Strength training changed my life? OK it might sound a tad dramatic, but I firmly believe it to be true.
First let me introduce myself. My name is Deb, and I write a blog called Smoothie Girl Eats Too. I am a fan/friend/kindred spirit to the lovely Lara. If you are reading these words, then you know how fabulous she is. We struck up a cyber-friendship through commenting on each others' blogs and finally had a really fun weekend hanging out together in the fall. We both understand the struggles of maintaining a significant weight loss. You know about her story, and if you are curious, you can read about mine here and here.
One way that we differ is that Lara has not yet fallen head-over-heels, madly & passionately in love with strength training. Notice I said "YET". :-) Lara has found a healthy weight without devoting a lot of time to strength training. And she looks amazing. But she is curious about adding more strength training into her healthy living arsenal and that is why she asked me to write a post on this topic. She may never adore it, and neither may you, but you'll never know until you give it a decent try!
A little history: By eating anything and everything and never exercising, I became a big girl:
I had lost about 70 pounds in 1999 and kept it off for about 8 years. But the weight loss had stalled at a point where I still felt tubby despite the fact that I was spending countless hours weekly doing cardio. At five foot six and a half inches, I weighed about 155-160 pounds.
Then in the fall of 2007, I incorporated the following three changes into my life:
- Food diary
- Daily smoothies
- Strength training
I want to tell you that strength training is so terribly important, especially for women. Here are some of the benefits:
- Lean muscle mass = more calories burned AT REST (read: sitting on the couch)
- Sculpted muscles = less "bulk" = less "junk in the trunk" no matter what the scale says
- Increased bone density
- Empowerment- seriously- when you're strong, you feel like you can accomplish a LOT, and you CAN
- Increased endurance- even in other training regimens. Inexplicable, but true. It seems to help with running, cycling and other sports.
- Sense of accomplishment- I always feel very accomplished after doing a strength routine. And I love the day-after soreness that tells me I worked hard.
- Improved Sleep
- Improvement with depressive conditions, diabetes, and other chronic conditions such as arthritis and back pain.
Learn from my mistakes...Do not wait to lose weight and then "firm up". By strength training while you watch your diet, you will actually lose fat more efficiently. Also, when you diet (maintain a low calorie level) you lose muscle. This is not good! By strength training, you can maintain most of your muscle, even while you lose fat. I used to be under the impression that I had a slow metabolism. This was not the case- I was simply lacking the muscle that my body needed to burn calories more rapidly.
I also want you to know that you should not shy away from weights that are a challenge. Those little pastel colored weights in the corner of the gym will do you no good unless you are an absolute beginner. You need to pick a weight that makes it difficult to complete the last rep when you do anywhere from 6 to 12 reps. If you can keep going and going, you are lifting too light. I am not saying that you should lift "heavy", but with instruction, you should lift a weight that is tough.
I HIGHLY recommend having a personal trainer work with you to show you the correct form as it is of UTMOST importance to do all of the exercises correctly. You do not want to start a training program only to get sidelined with an injury. Some things to keep in mind: Do not work the same muscle group two days in a row- did you know that your muscle grows on its day off? Also, shoot for a couple of times per week to start- that should be plenty.
By the way, I consider a challenging form of yoga (some names: flow, power, ashtanga, hot) to be a form of strength training as well. Aside from being relaxing and teaching many important life lessons (like breathing through a difficult moment), it takes you through a series of lunges, squats, planks, V-sits and pushups- all under your body's weight- no small feat! It also helps tremendously with balance training- invaluable for anyone at any age. But even more important as we get older.
I know that there are a lot of blbggers who are totally on-board with this weight-training way-of-life. Janetha, Susan, Bekah and Allie are all fans. You can check out their blogs to see some of their moves. Here is a useful post that Susan wrote on weights.
So I encourage you to get more information about strength training and give it a try if you are physically able. You just might be surprised at how much you grow to love it! And there is no question what it can do for your mind and body.