barbells and oxford commas weighted plank

From working out to training: Starting Strength

practical programming for strength training cat
Even Loki is into strength training!

I’ve been cross-training for about three years now, which has consisted of working out 3-4 times a week (in addition to roller derby practices, other scattered sports and activities, and some running) and greatly improving my strength and metabolic conditioning. At first, I really just wanted to get in better shape, lose some weight, be more fit for my sport, and get a bit stronger.

After a while, it became less about the number on the scale or on a clothes tag and more about the number of pounds I was lifting and squatting, or the time in which I could run a lap around the building. I realized I really loved getting stronger and faster, and over time my goals in the gym became my main goals rather than a supplement to my sport.

My gym is great, and I typically know which classes I can count on for a good lifting session, a tough conditioning class, or a good accessory muscle workout. But I only pay for 3 classes a week there, and I’ve found that if I want to accomplish certain goals, I’ll have to do some additional programming because I typically don’t get the chance to lift heavily twice a week there and still get enough conditioning classes in.

Thanks to my boyfriend’s corporate membership at a local gym, I can get an inexpensive membership there and start a lifting program on my own and with my main gym’s support.

As of this past week, I’ve started a plan based on the Starting Strength program. I modified it slightly because conditioning is also important to me, and I didn’t want to do a MWF lifting and T/Th conditioning schedule without rest. I know this is going to be taboo to some lifters, but my goals are to be fit across the board, which requires cardio conditioning and accessory work in addition to the major lifts.

I know that there are a lot of mixed messages and myths out there – “cardio is bad for lifters,” “only do cardio and don’t lift, it makes you bulky,” etc. I’m not saying they’re all wrong (except I will say that people being worried about getting bulky from lifting are redonk) and I’m not saying any one is right; I think that each person’s programming is probably going to be different based on his or her goals. What am I saying is that I’d like to share what works and doesn’t work for me, and document what I’m doing both for myself and to share with those who may be looking for a similar program or just some encouragement to get started. Considering that I’ve been contemplating starting a lifting program for a year or so and am only just now starting, I can tell you that planning and organization is so key.

First, I read Starting Strength, 3rd edition and Practical Programming for Strength Training. While it’s an awesome program, I read it as unbiased as I could, knowing I was going to modify the program slightly to meet my needs.

If you haven’t lifted before, I would NOT do it without first spending some time with trainers and learning how to lift. Even after being trained for a few years on the lifts I’m doing, I still feel nervous hitting PRs on my own without a trainer making sure my form is correct.

Second, I mapped out a program that would work with my schedule, goals, and the classes offered at my gym:

  1. Sunday: rest
  2. Monday: Workout A or B (from Starting Strength)
  3. Tuesday: conditioning (group class at gym)
  4. Wednesday: rest
  5. Thursday: conditioning (group class at gym)
  6. Friday: Workout A or B
  7. Saturday: conditioning or active rest day

Third, I used the Starting Strength spreadsheet to map out my workouts and figure out my weight progression:

Screen shot 2015-10-04 at 11.41.29 AMThen, I planned. I happen to be using a Passion Planner this year, which has a lot of space for extra notes, thoughts, etc., along with monthly, weekly, and daily planner views, and focuses for each day. I find it helpful to use these extra spaces for my workout plans and color code the days. I use the notes/journal section for mapping out my workout so that I can bring it to the gym with me. Sometimes I even leave myself notes about which weights to use to equal the total weight because I fail at the maths.

starting strength planner programMy first week has gone well and I PR’d my squat and bench press! I hope to share updates, tips on planning and managing schedules, and how I feel throughout the program. I’m not a trainer, so I don’t feel fit to give tips on actual lifts and programming, but I am definitely finding out what works for me as far as planning and scheduling, and I can share what programming is working for me and how I feel throughout.

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