Some of you may have noticed my lack of NROLFW (New Rules of Lifting for Women) updates. In fact, the last stage recap was at the beginning of March. Since then I have finished Stage 5 and I’ve decided… I’m going to take a break.
Since my original plan was to see this program to the end, I feel like I need to explain myself and my decision. After all, this blogging thing is a great way to hold myself accountable to you all.
The short of it
The NROLFW program is geared toward high weight/low rep training and I’m looking for something a little more inline with low weight/high rep training.
The long of it
David and I recently joined a new gym and with our membership, we get access to a personal trainer. Having told my trainer I’m a runner, he immediately put me on a weight circuit routine of relatively low (yet still challenging) weights with high reps (15-20) and very little rest time in between. At first I was hesitant, wanting to stick with my NROLFW mentality of “the heavier the better.” But after a few weeks, I’m starting to wonder if maybe he knew what he was talking about…
So I did what anyone would do and called on the powers of Google.
I searched heavy weight training and light weight training and found tons of differing results. Apparently, everyone has an opinion and they all think they’re right.
According to livestrong.com, “high reps (15-20) should be used for endurance training such as marathons and cross-country skiing. This is done at a lower intensity to build muscular endurance and enhance work capacity.” If you’re training for endurance events, your rest time should only be between 15-30 seconds between sets. (source)
On the other hand, “explosive movements, such as jumping, throwing and power lifting… require less repetition in conditioning, which has a range of 1 to 4 reps.” You should be taking anywhere between 30 seconds to 3 minutes for rest. (source) (this ideology aligns with the NROLFW mentality)
And then this website says it doesn’t matter which road you choose, you’ll get the same results. Basically, the point of weight training is to fatigue the muscles so they can grow stronger (laymen’s terms, ok?). Whether you do that in 30 seconds (high weight/low rep) or 90 seconds (low weight/high rep) you’ll get the same results.
Let’s dig deeper.
Muscle twitching- say wha?
There are two types of muscle fibers- “slow twitch” (aka Type I) and “fast twitch” (aka Type II). Fast twitch muscles are further separated into Type IIa and IIb, but for the sake of my little brain, I’m going to forgo that explanation.
Basically, slow twitch muscles (T I) are more efficient at using oxygen to create fuel for continuous (yet weaker) muscle contractions over a long period of time (endurance running). They fire more slowly, so they can twitch for longer than fast twitch, or Type II, muscle fibers.
|Kara Goucher utilizes the type I muscles while running marathons|
Fast twitch muscle fibers on the other hand, use anaerobic metabolism (meaning no oxygen use) for fuel so they are best for generating short bursts of strength. They also get tired quicker.
|The Hulk, on the other hand, has done a lot of work with his type II muscles|
(As a side note: Lou Schuler in his book, New Rules of Lifting for Women says, “[womens’] type I fibers tend to be bigger than [their] type IIs; it’s the opposite in men.”)
Getting back to the whole weight lifting thing
There are a ton of reasons why runners (especially new ones) would want to weight train.
- Increase your muscular endurance, especially in upper body
- Strengthen “non running muscles” thus reducing risk of injury
- Helps in cardiovascular fitness
- Increase muscle mass and bone density (important for women!)
- Muscles burn more calories than fat, thus making your body leaner and capable of running more efficiently
- “[weight training] will not make you faster, but it can make it easier for you to do the workouts that will make you faster.”
In the NROLFW, Lou Schuler flat out says lifting heavier weights will increase the size of your muscle while lifting lighter (yet still challenging) weights will increase the endurance of the muscles. He goes on to say that since women lack the length (not size or abundance) of type II fibers that men have, that they should “develop type II muscle fibers, which have the greatest potential for growth.”
In response to the “cardio craze” that people feel they have to go through to lose weight, Schuler firmly believes (and states) that humans didn’t evolve to excel at long distance runs, rather we’re “made” to walk long distances (I bet he could never run a marathon, but that’s neither here nor there). It’s the activities that use short bursts of energy (jumping, throwing, and other “plyometrics”) that we’re made for. Therefor it makes sense that he would dictate a high weight/low rep as superior to low weight/high rep workouts.
|Road Runner kitty disagrees....|
So to summarize: the NROLFW program emphasizes heavier weights at lower repetitions to better develop the type II muscle fibers (which are the “short bursts of strength” kinds of muscles) thus making muscles bigger.
But here’s the golden ticket I got from Schuler: “endurance exercises makes your body more efficient, which is to say better at going longer distances with less fuel.”
Ding ding ding ding ding!!!!!!
So there you have it folks- I’m taking a break from the NROLFW to focus on building muscle endurance, which will hopefully make me better in the marathon distance (and beyond).
Will I go back and complete Schuler’s routine? Probably. I like the muscle definition that has resulted from his routines, and I’m sure if I stick with his plan they’ll get even more noticeable. In fact, the next stage has TEN sets of only TWO repetitions. But that’s not for me. Right now.
If you’ve made it to the end- thanks! I hope this jibber jabber was a little helpful to you. I also hope that I’ve got all my facts straight. If not, please feel free to set me on the path of straight and narrow ;)
If you're interested in learning more about incorporating weight lifting into your running routine, this website is particularly useful.
Where do you stand on the weight lifting issue?