Do Girls Get Bulky From Lifting Weights
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.

Here are some fun blast from the past pictures from when I was running in college.  This was before the days of digital cameras, so the quality isn’t great as most of these are scanned photos.

Center bottom

Center bottom

Albertson College of Idaho Cross Country2

(In the center) at Regionals for outdoor track, waiting for my event (10k) to come up.

Albertson College of Idaho Cross Country3

That is me on the right

Albertson College of Idaho Cross Country4

Third from the left. 2006 (or maybe 2007) Albertson College of Idaho girls cross country team.

Albertson College of Idaho Cross Country5

Center, at the start line for a cross country 5k race

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):
LiveFit Results
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 (click here for a few examples of the HIIT workouts I do).  My workouts now usually take 45-60 minutes, which is usually less time then 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.  Here is a video I made a while back talking about my thoughts on lifting heavy, and showing off what my husband calls, “hulk mode”.

What are your thoughts here?  Have you ever switched from doing a lot of cardio to lifting heavier weights?  I would love to hear your experience!  Leave a comment with your thoughts and opinion below.

Natalie Hodson is a mom of two showing how to balance family, fitness, and a healthy lifestyle.