Does Lifting Weights Make You Bulky?
I have been a long distance runner for most of my life. I started running when I was in fifth grade because my best friend’s parents were making her join the cross country team and she didn’t want to go by herself. I remember the day vividly because the only tennis shoes I owned were those old school white Keds, so that is what I showed up in for my first day of practice. I think I ran in those shoes for a good three weeks until my mom got paid and was able to get me a pair of real tennis shoes that didn’t cause blisters to form on my Achilles. Anyways, my friend didn’t stick with long distance running and ended up playing volleyball, but because I have absolutely no coordination whatsoever I stuck with running. Side note: when I was in 10th grade I somehow made the JV basketball team, I think just because I am kind of tall and could play a whole game without getting tired. I was so bad at the game though, that I accidentally scored one time for the opposing team. In tenth grade! Yeah, that was pretty embarrassing and the last year I ever played.
I ended up running throughout high school and then ran on scholarship throughout college. I competed at Nationals in the marathon event and ran a 3:24 marathon (about a 7:48 mile pace). I’ve qualified for Boston a few times since and have run probably 15 half marathons and over 100 10k’s. I love running. There is something about lacing your shoes and hitting the pavement that brings back so many fond memories to me. The problem I always had when I was running a lot, however, was that I could always lose weight while running, but I never was able to get that nice, toned look that I always wanted. I naturally have kind of skinny arms and thicker thighs/calves. When I was marathon running my legs and rear would get smaller, but were still pretty jiggly and never looked very toned.
I lifted a little while I was running, but I didn’t really know what I was doing, and would mostly just lift really light weights in the 15-20 rep range. It wasn’t until I did Jamie Eason’s LiveFit Trainer (a free online 12-week trainer) in 2011 that I really started to understand how lifting weights could shape your body in such a different way. In her program, you aren’t allowed to do any cardio for the first four weeks. Trust me when I say that it scared the heck out of me to completely cut out training. I was a marathon runner! I loved running! That is what I knew and was good at. But, I put my faith in the program and did as she said. I was amazed that for once in my life I was actually starting to get some shape to my (normally pancake-flat) butt, and my arms were starting to look toned. I was surprised that I didn’t get big and bulky like I thought I was going to, my body was actually starting to take on a shape that I had always wanted, I just never knew how to get.
I finished her training program in the best shape of my life (my son had just turned two when I finished it):
Since then, I’ve continued a similar style of training where I mostly focus on lifting heavy weights and I really limit the amount of cardio I do. Typically I lift to failure, meaning I lift a weight that is heavy enough that the last 1-3 reps are too difficult for me to complete with good form. I do cardio 1-2 times a week and only for around 20 minutes. I usually do HIIT style training. My workouts now usually take 45-60 minutes, which is usually less time than I was taking when I was marathon training. I’m sure at some point I will get the itch to do another marathon. Although I’ve qualified for Boston quite a few times, I’ve never actually ran it, and that is on my bucket list to do one day. But, until then, I am really happy with the bodybuilding style of training I have adapted. It gives me the results I want, and I have never, ever felt like I was getting too bulky with this style of training.
Some nutritional aspects that help with not being bulky and having that “tone” look:
Finding a nutritional program that works for you! For me flexible dieting and (IFFYM) is best and I have the best results with that. I have a new program out right now that guides you through this process, as well as weight training!
Eating enough macros each day will also help with this! 1g of protein for your body weight is the best, but that’s pretty hard if you’re tall like me! So I use supplements when I’m trying extra hard to lean out while also keeping my muscle! I love MRM protein powders because they are made with natural ingredients! Finding your macros can be tricky, so sometimes you do have to play around a little bit and see what works best for your body!
Eat foods that will allow you to recover quickly, anything packed with antioxidants and protein. Antioxidants help to fight free radicals and combat physical stress, like the stress your body can experience after an intense training session. Protein will help your muscles to repair themselves, in turn grow stronger and leaner. Sometimes it can be difficult getting the right kind of protein, so sipping on a protein shake or BCAA’s is a tasty and great way to ensure you minimize soreness, that way you don’t have to miss any training sessions!
One of my favorite ways to get more antioxidants in my diet is using MRM Matcha Green Tea Powder . MRM’s Matcha powder is all natural, stone ground tea leaves that pack a punch of antioxidants and polyphenols along with naturally occurring caffeine that doesn’t cause the jitters or crash. If you’re nervous to try Matcha, don’t be! It tastes great, has caffeine, and a ton of other amazing health benefits!
If you haven’t adopted a weight training regimen I would encourage you to give it a try and let me know what you think!