Moving Iron: What Heavy Lifting Has Taught Me

Before I even start writing: I have been consistently lifting heavy for TWO. WEEKS. It is definitely not enough time to become any sort of expert nor put on considerable muscle. It is, however, enough for me to make some new realizations about my own life, my priorities, and what health truly means to me.

1. Eat to nourish yourself. When I was running all the time, and always trying to up my mileage, food was fuel, but I didn’t see it to be so important. It always seemed like fasted morning long runs were the “right” thing to do, and snacks/mid-run fueling were unnecessary.  And because long distance running, while incredibly healthy, really just burns calories, I didn’t feel like the way I ate mattered that much. I ate generally well and enough not to lose weight (I actually gained it while half training) but wasn’t focused on nutrients. 

earlsI used my exercise to justify my eating, rather than the reverse.

Now that I am actively trying to gain muscle (I found two new bumps in my back that I am calling muscle, hooray!), I am 110% laser focused on getting enough nutrition. Even though I was DEFINITELY not restricting while training for my half marathon, I will not deny that if I added up my calories to be a little lower than they probably should have been, I wouldn’t have been upset. Now, I do not obsessively count my calories but I do make sure that they are ALWAYS at or above maintenance. Considering I just had leg day yesterday, I wasn’t too concerned about my hunger cues. 😉 Muscles will not grow on 2500 calories of ice cream, though, so I honestly feel the importance of quality protein, carbohydrates, and fats, as well as micronutrients in greens and vegetables. When I was running all the time, my vegetable intake consisted of seventeen cups of carrots per day and a pound of fruit. Now, green smoothies are making a comeback and I love it.

smoothie

Basically, now that I am lifting heavy, I want to accentuate my efforts in the gym with my efforts in the kitchen. And hey, if that merits a 10pm grilled cheese on brioche post-dinner, I’m cool with that. 😉

2. It’s not about the calories. Long distance running is a MASSIVE calorie burner, no doubt about it. Run for an hour and three slices of pizza wouldn’t even have an impact. An hour of weight lifting, especially factoring in rest between sets, doesn’t even compare. But I find myself addicted to going to the gym purely for the feeling of accomplishment. The endorphins, the pride, and the desire to improve are what keep me coming back for more. I do it for my health, not for the numbers.

original This is how I feel about burning calories/carbs/etc.

3. Every part of you toughens up. I used to laugh at people using lifting gloves. Now, the blisters on my princess hands make me understand. Hey, if I have ugly runner’s feet, I might as well have ugly lifter’s hands too!

4. Huge respect for others. Before I started lifting, I might have looked at a girl with muscles and thought it was cool that she did strength work. I was shocked and amazed by the workouts elite runners do to run at such a high level, but for some reason I thought that consistent strength training = ripped body, no questions asked. I had no idea the intense amount of effort and dedication required to make even a tiny bit of progress. Now, when I see a ripped girl doing exercises in the gym, I make a mental note to try them for myself – learning from people who know more than you is invaluable!

If you had talked to me a month ago, right after finishing my half marathon, I would have told you I despised strength training and if I could run and only every day I’d be the happiest girl on earth. It’s funny how things can so quickly change, hey?

Have you/do you lift?

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6 thoughts on “Moving Iron: What Heavy Lifting Has Taught Me

  1. YAY! Love this post! While I have a huge amount of respect for distance runners and like going out for a few miles to relieve stress, weightlifting is what I enjoy the most. For me, it’s a huge self-confidence booster because it shifts my focus away from just calories and more towards proper nutrition and seeing gains, not losses (ahem… pounds). So glad you’re loving it! 🙂

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