Strength Training To Improve Your Running

And your physique

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In the April issue of ELLE (out now), on my Fit notes page I revealed that I started weight lifting following Michael Matthew's plan in his book Thinner, Leaner, Stronger. Forget the traditional image of bulked-out men, grunting away in the weights sections. Us women need to establish our place in the world of weight lifting too.

Most important to establish right off the bat is that it's unlikely we will bulk up, the majority of us don't have enough of the right hormone (testosterone) to build big muscles from lifting heavy weights. Which is exactly why we need to lift heavy (rather than light) weights to ensure we do build muscles, while high intensity interval training (HIIT) will aid us in stripping away fat to reveal a leaner physique.

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Still not convinced? Since starting Mike's plan in January I have dropped a dress size and built lean muscle in places I didn't think possible, like my upper arms and back. I have also got faster in my running - before Christmas I ran a half marathon in 1:52, last week I ran another half marathon that was busier (so I was slowed down a little at the start by the sheer numer of runners) yet still managed to drop my time down to 1:48.

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Here Matthews shares his tips for starting out with weight training, as well as some nutritional advice too. After all, if you're not consuming fewer calories than you use, you won't lose fat.

1. Start with a simple Push-Pull-Legs routine that works like this:

Day 1: Push

Flat Bench Press (Barbell or Dumbbell) - 3 sets of a weight that you can only do 8 reps with

Military Press or Dumbbell Shoulder Press - 3 sets of a weight that you can only do 8 reps with

Close-Grip Bench Press - 3 sets of a weight that you can only do 8 reps with

Assisted Dips - 3 sets of 10 reps

Day 2: Pull
Deadlift - 3 sets of a weight that you can only do 8 reps with
Barbell Row - 3 sets of a weight that you can only do 8 reps with
Assisted Pullup - 3 sets of 10 reps
Barbell Curl - 3 sets of a weight that you can only do 8 reps with
Day 3: Legs
Barbell Squat - 3 sets of a weight that you can only do 8 reps with
Barbell Lunge - 3 sets of a weight that you can only do 8 reps with
Leg Press - 3 sets of a weight that you can only do 8 reps with
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If you need to know how to do each exercise use the online directory bodybuilding.com and search by exercise name - it has directions and videos.

2. Start with 3 sessions of high-intensity interval cardio for 20 to 30 minutes per session.
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3. Go on calorieking.com and create a meal plan using foods you like to meet the following daily intake numbers:

1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight
1 gram of carbohydrate per pound of body weight
0.2 grams of fat per pound of body weight

Feel free to use a protein powder to reach those numbers.

(Note: See how your body responds to these percentages, some people do better with fewer carbs, more good fats - check out Mike's blog post on this here...)

4. Incorporate one cheat MEAL per week, not a cheat DAY.

In your cheat meal, you can eat what you like, but you shouldn't go on an all-out binge. Enjoy yourself...moderately.

A cheat DAY can be disastrous - you can regain all the fat you lose in a week in one day.

5. Be patient.

Quick fixes are unhealthy and unsustainable. By doing the above, you should be able to lose about 1 pound of fat per week and gain strength and muscle definition.

Head to Michael Matthews' website Muscle for Life for more advice...

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