Posts Tagged ‘strength training’

Circuit training is one of my favorite workouts because you can burn a lot of calories and fat while doing a challenging workout with plenty of variety. Circuit training combines high-intensity cardio exercise with strength training exercises to give you a vigorous workout that improves your strength, endurance and cardiovascular fitness.

Add weights to your squats for more intensity.

Here’s a sample 30-minute circuit training workout for runners:

5-minute slow jog to warm up

3 minutes of fast-paced running, at about 85 percent exertion level

2 minutes of push-ups, modifying to do push-ups on your knees if needed

3 minutes of fast-paced running

2 minutes of squats, using dumbbells if you want to add difficulty

3 minutes of fast-paced running

2 minutes of crunches

3 minutes of fast-paced running

2 minutes of lunges, alternating legs

5-minute slow jog to cool down

You can substitute different strength training exercises to target areas of your body that you want to tone. Planks, bicep curls, triceps extensions, chest press and side planks are some other exercises you may want to consider.

Strength training is an important part of any fitness program, as it increases lean muscle mass, boosts metabolism and helps prevents diseases like osteoporosis. The American College of Sports Medicine advises doing eight to 10 strength training exercises with eight to 12 reps of each exercise twice a week for good health. Building your muscle strength can help you run faster and longer and improve your running form while reducing your chances of injuries.

Side planks strengthen your core and arm muscles.

To get going on a strength training program, check out these tips for runners:

  • Strength train after your runs or in separate workout sessions to prevent exhausting your muscles before a run. Lifting weights before running can increase your chances of injury and muscle fatigue.
  • Allow yourself at least a day of rest between strength training sessions so your muscles can rebuild and recover. You can still run between strength training sessions but do not lift weights.
  • Do exercises that target all of your major muscle groups, including your arms, shoulders, chest, core, gluteals and legs. Strength training is your chance to balance out your body and get stronger in areas that you don’t normally work running, so make the most of it and target all major areas of your body.
  • Use free weights, weight machines or your own body weight for resistance. You can use dumbbells for exercises such as squats, lunges, triceps extensions and bicep curls, and use your own body weight for resistance by doing push-ups, planks and crunches. For the chest press, use free weights or a weight machine.
  • Track your weightlifting progress. Set goals and record your results after each strength training workout.
  • Be flexible and adjust your routine to suit changing goals, workout plateaus or unexpected results.
  • Try circuit training to rev up your metabolism and reach higher levels of endurance and strength. Circuit training involves alternating high-intensity running with strength training exercises such as pushups, crunches, planks and squats.

People often think crunches are the key to flat abs, but cardio exercise is actually the most important component of a workout plan to get rid of your gut. Cardio burns calories and helps you lose weight, including in your stomach. Without cardio, no matter how many crunches you do or how strong your ab muscles are, they will still be covered by extra weight, hiding your toned torso. You can literally run your way to flat abs by following a running-based fitness routine that burns calories and targets your torso. Here’s how to get killer abs:

  • Run five to six days a week. If you are just starting out, exercise for 30-minute sessions with alternating walking and running and gradually build up to running for the entire 30 minutes. See our Beginning Runners section for more training tips for new runners.
  • Step up the intensity of your training plan. If you are already a runner and have extra weight clinging to your belly or sides, you will need to add some oomph to your workouts to reach higher levels of fitness.  Increase your intensity by running faster or adding hills to your workouts. Adding intensity to your workouts burns more calories and fat and will rev up your metabolism so you don’t get stuck in a workout rut. Try doing a speed workout at least once a week and doing a hill workout once a week.
  • Do a long run once a week. Long runs are especially powerful fat busters because your body burns mainly carbs for the first hour of a run and then begins burning fat reserves. Train your body for long runs by adding one mile a week to your long run and every fourth week give yourself a break by staying at the same distance. Before you know it, you will be able to run for more than an hour and burn excess fat.
  • Incorporate circuit training into your workout plan. Do circuits once a week. Circuits call for high-intensity running alternating with strength training exercises. Circuits not only burn extra calories and fat but also help you build lean muscle mass and tone your abs. For circuits, run fast – at about 85 percent effort level – for three minutes and alternate your running with doing  two minutes of the following exercises: crunches, planks, bridge exercises, side planks and pushups. Do a 10-minute jog to warm up and cool down after your workout.
  • Banish unhealthy foods from your diet. Alcohol — especially beer, fried foods, processed snack foods and desserts are all high in calories and low in nutrients, and can cancel out all your hard work by packing on extra pounds to your gut. Do yourself a favor and eat nutrient-dense foods from all of the foods groups, and reach for healthy snacks like fruit, nuts, yogurt, smoothies and popcorn when you feel the urge to munch on something.

As an arm strength-challenged runner, I can attest to the common runner’s plague of feeling strong on bottom and weak on top. Cross training can help you balance that out, and get in a good workout and have fun in the process. Pole dancing is one form of cross training that is not only fun and exciting but also offers an effective strength, flexibility and cardio workout all rolled into one.

Pole dancing can vary depending on where you take a class and the individual teacher’s focus, but in general pole fitness involves doing dance routines that incorporate floor work, chair work and pole spins and poses. Learning to maneuver your body around a pole can be challenging, awkward and thrilling, but well-worth the effort. Pole dancing helps strengthen your arm and shoulder muscles, as well as your core muscles (a common problem area for runners and non-runners alike). In fact, pole dancing helped tone my arms and abs so well that I now pole dance — with yoga and pilates warm-ups — a few times a week instead of doing a weightlifting routine.

If you want to try out pole fitness for a cross training workout, check out your city’s pole dance studios and talk to the instructors and visit the studios to get an idea of what to expect and where you would feel comfortable.

Caution: Pole dancing can be addictive. After signing up to try it a year ago, I have since trained and gotten certified to be an instructor, so expect more pole fitness articles to come. (In the meantime, you can read more about my adventures in pole dancing here.)

Me taking a spin at Divine Body Fitness, my second home.