Tell Me Tuesday: Strength-Training Tools

Trust us: There are better ways to crosstrain this winter!

The marriage of running and strength training can sometimes be as challenging as a raising-kids, who's-turn-is-it-to-empty-dishwasher marriage. I struggled for years to find a balance between our beloved cardiovascular activity and building (or at least maintaining) muscle, everything from running 30 minutes before hitting the weight room at a neighborhood gym for 20 minutes (too boring and mentally challenging for my brain) to a circuit of body-weight resistance (think squats, lunges, push-ups, etc.) in my basement.

But I think I've finally found what works for me: I do a boot camp class every Wednesday and Friday morning at a nearby studio. I had been boot-camping once a week since January, but I recently stepped it up to 2x and I'm finally seeing some results. I'm not running in just a crop top and skirt anytime soon--but I will now be showcasing slight shoulder definition in a sleeveless dress at my brother's wedding next month.

Boot camp has made me a believer that we all need to find the strength training option that works for us in terms of enjoyment, time commitment, finances, and knowledge. For many moms, the best option is something that can be done at home. In case your creative juices regarding strength moves are as stagnant as mine, here are a bunch of use-at-home options to make you stronger and fitter. (And just in time to add to your holiday wish list!)

Two dumbells; nearly countless weight options

Dumbbells: Nothing says "versatile" like a range of dumbbells. Different muscles are capable of foisting different weights, e.g. you can heft more doing bicep curls than you can punch out with tricep extensions or overhead raises. But unless you want to be continually stubbing your toes, who wants to have a bevy of weights lying around? Instead opt for a pair of dumbbells like these that equal 25 pounds, adjustable in 2.5-pound increments, in a single, compact tray.

Kettlebells: Swinging these contraptions--like a cannonball with a handle--makes me feel badass. Holding them while doing squats or lunges increases the intensity of those exercises, and there are a host of kettlebell moves you can do to pump you up. (YouTube has loads of instructional videos, like this short one. Bonus: Instructor has Aussie accent!) Ones to consider: This rack of three kettlebells or this adjustable one.

Weighted Vest: While we can't condone running wearing a weighted vest, it can be a versatile addition to lower-leg exercises, like calf raises, squats, and lunges, as well as wearing while walking on a treadmill or using an elliptical. This NordicTrack one comes with adjustable weights, up to 20 pounds total, that slide in and out of pouches.

Suspension Training: If you're got slightly more workout space and a desire for something a bit different, consider suspension training, either with Rip60 or TRX. For full-body moves, you attach this strap-and-handle system over the top of a door and close it, or for a dedicated workout, suspend from ceiling mount. In warmer climates or come spring, this is can be looped around a swing set, tree branch, or deck post. When not in use, these products can be stuffed into a sack and even taken on the road when you visit in-laws.

Snap to attention with this DVD

Workout DVDs: In the early morning hours, sometimes my brain isn't firing on all cylinders, so I love the simplicity of following a workout DVD. Sure, my body--and moves--look nothing like the chica on the screen, but I do my best to follow along. A few to consider: 10 Minute Solution Ultimate Boot Camp, Personal Training with Jackie: 30 Day Fast Start, and Jari Love's Revved to the Max.

Tell us: What gets you--and your muscles--revved up?


31 responses to “Tell Me Tuesday: Strength-Training Tools

  1. Hey There. I discovered your blog using msn. That is an extremely well written article.
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  2. Videos are good, but I know I can only do them while my kids are sleeping because they’ll keep bugging me otherwise. So another GREAT option for moms with little children is Stroller Strides. It is a boot camp where you get to bring your kids with you in the stroller! Every class combines cardio and strength training with resistance bands and other boot camp style exercises using the surrounding environment. There are over 300 locations across the country. Check out the website to see if there is one near you. You’ll get an awesome total body workout without needing to get childcare and you’ll make friends with other moms. It’s a workout, mom’s group and kids playgroup all wrapped up into one! You can’t beat that!

  3. Just found your blog, and am loving it! I have only really committed to weights the last year or two since my daughter was born, and feel so much stronger. I love Jillian’s No More Trouble Zones, and have done a # of BodyPump or Chiseled group classes. I’d love to try Bootcamp!

  4. I’ve been taking a bootcamp class about 2x a week since March and I just love it!! It helped me to get past IT band syndrome and has strengthened my core like never before. I also just feel so much stronger, can see a difference in my body and I love that I can easily do the monkey bars with my kids! 🙂

  5. I had typically been incorporating yoga into my routine because I love using that as cross training. Recently, I have discovered Oxygen magazine and love the exercises! Since I am in maintenance mode right now, I am focusing a bit more on strength training, particularly my core and legs. I have also found awesome upper and lower body workouts that I can stick with once I start training again.

  6. Love, love, love body pump at the gym two times per week. I started about 6 months ago and can totally see a difference in my body and, more importantly, I havent been injured since I started and even ran a marathon(big accomplishment for me).

  7. Just started my 15K training plan. Thanks for reminding me about strength workouts again. Really need to get back to Nike Training Club (awesome free app on iPhone) and continue reading Another Mother Runner. Thanks for great podcasts too. Love listening on my runs

  8. P90X! I don’t do it every day like you are supposed to, but even if I do it 2x a week, I notice quick results. And I can actually hold myself up with my chin above a pull up bar for the first time in my life.
    It makes my arms look really good. Totally worth the effort.

  9. My husband is a personal trainer so strength training is always important in our house! I like to switch things up frequently — free weights, body weight exercises, DVDs. I don’t usually follow a strict plan, but I like to mix in strength training 3-4 times a week.

  10. My favorite strength training is Billy Blanks original Boot Camp; calisthenics and Billy Bands. And like some here, I have not made time for it because it’s been all about the running.

  11. We have a treadmill in the office. I wait until after everyone leaves for the day, change into it makes me feel like I workout clothes and put on a weighted vest. I look like a dork. BUT…love it because I know I am getting a great workout while wearing an extra 20 pounds, walking slowing at the steepest incline and reading Vanity Fair.

  12. I love to strength at least 2 to 3 times a week. Helps me stay I jury free and also I like having some sculpted muscle in the upper body to help balance out my curvy lower body. I think it also helps develop more power in the legs and better running economy. I typical can’t get to classes so I really rely on home fitness programs. Even though I know many strength moves on my own, I usually need a DVD to follow to motivate me to get it done and make sure I mix it up!

  13. I’ve been rocking the consistant strength training lately also and have really noticed a difference. I’ve run injury free for 6 months now and am faster than ever before. I also feel like my body is looking better than ever. I often do my own thing but lately I’ve been loving the Nike training app. It gets me moving and sweating way more that on my own.

  14. Loved the picture. It made me laugh. I love workout dvds as well since I’m a stay-at-home-mom with no gym membership. Right now I’m loving P90x. I also love Jillian’s 30 Day Shred. I love trying new dvds, so I’ll have to try the ones you mentioned.

  15. I think I’d rather jump into an ice cold lake wearing a Santa hat than strength train…it’s been on my to-do list since my DNF 2 1/2 weeks ago. Off to dust off my 30 Day shred DVD…thanks for the kick in the pants!

  16. I’m a big fan of fitness DVD’s because they are great for mom’s who can’t leave their kids or don’t have a treadmill/jogger stroller or are just looking for something different. My favorite currently is Jilliam Michaels Yoga Meldown. Jessica

  17. I am a HUGE fan of resistance bands (we own the Terrell Owens Strongman edition of Bodylastics – because my husband never does anything halfway. That’s a good thing.). There’s a very good workout on Prevention mag’s website (search for “fastest way to sculpt”) and I use that. I’ve been doing a lot of Pilates right now because I’m in the middle of having my varicose veins “treated” (it’s a process…) and can’t really lift – or run.

  18. I just found a cool workout you can do anywhere, no weights required. Its called the deck of cards workout (from lifehacker). You just pick something (push ups, dips…) for every suit and then do each rep for the number on the card. Look it up, it rules and kicks your butt!

  19. I love 30 Day Shred, too. When I first started, Level 1 Day 1 left me SO sore! And the jumprope part? Forget about it! Now, I know that I will NEVER look like Jillian or her two pals, I know I am getting a great 20 minute workout.

  20. My arms never knew definition before Jillian Michaels’ DVDs – seriously. She kicks your butt (although she could leave out the random cuss words bc my kids are usually watching it behind me) and I’ve never been stronger. I’d really, really like to try Bob Harper’s new(ish) line of DVDs too; my husband just bought me the JM ones so beggers can’t be choosers.

  21. I, too, am a fan of the Nike Training Club app! The workouts even have tough names, like “Action Figure” or “Gladiator”. You can do them with a medicine ball and some hand weights, and knock it out in anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes.
    I really dig the kettlebells, too. There’s nothing like swinging a 25 pound weight over your head at the gym to make you feel like a studette!

  22. While I am fortunate to have a trainer I work out with on Friday mornings (think plyos until almost puking) I swear by Jillian Michaels’ 30 day shred, shred it with weights (kettlebell) and no more trouble zones. The 30 Day Shred and Shred with Weights are only 20-30 minutes long so I can squeeze them in before work and they are HARD! No More Trouble Zones is about an hour and was my Sunday staple to complement my Saturday long run when I was marathon training last year. All you need is a mat, hand weights, and kettlebell is optional as she does show the kettlebell moves with a hand weight too 🙂

  23. I love the TRX. My Pilates instructor has recently swapped out 1 of our reformer days for TRX training and it kicks my butt every time! There seems to be endless moves with it that hit all the major muscle groups. I’d get one for home if I thought there was a doorway in this 100+ year old house that was strong enough to hold my body weight.

  24. Running is my first love, but strength training is my second favorite. I love total body circuits, alternating between upper and lower body, with some burpees and mtn. climbers thrown in for fun. I try to strength train every other day, and during the summer when I’m off work I teach weight classes and torture my personal training clients. I’ve seen the benefits of weight training through fewer injuries and more power in my runs, not to mention that muscle definition we all love. The best of both my worlds – circuits alternating 1/4 mi. 5k pace runs with 12-15 reps of a strength exercise, like the circuit in Run Like a Mother.

  25. I am a huge fan of a group fitness class called Body Pump (
    My gym calls it Barbell Strength and many gyms have some variation of Body Pump but not all the instructors are certified, which I think makes a big difference. Two things I love about it is that there is no dancing or fancy footwork and you personalize it for you based on the weights you use. It works for super-fit 20 somethings and octogenarians, men and women. I had been away from it this summer and did a class using my regular weights and had trouble getting up and down my stairs for 3 days. So if you go, start with LIGHT weights and let the instructor know you are a newbie.

  26. I do Jillian Michaels, and when I’m doing her DVDs faithfully, they give me better muscle tone and definition than ANYTHING I’ve ever tried before. Mainly I do the 30 Day Shred (I’ve done it straight through twice, but most of the time I just do 1 of the workouts, 2x/week). It only takes 20 minutes and it really kicks your ass. Major sweat! It’s HARD! And all you need is your body weight and 5-lb. dumbbells.

  27. After my August Marathon I wanted to take some time off from running, not because the marathon was a bad experience, but because I felt it kind of sucked me into it, all what I did was related to that race and I just needed something else.
    I tried swimming and cylcing but my husband went overseas for 2 months leaving me with almost no fitness options. So I went into a 30 days of 30min challenge following the 30days shred DVD from Jillian Michaels, and after 30 days wow!! I wasn’t overweigth so I didin’t loose weigth but I got some nice definition in my shoulders,abs and butt as well! That’s how I felt in love with strength training. At the moment I’m alternating during the week runs and 30-45min sessions using the Nike Trainning Club app in my Iphone. The app is so good and you won’t get bored at all, the best is that you can find workouts of only 15min, and they can be hard like very hard!

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