Weight training...I'm new to it

Hi Everyone,

As my London marathon hopes have been quashed by ITBS, I've turned to the gym to try to strengthen up and get myself sorted for next year.

I've never done weight training before but hear it's good for speed, endurance blah blah. Where do I start? I have a gym programme session on tuesday and I'd like to know what I want to do before getting there.

Any pointers will be greatly appreciated!


  • Abi, what do you mean you have 'a programme session'? Isn't this the induction session where they assess you and divise a programme specific to you, based on your needs?

    Hope it's a programme which you'll be able to enjoy (and which will lessen the disappointment of not being able to run this year's marathon).

    Happy muscle-building !
  • Make sure you tell them why you have joined a gym and what you want from it. They should be able to devise a program to suit your needs.

    Also if you are like me you will feel a bit out of place for a few weeks until you figure out how to use the equipment properly - don't worry because everyone does at first.

    It's a big help if you go with a friend who knows their stuff.
  • i know how to do weights:

    1)check your look in the mirror.

    2)get the biggest bar you can find.

    3)check the mirror and flex muscles.

    4)load it with a huge amount of large metal plates (rubber is for pansies).

    5)check the mirror again - roll back your sleeves (Although you should be wearing a vest with "Muscle Beach" on it really).

    6)grunt, strain, shout at yourself and huff a lot while your mate shouts "go on go on go on go on just one more push push push push".

    7)while doing step 6, adopt the most contorted posture possible to increase strain on back, knees, elbows.

    8) drop weights with a as much noise as possible and shout "yeah baby".

    9) check mirror.

    10) at all times, make sure you're centre of attention in the gym.

    11) Repeat about 2 times for maximum affect.

    That must be right cos I've seen it so many times in so many gyms across the country.

    Once you've done the above, you can progress into shooting 'roids in the locker room and boasting about how much creatine you take.

    cheers n pumping iron beers

  • Tee hee hee.

    Stripy clown pants ! Don't forget them !!

    Err, I think the idea is lower weights and lotsa reps ? I don't do much for my legs as tends to give me more niggles.
  • I had a personal trainer (fortunately he was male, unfortunately he was minging!) last year at my gym.

    Despite telling him several times that running was my thing and that I simply wanted to do some weight training to gently tone my body, didn't want to do anything that would cause too much pain and stiffness the next day to prevent me running.

    3 times on 3 different body parts he left me in agony the next day!!! I am a fit person, I have been doing my 'own' combination of weight training for years, which of course complemented the running, so I am not weak or anything but he absolutely paid no attention to my warning!

    Be very, very careful!
  • :-D

    cns...you just had me crying with laughter at number 8 :-)

  • drewdrew ✭✭✭
    Abi, one suggestion I can make, which should save you days of agony, is to only do 4 or 5 reps of each exercise, with light weights for the 1st 2 or 3 times and gradually increase the weight and reps. If you don't do this you will definitely suffer from delayed muscle soreness.

    Do general weights for the entire body for the 1st 3 months and then you can start specialising onto specific muscle groups, if you want to.
  • Abi - well if train anything like that it won't be tears of laughter! And if you're looking for stability in your knees, maybe a physio rather than a gym instructor would be able to provide you with some exercises to help? Some instructors in "my" gym have their clients doing all sorts of weird and wonderful things on wobbly rubber pads specifically to stabilise their bodies. They do things like bench press, bicep curls n stuff, but while your stood on a wobbly thing, your other muscles are working hard to stabilise. Worth looking into maybe? (I've never done it myself)

    Wolfy - sounds like a completely irresponsible knuckle-head to me. "No pain no gain" went out years ago didn't it? S'all about technique and doning what's appropriate. Not being a huge expert, I'd think that most mid-long distance runners would be looking for high reps, long weights for stamina, and maybe the odd strength session too.
  • cns, I think you forget the step that says you have fling the weights around, swinging them as much as possible so that you back does all the work and your arms/legs don't have to do anything.
    Also don't you have to do reps as quickly as possible with no control?
    The good thing about 'roids is that they apparently affect fertility, so these people can't multiply!

  • I second what Drew said there.

    Also, forgot to add: whatever you'll be gaining from these gym sessions (plenty of benefits, I'm sure), I think I'm right in saying speed will not, unfortunately, be one of them !
  • best thing I saw was two huge (and ugly) blokes working on a leg press machine. they had a full stack of weights on, and the ugly bloke that wasn't pushing the weights was STOOD ON TOP OF THE WEIGHT STACK!!!!!!!

    I couldn't believe it. How dangerous is that?
  • I might disagree there. I don't think someone with a very low strength relative to their weight is ever going to run fast.

    Ask yourself why men are generally faster than women? Not saying strength is the only factor or that gains in strength go on giving you gains in speed - but I think you need enough strength. Admittedly there are a lot of people who question the value of non-specific weight training but I think up to a point it is going to give a lot of runners the potential to go faster.

    Also there is a debate over high weight vs high reps but if you want to gain strength then I would go for lower reps initially = if you start by doing high reps you'll never see significant gains in strength. If you want to do high reps you can then increase the reps rather than the weight if you see what I mean.

  • obviously you need strength to be able to turn it into raw speed - check out the bodies on the 100m guys, and you can get that from the gym.

    Core exercises like squats, dead lift, cleans and bench press will give you a pretty good work out, what ever combination of reps and weight you do. If you pyramid train (ie start with a low weight, high rep set and then increase weight, decrease reps) you can have some of the benefits of both. Obviously, it's a comprimise (sp?) but if time is an issue it can be effective.

    And if you've never done weights before, then yeah, you'll need some guidance from an exprienced person and keep those weights low.
  • Bit of a debate this :-)

    I've never done weights before because the weights room in the gym always scared me (those big guys huffing and puffing) and it never appealed to me to have 'muscles'.

    I still don't want big muscles but figure a bit of tone and core strength might help with running form? I'm seeing a physio for the ITBS but she reckoned strengthening up in order to be more stable would be a good idea. What I don't want to do is exacerbate the niggly ITB!

  • I am happy to stand corrected on this (whether one can improve on their speed from weight training). Still not convinced yet though, sorry! Doesn't seem to me that Paula R does much weight training to me, or does she ?!?!

    Any other views?
  • I do a gym session once a week including some speedwork on the treadmill, a couple of other CV workouts - rower, bike or stepper - followed by some gentle weights, low weights 2or3*15 reps and core body stuff, crunches, back, obliques.

    Since doing this I have noticed a marked improvement in my pace and running generally but I'm not sure whether it's due to the speedwork, overall toning or increased fitness. Most likely a combination of all three.
  • The other thing to bear in mind is that there are different types of muscle fibres. Slow-twitch muscle fibres are more suited to endurance work i.e. long distance runners and fast-twitch muscle fibres are for power and speed i.e. body-builders, 100m runners. If you don't believe me, look at the difference in physique between a 100m runner and a long-distance runner.

    There are also intermediate-twitch fibres and these can be trained to become either slow-twitch or fast-twitch. If you do low weights and high reps then those intermediate fibres are more likely to become slow-twitch whereas if you do high weights and low reps then they're more likely to become fast-twitch.

    Finally, if you can make sure you always train your muscles to failure as it will make a difference and you'll have to spend less time in the gym to achieve the same results. If that doesn't make a lot of sense, watch a few people on weights machines who seem to be doing reps with no apparent effort - they're obviously not training their muscles to failure and whilst it will still be doing them some good, doing slow reps at a low weight e.g. 2-3 sets of 12 done slowly on one machine will have the same effect as 2-3 sets of 12 done quickly on 3 or 4 different machines which all work the same muscle groups.
  • Lots of good advice above. Definitely agree with low weight and lots of reps, you're training for strength, not to be Mr. Universe. Start out with general exercises for a few months and then begin to group, i.e. from 1 to 10 repetitions with light weights up to 2 x 15 reps of large muscle group exercises for legs, back, chest, abs, etc. – Major muscle groups such as chest, back, upper legs - bench press, squats or leg press, lateral pulldown or seated rows, leg extensions, leg curls. Medium muscle groups such as pectorals, deltoids, gastronemius – dumbbell pullover, shoulder press, calf raises, upright rows. Small muscle groups such as biceps, triceps – bicep curls, triceps extensions, lateral raises. And don’t forget your abdominal exercises!
    We use this workout for basic strength in triathlon racing but it works just as well for marathon racing.
  • My advice for strength would be high weight low rep and train just short of failure rather than to failure. That's based on research I did when I was doing weights - which I'm not now. I was following Pavel Tsatsoulines (??) books - a bit gimmicky but he was recommened to me by someone whose opinion I respect - and also checked it out with a sports scientist via a mate. Of course strength may not be your ultimate goal but if it was that's what I'd do.

    However there are plenty of different theories as to the best way to train and the other advice given is just as respectable. To translate it into speed you are probably better off doing plyometric stuff but no harm in starting with general weight training.

    You wont end up bulked up just by doing high weight low reps so don't worry on that score - if only it was so easy.

  • Malteser, Ironwolf, popsider, ... very impressive. Not that I understood much of what you said! Feel like I've gatecrashed your party!

    I'll get my coat!
  • Believe me I don't understand it myself - I'm just an opinionated git!
  • A bit late to this thread, but to add my two pennies worth:) I used to weight train 3 times a week, low weight, high reps. Now I circuit train and find this much more beneficial for running in terms of both speed and strength.

  • I haven't been near a gym for over a year. And the reason is this: I run 5 times a week and I just can't see how I could fit gym sessions into my schedule. Training twice a day is OUT of the question. Going on my rest days wouldn't feel right. I kinda work hard at those 5 sessions and I just think going to the gym on my rest days wouldn't enable me to recover as much I would need.

    Am I the only one feeling/thinking like this?
  • Former Lurker M-I don't think you're the only one who feels like that. I know loads of runners who just do running and are no worse for it. For me personally I go to circuits to give me a break from running. However, at the moment with marathon training I don't go every week as some weeks my schedule won't allow it and if I have to miss a session it's certainly not a running session.
    BTW-I normally only run 4 times,so my circuits is my 5th session and then I swim for recovery.

  • Hilly, are you sure ?! Only 4 times ?! Everytime I log on I seem to see description of some hard session from you!!

    Seriously though, your schedule seems reasonable to me too.

    You people with families are the real inspiration for us all. Well, for me certainly.

    Keep going & good luck.
  • Lots of elite runners and other endurance athletes do weight training, but not all year round. Typically, they'll not do weights during the competitive season. Some on these skinny distance runners can bench-press twice their own weight.

    I do an hour of low-weight, high-rep work (BodyPump) twice a week most weeks, partly because it's a change and I enjoy the classes, and partly for the strength benefits. I have become a bit bulky here and there (my arms and shoulders particularly), but that's just my mesomorphic inheritance expressing itself - there are women (and men) in the class who lift much bigger weights than I do and haven't a visible muscle anywhere.
  • V-rap-know what you mean about building muscle. Even though I'm small I have very defined upper body from strength training, though wouldn't say it was bulky.

    FLM-I can assure you I only run 4 times a week, maybe building in a 5th run for the last few weeks of the marathon schedule just to get the mileage up.
  • There's such a wealth of knowledge out there on the forum - thanks everyone!

    Having been to my physio on friday, looks like I'll be trapped in the gym for a while whilst my leg recovers so I'll be able to experiment with all the weights and non-impact cardio stuff. I am now inspired... should be fun!

    Pity I'm supposed to be doing Silverstone next week though... :(
  • By the way...this forum is seriously addictive! It's Saturday night! What AM I doing....

  • V-rap: what you said about elite runners kinda makes sense. Then again, they don't do much else either during the competitive season, do they?!

    Hilly: was only kidding! What's the reason for upping the mileage? Not doing it for its own sake, are you?

    Abi: chatting with 'friends' ?!?!?
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