I am one of those individuals that always needs to have a new challenge and something to strive for. For a few months, training for a marathon definitely fulfilled that for me.  There is an incredible sense of accomplishment in finishing a 14, then an 18, then a 22, then finally a 26.2 mile run.  But when you are logging 70-80 mile running weeks, it can only lead to one thing- a complete burn out.  At least that’s what happened to me.  After my marathon, running became like a chore, something I had to do to stay fit.  I needed another form of exercise, and I needed it bad.

So I started trying to workout.  I’m not going to lie, it was pretty rough at first.  A weight room can be extremely intimidating, especially when you are 22 years old and have never lifted a weight in your life.  But I went through every machine, every free weight, every muscle group. I just didn’t want to turn into a big, muscle head He-She!

Along with helping me with my diet, I had a schedule that I could maintain of lifting and doing cardio, so that I would have a good balance.  Eventually, I became so comfortable in the weight room that I felt confident going through the exercises, and even lifting with the other juice heads.

The changes I saw in my body were crazy! I think I have always looked relatively fit and trim, but nothing like what I was starting to develop.  I could actually see the outlines of my abs!  Biceps, triceps, calves and glutes became firmer and more toned.  And I’m telling you ladies, I lift HEAVY (for a 108 pound girl).  I am sore after every workout and it feels great.  This is the most amazing part- I dropped 5 pounds (which for me is quite a bit), and still looked feminine. On the days I was lifting, I only had to do 20 minutes of cardio.  Because I wasn’t running everyday, the desire to run reignited, and it began to feel like an enjoyable activity once again.

But the benefits don’t stop there.  My running became so much more than it was before.  Because I was getting stronger, I became faster. I no longer wanted to run in races, I wanted to compete in them.  And compete I did-  I placed 2nd overall woman in the Abilene Half Marathon, with an average 7:38 minute mile!

I don’t tell you all of this to brag- I am just still in amazement myself at the incredible changes lifting weights has made in my life.  I have worked up to lifting 4 days a week and running 3 days a week (I really should have an off day, but I am addicted to both!).  By splitting my workouts, I find that I still enjoy both activities and give my body a chance to recover from each.  On the days I lift, my heart gets to rest and not be at such a constant high rate.  On my running days, my muscles relax and I work the soreness out.

So which is more beneficial, cardio or weights?  For me, it has to be both.  I try really hard to be good about my diet- unfortunately, that plays a pretty vital role as well.  I started eating right and lifting at the same time, and was equally committed to both.  But I have, and always will have, a major sweet tooth.  I now have dessert on a daily basis and have been known to go through an entire box of cereal in a day.  So in order to work off the extra calories, I do have to incorporate cardio.  And I do still love to run.  However, the cleaner you are with your diet, the less cardio you have to do.

Ultimately balance in all aspects of life is a good thing.  For the first 22 years of my life, I was thin, but not toned, and pretty weak.  With the incorporation of weight training in my workout, I feel leaner, faster, and most importantly, stronger.  And who doesn’t like a strong woman?

Erin Butler is one of the ambassadors for the track club, her passion for running is deep and she loves inspiring and helping others!