New Rules of Lifting for Women – Stage 1

I thought I’d do a post covering how I’ve found the New Rules of Lifting for Women as I’ve just completed Stage 1.

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Just rolling back before I started this, I was still doing lots of strength work in the gym. I’d found lots of good stuff on RunnersWorld, Kinetic Revolution and other random places. At the start of the year I was focused on getting my heart rate up while also strengthening my body. I was running three times a week low mileage and needed something else to give me that sweaty heart pumping boost. The workouts I did were a combination of HIIT and strength, but ultimately leaning more towards cardio.

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That said, I did strengthen my body during this time. I came back from injury stronger and in a better mindset to get running again and training in earnest for the Liverpool marathon. I can, hand on heart, say my knees and hips (which I had problems with last year) haven’t bugged me once this year. My tight IT band grief is a distant memory as my glutes have come into action with my running and I feel strong. My only one bug bear this year is my shin/calf that occasionally likes to niggle (and haunt my dreams with thoughts of stress fractures…).

When my running increased I couldn’t maintain the same enthusiasm at the gym and found myself a bit confused as to what I should be doing. I then found out about the New Rules of Lifting for Women and it caught my interest. I bought the book, read it, agreed with so many of the concepts and points made and decided to start the training plan (not the nutritional plan though – I don’t follow diets/eating plans in books. Just not my thing).

I was surprised at how simple the plan seemed. There are several “Stages”, each lasting 4-8 weeks depending how often you train (I tend to do three sessions a week depending on what my running was doing), and each stage would have two different workouts.

The book doesn’t tell you how much to lift but it does tell you how many reps and sets and the rest in between. The number of reps was vastly different to what I was doing before. Whereas before I’d be squatting 30 times, this specified 15, decreasing as the weeks went on until eventually eight. The point being that the weight you choose should be tough for those limited reps.

Stage 1

I really enjoyed both the routines. Yes it got samey doing the same two workouts, but at 5.30am going into the gym with a no-nonsense plan I was familiar with was fabulous.

  • Workout A: Squats, press-ups, seated rows, step ups, prone jackknifes
  • Workout B: Deadlifts, dumbbell shoulder presses, wide-grip lateral pull-downs, lunges, Swiss ball crunches

I won’t go into all the weights I lifted but just to give you an idea…in January I was squatting 20kg (for around 30 reps). I can now squat 50kg for eight squats. And proper full, deep squats. That might not sound amazing to all those warrior lifters out there, but to me this is huge! And I know I can continue to increase.

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The progress I was able to make and the confidence it gave me was fantastic. I stepped away from my ‘safe area’ in the gym and moved into the ‘male section’. There would have been no way I could have lifted a barbell to my shoulders to squat if I hadn’t have used the squat rack.

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I’m also hugely pleased with the progress I’ve made to my deadlifts. Again, similar numbers to my squats.

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What I also enjoyed was that it made me work on my upper body. In my family we seem to be blessed with naturally toned arms (check out the picture of my sister in previous posts – she hasn’t worked out in years *cough* so may say ever…and yet her arms are lovely and toned) so I would always neglect my upper body as I didn’t “need” to do it. But after Cheddar Gorge marathon and the next day my arms ached it further verified that your upper body is really important in running for maintaining good form and helping you push up hills.

I still included some of my ‘essential’ running-specific moves as well – but increased the weights and decreased the reps (things like single leg squats/deadlifts, Russian twists, box jumps, etc.). Since January my single-leg squat has gone from bodyweight to 20kg!

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Results: There’s a big fear of “omg bulking up” when women lift weights. I can safely say I haven’t bulked up at all. I have more defined muscles, yes, but I’m not the hulk (or at last, I don’t think I am!). I feel stronger when I run and have a better “kick” at the end. And the proof is in the pudding: I’ve been injury-free for the entire year (TOUCH WOOD, TOUCH WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD!).

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What’s next? Stage 2! New workouts and moves to get to grips with (no pun intended). I’m keen to continue with increasing my strength on the squat and deadlift moves as well so will probably go back to them frequently. They’re perfect full body moves that compliment any type of fitness. Though looking at Stage 2 workouts the deadlift move is going to be ‘upgraded’ so that works nicely.

All in all, I’m hugely impressed with NRLW and hope to continue the stages until the end. Obviously my running is the priority so the workouts will always come second best, but the time it takes to get through the stages doesn’t bother me. It just gives me a good focus on how to further strengthen my body to be a good marathon runner.

Do you lift weights?

How do you remain injury-free for running?

Do you like to do the same thing at the gym or do you mix it up?

Training

Hopefully you can find something useful here to do with running and strength training! Please email me if you have any specific questions though (annatheappleblog@gmail.com)

Marathon Training Plans:

Injuries:

Specifics for Marathon Training:

Strength Training:

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Why I don’t regret getting injured

Firstly thank you for the lovely messages, comments and kind words after my last post. It really meant the world to me. I know I’m young and my life is ahead of me, I just needed that cathartic vent…

Anyway, onto the subject of this post. Since being injured and being unable to run I’ve been focusing a lot of my energies on going to the gym and really working hard at overall strength. Previously I had been following the New Rules of Lifting for Women which was really good but I was losing a bit of motivation for it. Doing the same two sets of workouts for weeks on end was getting boring. Don’t get me wrong, I still fully recommend that book and it’s highly likely I’ll get back into it (and it’s a great point of reference for different exercises). But after getting injured I needed a complete shake up of what I was doing and a new drive.

I actually found a great website called MuscleForLife that spoke a lot of sense to me by a guy called Mike Matthews. His website has loads of great resources and he talks a lot of sense in terms of workout splits, reps and different exercises (from what my albeit fairly limited knowledge and experience can tell anyway!).

I started breaking my workouts into body parts (sounds painful) and balancing ‘push/pull’ exercises. So for example, Monday is arms day and I’ll try and balance some bicep curls (a push exercise) with tricep pull downs (a pull exercise), amongst other things. And I’ve really been loving it.

What I’ve really come to learn is that you don’t need to go to the gym and come out sweating and gasping for air to know you’ve worked hard. Your heart rate doesn’t need to sky rocket to get a good workout in.Standing military raiseIn fact, I’ve never seen my body change as quickly as it has done with these kind of workouts than all the time I’ve ever been running. And I haven’t touched a cardio machine other than a three minute warm-up for each session. OK, OK I’ve only been doing this for a few weeks and I’m not saying I have muscles of steel or popping abs, but I can see the changes – they are tiny changes but they’re perceptible to me.

Tricep pull downAnd more importantly, I can feel the changes. When I was down in the dumps about not running and I needed to find a new focus I decided to give myself the goal of strengthening my upper body (as well as continuing to strengthen the rest of me). One of my goals was to eventually achieve a full pull-up. I haven’t achieved that yet, but what I did achieve at the gym yesterday was almost there. Technically I achieved a neutral grip pull-up… or chin-up. To be honest I’m not entirely sure which it is, but there was definitely an ‘up’ in there 😉Neutral grip pull up

It’s not a full pull-up because as my grip needs to be wider, which is ultimately so much harder because you’re using your back muscles to do most of the work, whereas what I achieved was kind of a combination of back muscles and biceps (a full chin-up uses solely biceps I believe).

I was so pleased you wouldn’t believe. I felt bad ass and like a warrior. If I fell off a cliff I can smile smugly knowing I can pull myself back up it 😉 and then run away from the zombies chasing me in this crazy scenario.

The point is, I don’t regret getting injured. It taught me a lot. Firstly it taught me not to be such an idiot about marathons and running. Three marathons in under six months is stupid for me. I’m an injury-prone runner and looking back I can see the times I was pushing myself when I should have been taking time off. Never ever underestimate the marathon distance. Even if you think “oh I’ll just pootle around really slowly and enjoy it” it’s still 26.2 bloody miles. There ain’t no pootle in that.

It also showed me that the gym isn’t just to keep me running and it isn’t necessarily a chore. It’s somewhere else I can push myself and feel like I’m achieving something amazing (for me anyway). I don’t always need PBs, a runner’s high or the fresh air to get that ‘punch in the air’ killer workout.

It’s another quiver in my bow of mistakes I’m learning from. Plus I got a huge medal soo… totally worth it 😉

Do you have any mistakes you don’t regret?

What is your favourite exercise?

What achievement are you most proud of?

Running Survey

As I can’t blog about any current running, I can do a running survey instead! This is stolen from Mary’s blog and I love the questions so thought I’d steal it…

Would you rather run along a beach path or on a mountain trail? I’d much prefer a mountain trail. This is probably because I live by the sea at the moment so I’m quite used to running along beach paths. Also I detest running against wind and it can get very windy along the coast. It just feels so demoralising to be putting in so much effort and not getting anywhere fast. You could argue that mountains are, well, hilly but at least you can get to the top and feel like superman/woman. And the views are amazing.

Cheddar Gorge marathon

 

If you could choose the flavour of Gatorade at your next race’s aid stations, what would it be? I’ve never had Gatorade. I’m really not a fan of the sugary sports drinks. I know they work for some people, especially for those who don’t want to take gels, but they make me feel a bit sick and I don’t feel they quench my thirst. I love plain water or nuun/High5 water.

If I gave you a £100 gift card to a running store, what would be the first thing that you would purchase with it? Where do I start?? I could be sensible like Mary and say trainers…but I just love fitness clothes. For running I tend to go with more sensible gear in terms of fabric, technical spec, fit and survival in different weathers.

When it comes to the gym I like to spruce things up a bit with colours and style as I have a bit more freedom as weather doesn’t matter. But back to running, I would probably buy a couple of Nike or Adidas items as they’re such good quality and last forever. Though you wouldn’t get much from the price! Ka-ching!

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Do you prefer to follow a training plan or wake up and decide then how far and how fast you want to run? I don’t follow a strict plan per se, but I do plan out the weeks in terms of what I want to achieve. It depends if I have a marathon coming up or a race of course but I will never go out on a run without knowing how far I’m going to go. But if the run goes awfully (niggles, illness, tiredness) I’ll cut it short, I’ll never force myself to finish a set of miles purely for the sake of ticking a box. Though I’m quite neurotic and like to plan ahead. I use a spreadsheet to track things. When it comes to marathons I tend to look at online plans and see where the long runs fall and then do my own thing for the other runs.

Would you rather start your run with the uphill and end on the downhill or start your run with the downhill and end with the uphill? Definitely get the uphill done and dusted first. That way I can run it when I’m fresh and then focus on the rest of the course afterwards without dreading the oncoming hill. That said, I don’t really mind as long as I know where the hill is so at least I’m mentally prepared. For Bournemouth I was well aware of two significant hills (miles 12 & 18) so IN THEORY I could have adjusted my strategy accordingly. Well, we all know how that turned out in reality.

When you can’t run, what type of cross-training do you choose to do? I like Mary’s answer of sulking. I’m getting an A* for that at the moment 😉 But, like I said in my previous post, I’m focused on building strength at the gym. I had previously been following the New Rules of Lifting For Women but I’ve put it on hold at the moment as Stage 2 requires a lot of lunges which I’m avoiding for the moment as I want to give my knee some TLC.

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Cardio-wise…*sighs* I suppose spinning and rowing. Boring and purely for the purpose of keeping fit.

What is your preference—> Out and back, point to point or loop runs? Oooh I’m just not sure. I like an out and back because you get to know the course and nothing’s a surprise in the second half of the race. I also like that you can think you’re running back to the finish. But I like loops as well (Cheddar Gorge marathon was great for this, mentally I could segment the two halves). Again, the course is no surprise in the second loop. I’m not a big fan of point to points as it feels like one big trek to the finish. Mentally I find that a lot harder. Hello, Boston 😉

If you could recommend ANY running related item to a new runner, it would be a—> BodyGlide. Chafing is a bitch. It takes two seconds to put on but days of pain if forgotten. It’s small to pack in your pre-race bag and I personally find it lasts a bit longer than good old Vaseline. That said, it’s better than nothing!

Do you ever see any wild animals while out on your runs? I love how random this question is. Not really as I tend to run around residential areas. This is such a boring answer sorry!

Ever gotten lost while out on a run? Surprisingly not as much as I probably should do considering how little of a sense of direction I have. I’ve run in quite a few places that I’ve never run before and just made the route up as I went, but most of the time when I do that I play it safe and do an out and back. It also helps doing that when I have a set distance I want to hit. I hate having to think too much about my route when running which is why, unless I’m running with others, I’ll always do the same routes.

If you could have one meal waiting and ready for you each time you got home from a run for the next 30 days… what would that meal be? As much as I love planning what to have when I’ve finished a race or a long run, the reality is it takes me quite a while before I actually fancy eating anything. I have got better though with protein shakes to make sure I’m not a quivering wreck later in the day. My KFC after Cheddar Gorge marathon was pretty damn tasty but I wouldn’t want that all the time. Dream world it’d be ribs (like I did after the Southampton half marathon that I made into 18 miles), but reality porridge is one of my standards. Then cake.

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Capris or shorts… what do you run in most often? Shorts. My lower body doesn’t tend to get that cold when I run. It’s more my hands and arms. I much prefer the freedom of shorts and during a marathon I like to wear compression socks and capris and compression socks aren’t a great combo (weird naked knee syndrome).

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At what mile (or how many minutes) into your run does your body start to feel like it is warming up and ready to go? Probably 5 miles in, which is why 5ks royally suck for me. I think my perfect distance is 10 miles (which ironically is my worst race distance so far). I absolutely don’t understand how people can do races less than one mile. We’re all different though and I have a huge amount of respect for short distance runners. My body doesn’t just doesn’t like short speedy stuff.

What do you do with your key when you run? This is terrible but when I’m at the club I used to put it on the wheel of my car…until I realised you could leave it in a locked room. If I run from home I take the key off the keyring and then pop it down my sports bra if I don’t have any pockets.

If you could relive any race that you have done in the past, which one what it be? Like Mary said, I’m not sure I’d want to relive any races. Races are hard and generally if you got a PB it was really hard so I wouldn’t want to go back there. After getting my 10k PB in the summer I swore I’d only run one 10k a year!

If I could re-do a race to improve on it then I would definitely re-do Bournemouth.

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Or at least the weeks leading up to it. I don’t want to live in regret but I can’t help feel so bitter about a marathon that was supposed to be run just for fun. As many people have said though, I was pushing it with two marathons so close to each other (and three marathons in less than 6 months) and not really recovering properly between them. I don’t regret doing Cheddar Gorge as I loved it so much…but if I hadn’t have done it and Bournemouth went well? I don’t know if I could choose between them. I do wish now that I hadn’t forced myself to finish Bournemouth. Initially I said I didn’t regret it, but now I realise that one race isn’t worth so much time off for an injury. No medal is that good. But lessons have been learnt.

What has been your biggest motivation lately to get out the door to get your run on? Generally that it will mean I have to rearrange my week’s plan if I miss a run! I’m that anal about these things. If I say I’m going to do something I will do it unless something legitimate stops me. Even if I feel really demotivated about a run I know as soon as I start going I’ll be fine. I’d rather push myself to go then spend the rest of the day annoyed that I didn’t.

When you go for a run, do you leave right from your front door or do you drive somewhere to start? Either I’ll run straight from my office, straight from my front door, or I’ll run from my club or parkrun. Depends what day it is!

When running in daylight—> are sunglasses a must or an annoyance? I have a really good pair of (cheap) sunglasses that just sit really nicely when I run. I hate getting blinded by the sun.

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When you get tired, what keeps you from quitting? Fear of failure! If I have a goal in mind I will really push myself to reach it. If I don’t hit it it’s because the goal was unrealistic (I’ve set myself stupid goals many a time!) or something out of my control happened (illness, injury, weather, etc.). I’m a very driven person. Of course I have demons in my head and self-doubt but if the goal is achievable from the training I’ve put it then I will do everything I can to get there. A killer playlist as well is a great motivator for me, or crowds. Something like that can suddenly flick a switch inside me to GO GO GO despite how I might have felt 30 seconds before.

Pick a few questions and answer – I’d love to know your responses!

Feeling a bit drained and flat

There is nothing like a long weekend to really kick start out back into life. Though I know not everyone got to enjoy a day off yesterday!

It was a fairly quiet weekend I must say – but sometimes you just need a bit of ‘downtime’ to try and recharge your batteries and, in my case, get into gear with sorting and organising the house. I still don’t have a date for when I’m moving, which is annoying. Especially because it’s already September now and my weekends coming up are getting booked up with seeing university friends, races and a holiday at the end of September. Whoops.

Anyway, rolling back to Saturday I went to parkrun as normal. Because I spectacularly positive splitted last week I wanted to have a strong negative split this time. I find it really hard in a 5k to pace myself. It’s funny because in a marathon I’ve found I can stick to my set paces almost perfectly and have a really controlled race, but when it comes to any shorter races it all goes to pot.

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It was quite a chilly start to the day as we set up all the flags for the course, but at 8.30am the sun came out and it suddenly heated up. I wore my new skort (only £12 from Forever 21 – and very comfy and flattering, it has proper shorts underneath as well) and my Paris marathon T-shirt but by the time we got ready to start I decided to forgo the top and just run in my sports bra (I noticed a few others had done the same so I didn’t feel quite so naked). This was perfect.

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I started the first lap slightly more conservatively than I would usually but still found it tough going. I managed to hang on to one of the guys from the running club, Berni, who does a lot of our coaching and leading runs. He was great as his pace was so consistent and we chatted a bit which kept my mind off the effort. On the final lap he told me to push on and I suddenly felt I had more energy knowing I only had one more lap to go.

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Check those splits out! A nice negative royal flush. OK only three miles worth but I’ll take it! I came second female with 21:14. Happy days.

I also tried my very first blondie afterwards which honestly rocked my world. I think I’ve never gone for them as they’re white chocolate and I’m not a huge white chocolate fan but when a small child offers you a blondie, you take the blondie. And I’m so glad I did!

Later on I needed to pop to the shops quickly to top up on apples and came back with…well, more than apples.

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I spotted some tasty looking pork belly and lamb koftas which I just couldn’t say no to, and then spotted the Ben and Jerry’s BLONDIE brownie core. And some frozen berries which I always love having with Greek yogurt at work.

That evening I was round my parent’s house for dinner with family friends. We had smoked salmon to start and steak Diane and roasted sweet potato wedges for main. If you’ve never had steak Diane it is AMAZING. My dad doesn’t even follow a recipe anymore he’s made it so often. The sauce is a cream based sauce with brandy, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce with fried onions and mushrooms. It was delicious.

For pudding there was a choice of Carte D’or ice cream or my Ben and Jerry’s. I went for the B&Js and it was just as good as it sounded.

The next morning was my long run and I was meeting running club guys to join them on a 10 miler. I ran to the meeting point and back to make it up to 14 miles. I’m still trying to be gradual in my build-up for Bournemouth as I’ve only just run Cheddar Gorge. Next week I’m hoping to run 16-17 miles and then 18 the week after and then taper.

It was really humid and from the start I found the run quite draining. I don’t know if it was the heavy meal the night before, tired legs in general or the humidity but it just felt tough. It was nice running with the others though as chatting to them took my mind of my fatigue. I need to be careful to not overdo things as I know recently I’ve done so much. After Bournemouth (providing I get there – I never take these things as a given!!) I’m planning on taking a break from the longer distances. In fact I might take a couple of weeks entirely off of running to just chill and then focus on some 10 milers and a half marathon race instead.

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The route we took was fairly undulating as well in the middle section so this was tough going. Thankfully I’d taken water with me as it was really warm!

IMG_3588 The photo on the left is before I headed out – I look very fresh and unsweaty!

For the rest of the day I felt drained and tired. I’d made sure to have something before I went running (which I never normally do) to help keep my nutrition topped up for the day as I struggle with long run days to refuel. It was one of those Chia Pods which had an ‘interesting’ texture but tasted nice.

I ate lots through the day and think I refuelled like a pro. For dinner I had the pork belly and roasted sweet potato and it was delicious.

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High in calories, fat and protein it went down nicely! I know there’s some dispute about animal protein and fat being the best thing for you, but it definitely filled a hole and left me satisfied. I’ve been tracking my calories and macros using MyFitnessPal to keep me on track of my goal which has been really helpful. I won’t use it forever or get too fixated on it but I need something to give me an idea of what I’m eating as I don’t track calories or macros normally. It also links to my Garmin account so gives me a good idea of how much food I need to refuel after a run. I’ll do a post about it later on what I’ve been eating and how I’ve been tracking things if people are interested!

As I had Monday off (as it was a Bank holiday in the UK, apart from Scotland) I had a luxurious lie-in (I woke up at 7.30am naturally and lazed about until just before 8am, how indulgent) and then headed to the gym at the far more reasonable time of 9am (not my usual 5.30am!).

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I’m still following the New Rules of Lifting for Women and I’ve probably got about two-three weeks left (I tend to do three sessions, sometimes two a week) of Stage 1. I’m so pleased with the progress I’ve made. My deadlift and squat weight has gone up significantly and I feel really strong. I still supplement the listed workouts though with my own stuff though as I want to cover running-specific strength training as well (click the link for a great list of moves).

Then the rest of the day was spent doing the fairly depressing task of sorting through some stuff in the loft and house bits and pieces. Nothing like sifting through wedding cards and old photos to really end your long weekend on a high!

How was your weekend? Did you have the Monday off?

What do you eat before a long run or workout?

Do you track calories and/or macros?