Growing up I was a competitive swimmer and spent every ounce of my free time submerging myself in chlorine (which as a result kept me out of trouble — thank you Mom.) When our team wasn’t in the pool, we spent time building our strength in the gym, lifting weights, doing push-ups and sit-ups. Then after college I joined the local YMCA in an effort to shed some of those late night pizza, beer drinking, college days.
The success was minimal and it wasn’t until I found Bikram yoga that I really started to regain my health, lose those extra pounds of unhealthy weight and get my health back on the right track. I found Bikram yoga so satisfying that I have done little in the last seven years to cross training or supplement my yoga practice. As a result I’ve seen a slow decrease in my muscle tone.
In an effort to build back some of my muscle mass I joined a local gym which had a free personal training session as part of signing up. During that session I learned that strength training doesn’t have to be confined to a sweaty weight room with a bunch of alpha males. There are many ways that women can use our whole bodies to build strength without lifting weights. (Don’t get me wrong, lifting weights is a part of strength training and if you like it, good for you!)
Despite the many benefits of strength training for women, only 20% of us do some sort of strength training on a regular basis. As women age, it’s particularly important that we build our muscle mass (which naturally start to deteriorate over time) and increase bone density.
Strength training benefits for women:
- Weight loss: Lifting weights and strength training increase your basal metabolic rate, in other words, the amount of energy (calories) you burn throughout the day. Muscles burn more calories than fat, so building strength will help you lose and maintain a healthy weight. Women often worry that lifting weights will make them “bulk up” but we don’t have enough testosterone in our bodies to get overly bulky. As Women’s Health magazine put it: “Replace 10 pounds of fat with 10 pounds of lean muscle and you’ll burn an additional 25 to 50 calories a day without even trying.”
- Mental focus: Strength training can be meditative and requires significant focus to maintain proper form. Deep breathing is an essential part of weight training, helps you focus, and reduces anxiety and depression. For more information on the benefits of deep breathing, click here.
- Increase confidence: When you incorporate strength training into your routine, you will feel, strong, confident and great. Moving furniture – no prob! Rearrange your office – easy peasy!
- Manage chronic conditions: According to the Mayo Clinic lifting weights and strength training can help manage conditions like arthritis, heart disease, anxiety, diabetes and more.
- Build bone density: As we age we naturally lose bone density. Since women are more prone to osteoporosis – of the 10 million people diagnosed with osteoporosis 80% are women – it’s important to incorporate strength training and adequate calcium in your routine.
- It’s FUN!
Tips for getting started:
- Invest in a personal training session: If you’re a member of a gym, ask if they have one free personal training session. Or with the holidays coming up, ask for three training sessions from your friends and family. This will pay for itself — you can learn the proper way to lift weights, how to use the machines and overall have confidence to move around the gym.
- More than “pumping iron:” Not interested in sharing the weight room with a bunch of meat headed dudes? I get it. Ask a trainer or someone at the gym to show you the general strength training area. I typically stick to this section and use medicine balls, TRX bands, resistance bands, yoga balls for core strength and pull-ups.
- Stretch before and after: Focusing on flexibility while building strength will be the winning combination for your body. Limber and strong – watch out world!
Strength training is new to my routine, and I love it. I feel stronger, it’s added a much needed variety to my workout regimen and most of all makes me feel vibrant and energetic.
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