I can remember the afternoons in the weight room in college. They were never fun nor were they energizing! Our weight trainer, who also worked with the football team, worked us till one or more threw up. We did power cleans, bench presses, deep squats, plyometrics, maxing out, full body dips & pull ups, and more and more horrible and evil things. The irony of the world for me lies in the fact that many of these evil things are now a part of my everyday! HA!
After college, I had a love/hate relationship with my body, the gym and the weight room (there was more hate on that one)! Now I didn’t have to run 10x120yd sprints or the entire football stadium’s lower level steps or perform max-outs on bench press/power cleans – THANK GOD! Since I didn’t have to, I didn’t do it. In fact, I started to do a bunch of nothing. I would run randomly, do a couple abdominal exercises, maybe a fitness class here or there, but there was no routine to my fitness. Soon the muscles weakened and my body changed. In my young adult years I ran and biked…but still no weights or strength training.
This is what leads me to my big question –
WHY ARE WOMEN AFRAID TO LIFT WEIGHTS?
Why are we afraid of the weight room? We walk or run ourselves to the grave, but fail miserably to focus on our muscles!
I didn’t understand this problem until I felt WEAK for the first time. After college, I moved my furniture to a third floor apartment. My boyfriend and I did the entire move ourselves. After a couple of years, we bought our first home and had to move again. The exact same furniture needed to be moved and I physically could not do it! I know that I moved it in and unless I am mistaken – furniture cannot put on weight as it ages. It hit me hard that I was now WEAK! A busy life took a hold of me.
This was my Ah-Ha Moment – strength training was not something I was supposed to do in college to be a better athlete, it was something I was supposed to do in order to take better care of my body!
Strength training is such a valuable tool in prevention of many illnesses that plague the entire female population. The Mayo Clinic website clearly states:
Strength training helps you:
- Develop strong bones. By stressing your bones, strength training increases bone density and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
- Control your weight. As you gain muscle, your body gains a bigger “engine” to burn calories more efficiently — which can result in weight loss. The more toned your muscles, the easier it is to control your weight.
- Reduce your risk of injury. Building muscle helps protect your joints from injury. It also contributes to better balance, which can help you maintain independence as you age.
- Boost your stamina. As you get stronger, you won’t fatigue as easily.
- Manage chronic conditions. Strength training can reduce the signs and symptoms of many chronic conditions, including arthritis, back pain, depression, diabetes, obesity and osteoporosis.
- Sharpen your focus. Some research suggests that regular strength training helps improve attention for older adults.
I am starting to feel that it isn’t a lack of understanding of the benefits of strength training, it is a lack of understanding of how to do it and what to do????
The weight room can be an intimidating space for women because usually there are not many other women in there. It doesn’t have to be!
Key focus – Total Body Workout
- See your body in segments – lower body, core (abs/back), shoulders/chest, arms
- Work more than one part at a time (squat + shoulder press)
- Start with the larger muscle groups first (legs, butt, shoulders)
Key goals – Strength Training
- Strength train 1 or 2 days a week (with a day in between)
- Sessions are 30-45 minutes, exercises are 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps (or 1 min sets)
- Use body weight, free weights or resistance bands for best results
Your Body Can Change!
* Stand Taller * Walk with More Power * Feel More Energy * Tighten Core * Improve Posture * Be Happy *
Sample Strength Workout (in the gym or at home)
* Warm-up for 5 minutes
(perform each of these exercises for 1 minute)
- Squats (hold a free weight for added difficulty)
- Squat + Shoulder Press (5-8lb weights)
- Alternate forward lunges (hold a free weight for added difficulty)
- Squat + Calf Raise (hold a free weight for added difficulty)
- Bicep Curl + Shoulder Press (3-8lb weights)
- Plié Squat + Lateral Arm Raise (3-5 lb weights)
- Pushups (3 sets of 10)
- Plank (on elbows)