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Is Strength Training my Double-edged Sword?

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Ok guys... I need a kick in the rear.

So far this week, I've skipped 2 workouts. I've also gone over my very generous calorie range twice too. Annnnnnnd I've skipped 2 accountability blogs. I'm batting .500 right now... I've got to turn this week around.

I'm doing some soul searching today to try to find the source of this laziness. I can't help but correlate these feelings with my new Strength Training program. The last time I did ST on a regular basis, I did not have good results. Cue storytime!

In August 2011, I decided it was time to join a gym here in Georgia. I needed to lose weight. When I signed up, I got a free body-evaluation session with a Personal Trainer. She took my weight, measured my body fat, and asked what types of workouts I was currently doing. I told her that I when I got to the gym, I immediately hopped on the elliptical and after 30 minutes, I would maybe do couple bicep curls.

She said I had it all wrong! I was wasting time on the elliptical because ST is what really burns the calories. I need to do ST first then light cardio for 20-45mins, she said. I followed her advice and began a ST program.

Well... I gained even more weight. It would've been nice if this was muscle mass, but the body fat measurements revealed that it was in fact blubber.

See, what was happening was I gave 100% in my workouts. My muscles would be fatigued and sore after every gym session. Then I would go home, eat my post-workout snack, and wake up the next day with killer DOMS. The workouts did boost my metabolism because I would be starving all the time. This was all good!

Until..... my hunger caused me to eat above my range. Also the soreness prevented me from doing another workout for sometimes 2 or 3 days. After the workouts, I was literally lying around eating! Also the required pre- & post-workout snacks were making serious dents in my calorie budget on days that I actually made it to the gym.

I'm scared that this vicious cycle is making a comeback. I'm doing great for a couple days, then I give in and blow my calories. I'm so hungry all the time! My "Calorie Differential Over Time" report has some scary numbers since I've started this new program.

When I was losing weight, the only ST I did was an occasional yoga class. Really, the only cardio I was doing was walking. I just focused on eating within my range, and the fat melted off. But I don't want to look like a mushy celery stalk. I want to look STRONG. Correction-- I want to BE STRONG. And run like the wind. Too much to ask??

I've got to get over this. If anyone out there reading is losing/maintaining while doing a ST and Cardio program, how are you doing it?? How are you finding a balance between adequately nourishing your muscles, and not going over your range? How do you have energy to keep it up, especially while sore?

Member Comments About This Blog Post:
LOLATURTLE 12/6/2012 3:12PM

    Basically I don't give 100%, or expect maximum possible improvements, in both ST and cardio at the same time. You either pick one you're trying to excel/best yourself at, or you do both at a lesser intensity.

Unless you're a fitness model or a personal trainer and you can devote most of your waking hours to diet and exercise, that is. If you're a mortal I think you have to choose.

If I were still working on running speed and distance, I'd keep my ST lower and do more upper body stuff. If I'm looking to gain muscle, hard ST multiple times per week and only short workouts of HIIT as my cardio. When I was doing my first serious hardcore ST program I did no cardio, actually (my program did call for adding in HIIT after the first two "phases" which were 8 weeks each, but I never got that far). And when I was doing Couch to 5k I did no ST. Now I'm balancing cardio (elliptical or arc trainer) and ST - so far mostly upper body with some interval training, or "gentler" cardio mixed with it. (Skipping lower body/running as I have a hip injury)

I think the diet thing, how to eat so you're not starving, is mostly going to be trial and error to find what works for you personally.

As far as the recommendations that come with most ST programs? I personally ignore the heck out of them. I'm not saying it will work for you, but the whole "you must eat a snack of at least this much carbs before working out and precisely this mix of carbs and protein precisely this long after working out"? Uh, no.

I look at it as, that's the "elite". That's the best you could possibly do. If you're trying to be, like, a bodybuilder or a fitness model or whatever, and you want the most possible muscle gain, that's what you have to do. But that's not me.

Maybe I make less progress, or it goes slower, if I'm not getting as much protein as a bodybuilder would, and I'm not having post workout shakes, but here's the thing: I'm going to have more muscle, and be stronger, by lifting weights and then eating greek yogurt for breakfast, than I ever did by eating high empty carb cereal for breakfast while sitting on the couch.

And finally, yes when you start you will be crazy sore. Awful, miserable, unbearable soreness. It will get better.

If you don't already have one, get a foam roller. This will help hugely with parts that are harder to stretch, like IT band. I find even after stretching I can get more oomph out of my quads and hamstrings with the foam roller. Similarly, when you first start foam rolling it's going to hurt like h377. I am not exaggerating. You might cry. This just means you needed it. Next time do it in the morning when you get up AND before you go to bed. The next day after you do serious stretching and foam rolling, you will be glad you did, because you will magically be able to walk again.

Stretch. If you are done stretching less than 10 minutes after you are done working out, YOU DID NOT STRETCH ENOUGH.

There are some good YouTube videos, and articles online, showing how to do the foam roller thing if you aren't doing this already and need tips.

The first two weeks were brutal (like, I couldn't get out of my desk chair at work without pain), but after that it was more manageable soreness.

If you literally CANNOT (not "still sore so I don't wanna", CAN'T) work out for 2-3 days after a ST session, you may be pushing too hard. If you also want to do some running that same week, you are definitely pushing too hard. Again, you can push hard and see amazing ST gains, but you're going to be too sore or wiped to run. Your speed and form will suffer. Want to run? Back off on the ST. Gains in strength and muscle mass will be slower, but you'll be able to run.

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SQUIRRELLYONE 12/6/2012 12:48PM

    My current regime is practically all strength (bouldering/rock climbing making up a large portion of that!). I do need to eat almost immediately after bouldering, even if I had a full meal beforehand, so I do understand.

The key is: eat a light snack with protein before (apple & peanut butter? Clif bar?), and then have a large meal planned for afterwards. I generally organize my meal planning for the day with the assumption that I will need to eat my weight in food after climbing.

To help keep DOMS from killing you, plan a run the next day (for me, belly dance more than running). Even though you're sore, the bouncing will help loosen the muscles. Also: not sitting around will help keep the hunger from ambushing you. You'll also find that after a few weeks of ST, your off day hunger will return to normal as long as you're not going SERIOUSLY overboard with your ST.

Try this schedule:
Day 1: ST
Day 2: Cardio
Day 3: Rest

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STODD251 12/6/2012 12:27PM

    I've been doing cardio first and then strength training... Sometimes I'll do an extra day of cardio because it doesn't tend to leave me sore. one thing I have also found helpful is making sure to eat plenty of protein. This keeps me full, so I'm not always hungry. I get my protein in bit by bit throughout the day so I don't end up feeling hungry most of the time. I find myself most hungry when I am eating lots of carbs. So I would take a look at the kinds of foods that you are choosing to eat, maybe that will help strength training work for you.

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MEOWMEOWGIRL 12/6/2012 12:11PM

    I alternate days of ST and cardio. This way my body has a chance to rest after whichever routine is done. It also staves off the days of not wanting to go to the gym since I don't overdo it in one session. Also, I make sure to stretch a lot after working out to minimize next-day soreness.
I've also read articles that claim that cardio before ST is the way to go if you have to do both in the same day, but that alternating is the best way to keep your body safe.
And make sure that you drink plenty of water. Often the body will think it is hungry when it is fact dehydrated.
Agreeing with what everyone else has already said, each person is different so it is ultimately up to you and how your body responds to each workout.

Comment edited on: 12/6/2012 12:12:48 PM

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SDLEE514 12/6/2012 11:56AM

    pretty much all I've been doing, and thus lost 10lbs/trying to maintain is circuit training with ST & cardio (read: jillian, although I've recently started Bob Harper) and tracking my calories. I'm almost always sore, which for me, I like. But the key is alternating muscle groups (although you probably know that). I find my hunger levels fluctuate, sometimes I'm at the low end of my calorie range and sometimes I'm over, but for me, I really like eating small amounts frequently to keep me from being hungry. I think this helps keep my energy up too. If I'm hungry before a workout I'm not efficient, but I read on SP that a good carb snack (contrary to popular belief of protein) will give you good quick energy, so I usually have something like fruit before.

Also, when you were doing ST before how were you doing it? For me, just blindly doing just reps is a, boring, and b, really exhausting your muscles. Clearly you need to work your muscles, thats the point, but, maybe alternating different moves, and at a quicker pace to get a little cardio in too. Also, as you probably know, circuit training works multiple muscle groups which works you more, but because it's less focused it may help not over exhausting certain muscles. Like you, I of course always try to give 100% to a workout, but if your doing bicep curls AND lunges its harder to give 100% to either area. Does that make sense?

Anyways, like others have said, you need to find what works for you and your goals, and I wish you the best of luck! emoticon

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BIGPAWSUP 12/6/2012 11:47AM

    I have read that cardio first burns more calories. I struggle with ST also. I can't be too much help here, except to say we can do this.

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HFAYE81 12/6/2012 10:44AM

    I have heard, and read on SP, that if you do cardio first you are revving up your body and you will burn more calories during ST than if you did ST first. emoticon

That being said, everyone is different and you should do what works for you. I hate it when other people say "no, no you're doing it wrong". They aren't living my life, they aren't in my body.

THAT being said, let me tell you that I used to go to the gym for ST. If I didn't make it, didn't have time for the full machine circuit, whatever, I would skip it. So I would get 1-2 ST sessions a week. Or sometimes none. That was a fail.
Right now, for the first time in my life, I have been getting 3-4 ST sessions in a week, consistently for the past 5-6 weeks. I have been looking up different ST moves on my SP app. I only have a set of 5 lb and 8 lb weights, and use a lot of moves that only take my body and a floor or a wall. My favorites are push-ups against a wall (my wrists hurt too badly for regular push-ups), back extensions and lying down double leg lifts.
AND, as you can see by my status, I am finally seeing results, in my arms particularly. I lost over 80 lbs a few years ago and weighed 50 lb less than I do now, and my arms didn't look this good!
You just have to find something that works for you. You are an accomplished runner! You've got this. emoticon

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CATTUTT 12/6/2012 10:02AM

    This was years ago, but I lose 65 lbs doing ST and cardio. I always did my cardio first and then my ST. Maybe I wasn't doing it quite right, but I didn't necessarily have a before/after workout snack. If it was time for me to eat either before or after, I did. But if it wasn't a normal time to eat, I didn't add in extra snacks for the sake of working out. Of course, I was only doing about half an hour of cardio and half an hour of ST, so I didn't really need it.

Good luck figuring it out!

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