I've been browsing the beginner forums and theres so much information. I don't have a solid idea of where to begin.
I don't have any experience when it comes to weight lifting. Never lifted a weight in my life. My schedule is open and I have access to a gym free of charge. The same goes for healthy foods since the market is a walk away.
A healthy style is encouraged for me where I work and I would like to start learning more about lifting. I'm just not knowledgeable enough in my opinion to start lifting and I don't want to injure myself.
5' 11 inches. 180 Lb's Waist size is 35
I do run 3 miles on Mondays, weds, and Thursdays along with other cardio exercises for 45 minutes. At one point this worked great for losing weight but I was doing this in the morning so it could have something to do with that.
My goal is to lose 15 lb's and start building a more athletic looking body. Bigger arms,chest, stronger leaner core, and more endurance for long distance running. My legs are good where they are because of the running. Its just my upper body thats not up to speed.
1) Get a coach, or at least ask some experienced guy at your gym to teach you the correct form on basic lifts: squat, deadlift, press (aka overhead press or military press), bench press, bent over rowing, power clean, chin-up/pull-up.
2) Your "goal" is actually two different and conflictual goals: increasing muscle mass and long distance endurance at the same time is very difficult, and normally leads to failure in both! Just look at marathon runners: do you want an upper body like theirs? You have to choose.
As an absolute beginner, your best choice would be to purchase a book called Starting Strength (you can find it here: http://www.aasgaardco.com/ ) and follow it to the T.
Read the threads in this forum called "A must read for beginners" and "Are you a beginner II." Follow the nutrition advice and treat it's like a math exercise. Crunch the numbers and come up with meals that actually fit into your new plan. A great reference for this is www.nutritiondata.com. There you will find how much protein, carbs etc are in all those foods you want to include. I highly advise you to tackle this thoroughly now in order to maximise your gains.
What he said and here is a link for the download of the excel sheet so you can plug in the numbers.
For is very very important so it's good to nail it down right at the beginning if you can squat below parellel and stay on your heals the whole time or deadlift without rounding your back you need to learn to do it. Also it's a real advantage to learn how to power clean rather than do rows. Link to a forum where Riptoe critiques people on their form, strengthmill.net/forum/forumdisplay.php?s= 742509b3c81ddf88f4cdc0ab0996cbf2&f=36 Some advice is get his book before you post asking advice, consider the dvd also.
BTW this is a total body workout and will help you build a strong foundation so just ignore what you hear about tbt.
In addition the advice others have given I would say that you need to read the articles, not just the forums. The articles are where the golden advice is. The people that go back and read day in, day out on the articles will have a better toolbox to work with. I'm not just talking about the last year or 2. A lot of the great articles were written in 2001 and 2002 as well. Classics.
1) keep it simple. Harder/bigger movements first in the workout when you've got energy, smaller/isolation stuff later as you tire. no more than 5-6 exercises in one workout (not counting abs). upper/lower split 4 days a week works well for many many people. Try to progress in at least one of the following ways each week: weight lifted in an exercise, reps done in a set, sets done on an exercise, total workout volume done, rest periods observed (less and less).
You don't have to progress in all exercises at all times, although that's the most fun and most sought after progress. You do need to progress on at least one exercise or one aspect of your training each time.
2) keep it hard. Unless you are particularly gifted at running, you didn't start running at 3 miles, and it didn't feel too good did it? Out of breath, pain in your sides, exhausted...In order to progress in muscle mass you have to progress in difficulty---you have to push yourself in the gym. If it's not hard, it's not really useful for muscle/strength gain. Maybe for rehab or motor patterns, not mass.
3) keep at it long term. You won't get the body you want in 4-6 months, no matter how hard you work (unless your standards are so low they can't be measured). It takes a long period of dedicated, consistent work.