in the weight room for an hour

  1. I just conquered the fruit flies in my kitchen by setting out a shallow dish filled with red wine. They flew in, got drunk, and got stuck.

    I inadvertently discovered this trick when I left my wine glass out for a 15 minutes and came back to a small swarm of flies in my drink.

  2. We got rid of fruit flies by leaving a glass with apple cider vinegar out and covering the top with plastic wrap poked with little holes for them to fly in but they couldn’t figure out how to get back out.

  3. Follow-up post detailing the result of the Charlotte/Samantha/Carrie/Miranda diagnosis, please!

    Sorry to hear about your achy hip. Happy to hear I’m not the only one who thinks six minutes is the appropriate amount of time for a water break.

    • So the gist of the condo seemed to be that one guy really thought he was a Charlotte, and the other guy disagreed. These were big, buff guys, which is what made it so entertaining. I love my gym.

  4. I’m always amazed at how LONG strength training takes me. I don’t know if I just lift physically slower than other people, but even when I was working with a trainer, I didn’t get through more than about 6 exercises (plus core at the end) in our 50 minutes. The idea of being in the weight room for an hour psychologically freaks me out, but I think I need to respect it and block out that time, because every time I’m like, “oh, I’m at the gym anyway, I’ll just lift real quick” I end up getting home at 9 p.m. all hangry.

    +1 on the fruit fly solution: wine/vinegar/both in a dish, plastic wrap, poke some holes with a fork, DIE LITTLE JERKS.

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one! And I think I actually DO lift rather slowly, in a literal sense. I was always taught that you were supposed to move with slow and controlled movements in order to maximize the benefit of strength training. This is one of my primary beefs with crossfit-type workouts that emphasize speed.

      Anyway. Tangent. Sorry.

  5. I have no strength training knowledge (seriously I just do what the TRX instructor ordereds) but I do know that I tried every homemade remedy for fruit flies in the book and none of them worked. The only thing that worked was this stick from home depot that you place near the fruit flies and in like, 24 hours they were gone. It’s magic. (I’m sure it’s heavy duty chemicals but whatever.) anyway, just thought I’d let you know in case you also exhaust yourself with homemade remedies! (I found it in the pest control section)

  6. Fruit flies – get a cup & fill it about 1/4 with water. Secure saran wrap over it with a rubber band & poke holes in the top. It catches those little fuckes.

    I’m a mid-speed lifter. Your 10 exercises would take me about 35-40 minutes.

  7. Fruit fly trap – the most effective I’ve used is apple cider or red wine vinegar with a drop of dish soap in it. The dish soap makes it so their tiny pathetic bodies can’t break the surface tension to get out. Suckers. Put it near your sink/fruit fly hotspot. Good luck!

  8. I spend about 45-60 minutes during a weight lifting session. I think that’s a decent amount of time. I do several things during my strength training sessions. First, I usually start with the body weight stuff-squats, lunges with dumbells, kettlebell stuff. Then I move on to the machines and usually switch off what I do. Before I know it, it’s been nearly an hour.

  9. Fruit flies suck. Besides the vinegar/dish soap combo, I’ve tried leaving jalapenos out in the water and that seems to work pretty well. You are going to be so ripped after all this strength training!

  10. As a personal trainer for the past few years I have a few quick tops-the style of lifting you are doing is lifting to increase muscle mass not lose weight. Heavy lifting like that is going to make you gain muscle but not necessarily lose fat hence why your weight and body fat % havent decreased that much. Sitting around resting between sets is not going to help you burn a ton of calories and while you are burning more throughout the day now by adding muscle mass its not a significant amount to lose weight too. You should be doing circuit style lifting of 12-15 reps if you want to achieve the goals youve talked about

    • Hm, interesting! I guess I want to do both…increase strength and lose fat. Good point on the circuit-style lifting. That’s tough to do for some stuff because I can’t hog multiple benches/areas at my crowded gym, but I could definitely do better about using my rest time to work a different muscle somehow instead of sitting on my duff. Thanks for the feedback! :)

  11. OMG I inspired a blog post. Does this mean I’ve made it in life? 😀

    I found the post to be very interesting. The reason why mine probably doesn’t take as long is because I usually only do 2 sets, and I super set most of them, so no rest time.

  12. I usually take about a half hour during lifting sessions, but I do more of a circuit style. I think it just depends on the type of routine you’re doing. Good luck with the fruit flies. Yuck.

  13. Oh I like that rule about doubting to finish the set. I feel like I’ve hit a standstill with lifting so I just increased it to 4 sets of 12, but, I think I need to up the weights, too.

    It takes me 30-35 minutes first thing in the morning. I’m much more focused and there’s less people to compete with for machines. I’ve found if I go during a peak hour, it takes me longer – partially the crowd, but mostly because like you, I get lost in people watching. But I mean, when there’s a full fledged cowboy working out next to a full fledged golfer, what the hell else can you do?

  14. I really need to start adopting the concept “If you can finish a set you aren’t lifting hard enough”. My last few reps are usually tough and I feel the burn, but I have a hard time getting sore (which, to me, is a direct indicator I’ve worked hard).

    I have a constantly achy hip as well. I have to do a lot of ankle weights and stretching but I can REALLY tell a difference when I do run.

  15. We have a fruit fly problem right now. (I leave for ONE NIGHT and my husband leaves something out and the bastards show up). I’ve been chasing them around the house with the shop vac trying to suck them up.

    One suggestion for weight training is to add more complex movements that are working more than one muscle/joint at a time. Squat/push press for example.

    • Those sound like they would require a certain level of coordination. :) But I will try them! Thanks!

  16. If you’re interested in a routine targeted for runners, check out Matt Fitgerald’s new Quick Start Guide which is based on his popular Racing Weight book. It has a very detailed workout schedule (mostly plyos). I had tight achilles for 2 months which vanished a couple of weeks after starting this program.

    I found the most useful exercises to be walking lunges, one legged squats, and glute hamstring raises. I’ve never done a glute hamstring raise before and was totally shocked at how sore I was the next day from them. Only problem is you have to have a partner or find some special equipment. Here’s a great video. Notice the guy’s face as he goes up… I can totally relate. http://strength-basics.blogspot.com/2009/08/glute-ham-raise.html

    • OMG! Those are one of my favorite exercises EVER. My trainer used to make me do them (he’d hold my heels down) and I totally agree…I can’t believe how effective they were at making me sore. We used to call them Hamstring Push Ups. I didn’t realize you could do them on a machine. I must investigate this.