Why Women Should Strength Train

So I’ve been camping on this idea for awhile now and after a particularly strong and energetic week I decided to get it out, dust it off, and talk about it.

Between physical therapy and those single leg presses ( do you hurt after doing them? they ask.. all 30 reps….Me…nooo.) ok then add ten more, 40 reps per side with your 165lb weight.

I like how they challenge me.

Plus, add the strength training I do at home, it’s been a vigorous week. My deadlifts are at 185 with me currently doing about 3 sets of 4. Baby steps ya’ll…baby steps…I mean this is literally picking up 185 dead weight straight off the floor…not bad for the old lady group 🤣

My workouts include body weight work as well as using a kettlebell, dumbbells, and weighted bar. Resistance bands come in handy too.

I didn’t start here, I’ve come along way from my little 8lb dumbbells from several years ago!

I do talk a lot about the importance of strength training, for women and men, and the crucial role it can play in our lives.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be old and weak.

Old may happen, weakness doesn’t need to.

Why strength train?

Let’s define that first. Strength training can be accomplished using just your body ( we all have those!) And with the obvious, weights for lifting. Both are done to build more physical strength

Strength training is the best way to increase muscle mass, keep body fat at bay, and increase overall strength.

Even in todays world women who participate in formal or consistent weight training is extremely low with many opting only for cardiovascular exercise. If you’re a woman, you shouldn’t be avoiding weights, and you should take strength training seriously.

Let’s look at reasons why

* you will get physically stronger. If there is one thing I love about how my workouts carry over into my daily life, it’s being strong and very capable to handle anything. I love being able to move and lift things without needing help.

Not because I want to feel tough( well maybe a little 😉) but because it’s rather empowering.

I often help customers unload equipment at my sons engine shop. I love the looks I get when I tell a man I will help unload.

One guy…”well it’s pretty heavy…I mean you look strong but it’s heavy..”

I didn’t tell him I was more concerned he wouldn’t be able to deliver on his end than mine.

A well trained womans body is as capable as a man. Strength is not gender specific.

Increasing your strength will make you far less dependent on others. Increasing your strength also means daily tasks and routine exercise will be less likely to cause injury.

Do you know….. research concludes that even moderate strength training can increase a womans strength by 30 to 50 percent. Research also shows a woman can develop her strength at the same rate as a man.

You’ll lose some fat

Studies show the average woman who trains 2-3 times a week, for two months, can gain nearly 2 pounds of muscle and lose 3.5 lbs of fat.

And for the record…you don’t turn fat into muscle….the times I read that in places…nor can you claim gaining weight as muscle after working out for 2 weeks. It takes consistent work and time.

You’ll gain strength without bulk

For whatever reason, if there’s a myth out there regarding women and weight lifting, it’s this.

They worry about getting “bulky”.

Sorry ladies, we just don’t have the genetic makeup for that to happen. We lack the hormones and honestly we aren’t gonna eat enough and workout hard and long enough to even come close.

What will happen? You will develop muscle “tone” and muscle definition and that’s a huge win.

You will decrease your risk of osteoporosis

Weight training can increase spinal bone mineral density (and enhance bone modeling) this coupled with adequate dietary calcium is our best defense against osteoporosis.

You can improve your athletic performance

No matter what you do, strength training can not only improve your athletic ability, it can protect from injuries as well.

You will reduce your risk of back pain, injury and arthritis

Strength training not only builds stronger muscles but also builds stronger connective tissues and increases joint stability. This acts as reinforcement for the joints and helps prevent injury. Strengthening the low-back muscles can help in eliminating or alleviating low-back pain. Weight training can ease the pain of osteoarthritis and strengthen joints.

Will reduce your risk of heart disease
Weight training can improve cardiovascular health in several ways, including lowering LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, increasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol and lowering blood pressure. When cardiovascular exercise is added, these benefits are maximized.

Weight training can help with peri menopause symptoms

During midlife women have often put on weight, become more sedentary, and do not exercise which can enhance the symptoms women complain of during the years of peri menopause and menopause.

Fatigue, hot flashes, low mood or depression, weight gain and muscle aches and pains and other issues are often complained about. Strength training can often help combat these symptoms or offer some level of relief. Strength training decreases body fat, increases muscle mass, and optimizes hormones, not to mention, getting stronger is a great mental boost too.

Finally, it’s never to late to benefit
Women in their 70s and 80s have built up significant strength through weight training and studies show that strength improvements are possible at any age. Note, however, that a strength training professional should always supervise older participants.

Adding strength training to your weekly exercise ( 2-3 times a week) man or woman will give you great benefits that will help you in all areas of your life.

Your turn.. is strength training a part of your week? What benefits have you seen doing it?

Strength Training And Every Day Life

So I’ve been kinda lazy lately… you know with the writing thing. Sometimes I just feel like there’s to much up there in my brain and it’s all clamoring to escape and in turn it comes out with multiple ideas and story lines. Sometimes, I’m just lazy and don’t want to be still long enough to write.

That my friends, is the usual more likely culprit.

It’s hard for me to contain myself at blocks of time to sit and write. Probably why I will never be the next Stephen King or whomever.  It’s why I  remove myself from home so I don’t start thinking about the projects beckoning me to come play with them,

And if you’re following me then you know what I mean by projects, my antique furniture flipping adventures. I have my list of what I’m doing with each and seeing that by my laptop makes me want to go get creative. And yeah, I’ve heard you. You want a post on my furniture flipping shenanigans and it will be in the works. It will be a fun post on some of my recent projects and what I’ve done with some of them.

So, I remove myself to get creative with words for awhile, ’cause you know, use it or lose it.

I mean, in actuality, I’m not really you know, lazy. I can be selective about things I give my time to, is that different?

Over the weekend I was sharing some stuff with hubby, namely how my legs were tight and whining that I needed to be more diligent to rolling them out on my pvc pipe to keeps my muscles loose from what I do to them.

Rolling on the pipe is the poor mans equivalent of a deep tissue massage.

Yes, I willingly hurt myself to get my muscles loose to keep doing the things I do.

Mind you, I like what I do. The running and cycling and lifting heavy things with doses of boxing and rowing in the mix.

I like it.

But putting my body through constant rigors also demands that “after/before” self care that goes alongside being athletic. Sometimes I get lazy with that too.. I will admit it…

So I get these words from hubby “You need to remember you aren’t indestructible”

Me: ” Uh, yeah, I tend to forget that” hahaha

I’m not reckless, I’m just a bit fearless and don’t like backing down from things. I do believe there is a difference.

So with a nod to the reminder I’m not indestructible, I’ll seque into the topic for today, building strong bodies.

Today was strength training day. This usually unfolds for me with my time involving some type of cardio warm up for 10-15 minutes then spending the remaining hour (ish) on strength training, using my body and weights.

I’ve evolved a lot in knowing what I want over these past few years getting fit. I finally know where my “loves” are and what makes me feel alive. That is, being outside and going at 90 on foot or bike. I’ve also learned the  weather can shut those activities down and strength training was always a good plan B. But then I started understanding how important those days were to my other activities and strength training days stopped being the ugly step sister.

Strength training is important for you too

You might be reading this thinking it’s not so important for you, but really, being strong for life IS important for you. My training time takes a small part of my day. The rest of it, I’m on the go doing life. Sometimes, it’s heavy work.  I like to be able to do tough stuff on my own. I will freely admit to wanting to be able to handle it without waiting for someone ( and boy do I get frustrated when I have to!)

I don’t mean “oh, I can get it done and grind it out” I mean, I like doing it with ease, and there is a difference. The stronger you are, the easier things are.

It makes me laugh every time I go get some big piece of furniture and get on the end to lift it when I get the warning:

“It’s heavy”.

I kinda like being underestimated.

Now I’m not reckless ( see my comment above on that) nor am I stupid. I hear the warning, I engage my body just like when I’m lifting stuff in training, preparing for the weight of it, and it turns out to be a piece of cake.

Why? I practice getting strong so when I’m doing life, those things are easy.

Same for you. You are doing life and I’m pretty sure encounter things that require you to put some energy into your activities. When you practice it, then in real life, your body just does what you’ve trained it for.

I’ve upgraded

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Curling up a bit more now days to build those arms.. I’ve made progress.

 

 

I didn’t start off this way. It’s what I remind people when I get asked about my journey and where I am. I didn’t wake up one day and just grab the heavy stuff. No, I had these baby 5lb weights that looking back were, really, useless. I mean I carried several grocery bags at once weighing more than 5 lbs why would I think that would help. I then made the “huge” jump to 8lbs and that offered a bit more challenge esp on high reps. I stayed there for awhile till it felt to easy.

I then upgraded again. I remember the trip to the sports store. Hubby bought me what I wanted, 15 lb little suckers. I could just do about 6 reps before my arms were shaking.

Perfect.

That’s what you need to do as well if you start. Find something you can barely do like 6-8 times and start there. That’s a challenge for you.

Over time that got easier although my 15 lbs are my go to for high reps. I have a variety of things  I use including a 35lb kettle bell that I use for everything from kettle bell swings to deadlifts to single leg deadlifts and everything in between.

This weight works for me ’cause I can use both arms to toss it around but I cannot curl that weight with one arm.

I have however recently upgraded to curling like 25 lbs so I’m kinda excited over that.

And by that I mean I’m in the “curl 6-8 times before arm falls off zone” and that’s good ’cause it’s gonna make me work harder and well, build my girl arms some more. I rest a minute, and go at it again.  And it’s almost tank top season and I live in those so the arms get some decent exposure 😛 time for that hard work to hang out in the sunshine haha

It’s a progression

When I talk to people they always feel overwhelmed like they need to start where I am or their friend or whatever.

Uh. No.

It takes time, energy, patience and a whole lot of stubbornness to keep at it and for your body to grow and adapt to the changes you put it through.

You cannot jump in where someone else is.

You can find where you are, what you are capable of and start there. As I always suggest find a weight that is hard for you, that you have to really work at doing those 6-8 reps on. Even in the beginning if it’s all you can do at a time, start there. You most likely will be able to do those reps, rest a bit and do another set two or three times.

My weight progression has been gradual and I still have tons of room for growth and improvement! I have lots of body building friends who spend way more time lifting than I do, but then, ha they spend a lot less time on cardio than I do 😉 In time I will slowly and steadily increase what I do. Of course my goals are also different from those who have a focus on body building.

Get your equipment

You can use things as simple as milk jugs with some water in them and lift those, adding as little or a lot as needed. You can add sand too.

Craigslist  and local sale sites have  a plethora of “better ideas” people are looking to unload for cheap. I’ve spent very little money getting stuff, and no, I don’t go to a gym. I work out with lawn equipment and  my projects in a building with no heat or air. This is probably good as it keeps me acclimated for my outdoor activities. But there have been mornings I could see my breath in the air and I will just say that metal is crazy cold.. but I do it.

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One of my projects photo bombing me 😉

 

 

 

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My toys

Of course, using just your own body is the perfect way to build more strength by doing body weight exercises that can work specific muscle groups.

Some life thoughts

You may never care about having a defined muscle, although, they are cool to have. But do you know the reason so many people are in nursing or care homes? They lack muscle strength to get out of chairs or off the toilet and a whole lot of other reasons as well. As we grow older, our skeletal muscles tend to wither and weaken, a phenomenon known as sarcopenia. Sarcopenia, which begins to appear at around age 40 and accelerates after 75, is a major cause of disability in the elderly. Exercise can help counter the effects of age related muscle loss. We begin to lose muscle mass as we age and if we aren’t actively using them they can become weak and not support us in the normal daily activities we need to do. That might be a good reason to schedule some active strength training several times a week, right?

If you need help getting started, look around you and see who’s out there doing it and learn from them. I shamelessly pick brains of people who know more on things I’m interested in to learn from them.

And of course, there’s always Google search and the internet too, right? Just find your place where to start, make it a commitment to yourself several times a week and then break out those sleeveless tops 😉

Tell me, do you do strength training? what do you incorporate? Or, do you want to get started in it?

Cardio Or Weights?

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My alarm went off with that startling, glaring reality that it was time to leave my comfy bed. I cast a beady eye toward the offending thing and whacked it into silence.

It was momentary silence as I heard the sound of rain and mentally felt my athletic plans washing away  like the rain that  was running off my roof.

Ugh. No fun outdoor activities for me.

Let me say, I have no issues running in it. I have done it multiple times training for a race and I’m stubbornly ridge on my training so other than if it’s lightening with the rain, I take myself out in it. There’s something incredibly awesome, wonderful, crazy, and intense about running in the rain.

But I don’t have a race I’m currently training for…soooo…..

Plan B.

I came up with Plan B years ago when I realized how much I hated a treadmill and how I hated looking outside and not being in it. I hadn’t really started running at that point but I’d knock off miles walking on it.

It bored me. I watched the time and mileage slip by wondering why it didn’t feel so god forsaken long when I was out on the road…

That’s when I decided to do something else on days I was trapped inside.  I started boxing which was a seriously good cardio workout, but then I also began to mix strength training up with it too.  That allowed me to get creative with what I wanted to do thus, keeping me from boredom.

I found I could start off boxing ( at that point it didn’t take long to have me begging for mercy… a song or two…) then I’d move into lifting some weight and then just doing some body work.

I found I liked that and it gave me an alternate for when I couldn’t escape outside. ( now days it honestly takes a whole lot to hold me inside)

but back then, a few years ago, I didn’t really understand or realize the importance of shaking up the type of workouts I did.

It wasn’t till I was really running a lot that I began to get how important strength training was to making me a  stronger athlete for the things I loved doing.

Lifting some weight not only helped build a bit of muscle but it strengthened and protected ligaments and tendons in my body. Core and upper body work that made me stronger began to be invaluable on long runs when my legs would start to tire. Having upper body  and good core strength helped carry me.

Now putting miles in on the bike it goes without saying having a strong body overall is a huge benefit to some fast moving speed and being able to support myself being in a bent position, stretched out over the bike.

So…. cardio… strength training.

What’s best? Is one best? Which should you do?

Ok, I’m a cardio junkie. I’ll admit it. It just goes with being an endurance athlete. You get a crazy high off the miles and beating the heck out of yourself out there. If I’m not in the double digits I don’t think I’ve done anything.

Yes… I fully understand how you’re reading this thinking I’m crazy…unless you do the same thing then you are sitting there nodding your head ’cause you get it.

You recover to go back and do it again… and again… relishing the strength you build out there and the feelings you get from it.

And I know that’s not for everyone….

Here’s what I would say. Both are important.

First, you really need to know what your goals are. If you are wanting to lose weight, cardio is the biggest burn for your buck. You need it.

I know, I know. It’s hard. It hurts. You really realize that you are out of shape when you do it.

Do it anyway.

But you also need to have some balance of strength training to build a bit of muscle and get stronger.

Who doesn’t love being able to easily snatch up 15 grocery bags and easily carry them in ?? 😉  Do you really always want to wait to have someone help you move something?

Trust me… you want to be strong.

However, you can’t ignore your cardio. Again, knowing your goals is important. If you’re a serious body builder, it’s going to be low on your list. You’ll do it but it will be a small structured part again, depending on what you’re pushing for. If you are gunning for a competition then your goals will be much more centered on lifting and building.

But… in my humble opinion… do you wanna be winded walking briskly for a distance…. even if you are sporting impressive muscles?

No. You don’t. Do your cardio.

If you do a sport like running or cycling, you definitely need to build a couple strength training days into your week.

The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes a week. That’s roughly 30 minutes, 5 days a week of brisk heart pumping, heavy breathing cardio work in addition to strength training.

Seriously, I know it’s rewarding to see what you are building on the outside, but really, you can’t discount and not take care of those inner muscles that keep you strong , healthy, and alive.. your heart, lungs, all of your cardiovascular system.

and if your cardio system is strong, well heck, that means you’ll be able to do strength training even longer with more power 😉

Again, understanding your goals is a big step to knowing how to structure your week of workouts.

As an endurance athlete I view my couple days a week lifting or doing body work as a type of preventative maintenance thing. I’m not in there to be the next body building champ…  I just want my body strong for the activities I love doing.

You can go to the internet and find all kinds of information on which is better… and the articles will be largely determined by what the person writing it likes or thinks.

Do your own research… educate yourself… but at the top of the list is understanding yourself, and your fitness goals as the top priority.

At the end of the day, you want to have a body strong for living life and handling the daily tasks you do, but you also want to be able to do those tasks without being winded and gasping for air and feeling out of shape.

If you want a strong and balanced body, you’ll learn to do both.

Find your balance and find the right combination of cardio and strength training that works for you will give you the best level of fitness for your life and goals.

 

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That Aging Thing

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Yeah…. the benefits of… maturing…  I have fun messing with people….haha 😉

Middle age.

What is that exactly? What does it look like and how is one supposed to behave ? Actually, I’m sure to the disconcertion of a few, I didn’t read the book on what you are supposed to do, look like, be like, dress etc  but tossed it out the window to freely do my own thing 😉

I have no intention of playing by someone else’s rules about life.

You see even though I’m not sure what it’s supposed to look like, I’m totally digging where I am, who I am, and what I’ve learned to this point in my life.

To have knowledge, confidence in who I am, life lessons learned, and a healthy sense of humor intact are things I embrace having. It’s empowering to know yourself and be comfy in your own skin.

Turning into an athlete in my middle aged years and getting strong and chiseled when I could be going to marshmallow fluff is a huge bonus.

Seriously though, as a woman who is (technically) older I do read with some interest articles on health, strength and overall wellness as people age. I really don’t think about age nor do I let it define a single thing I think about taking on. But there is some belief, perhaps misguided, that age is the culprit for loss of strength and physical decline. I don’t want to go there… I want to stay strong.

I mean, is it age that ’causes us to get weak and unable to do things? Or is it the simple truth that we don’t use what we have and lose it ? Do we get frail because of age? or is it that we’ve not intentionally kept working our bodies so they are conditioned for these activities as we get older ?

We become sedentary which leads to feeling tired which leads to not wanting to do things and that in turn slowly erodes our physical strength.

I talk a lot about the importance of having muscle on your body. It’s a good thing. Metabolically it burns 6 calories an hour while resting while the same pound of fat burns a measly 2 calories at rest.

The main reason we lose muscle ? Lack of physical activity….

From the time you are born until you are about in your 30’s your muscles continue to get larger and stronger.  However, at some point in your 30’s you begin to lose muscle mass and function. People who are inactive can lose 3-5% of their muscle mass past the age of 30.

The technical term for it is sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is the age-related loss of muscle mass, strength, and functionality. Like osteoporosis, sarcopenia is a multifactorial disease process that may result from sub-optimal hormone levels, inadequate dietary protein, other nutritional imbalances, lack of exercise, oxidative stress, and inflammation.

Sarcopenia and osteoporosis are related conditions, and one often accompanies or follows the other. Muscles generate the mechanical stress required to keep our bones healthy. When this muscle activity is reduced, it increases our susceptibility to a loss of bone mass, often initiating a vicious circle of declining health and functionality.

Loss of muscle means loss of strength and mobility. This can lead to falls and the physical weakness many associate as “age” related…. loss of muscle leads to a weakening of the body.

Is there a treatment? Yes! it’s called exercise specifically resistance or strength training… exercise that increases strength with resistance bands or weights. Research has shown a progressive resistance training in older adults can have results in as little as two weeks.

Nutrition  also plays a vital and important role in maintaining our muscles.

Eat high quality protein each day, aim for about 30 grams per meal. What does “30 grams” mean in real-life terms? It’s equal to a three-egg omelet with ½ cup hard cheese or 1 cup of Greek yogurt with an ounce of almonds mixed in or a cooked 4-ounce hamburger or 5-ounce salmon fillet. Eat adequate protein, but remember eating excess only leaves your body or stores as fat, it does not build more muscle 😉

Get your heart pumping too… don’t forget it’s also a muscle that needs work. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day a minimum of 3 days a week. Brisk walking, cycling, rowing or running all are good heart pumping exercises.

No matter where you are in life you can start making changes and have improvement  gaining more strength, energy and flexibility for your daily tasks. As with anything new, before you jump into a strength training regime, consult your doctor for the best plan for where you are and get ready to get stronger =)

What’s your favorite strength training activity ?