Ladies Who Lift

On the first day of the year I walked into the gym, which was predictably empty (New Year's Day is one of my favorite days because of the quiet on the streets).  The next day I showed up to a full parking lot.  As I walked through the door, I saw all the "cardio" equipment being used to near full capacity.  But when I went downstairs to the weights, it was a different story.  There was not a soul to be found.

I am not one to put down any particular form of exercise.  I think a lot of the internet bashing of certain exercise modalities is completely unwarranted.  You love Crossfit?  Great!  Enjoy running?  Awesome!  Like to dance to break a sweat?  Keep shaking those hips.  Whatever gets you moving is okay in my book, as long as you're being smart and safe about it.  The best exercise is one that you enjoy enough to actually DO!

This post isn't about some "bad" exercise I'm seeing.  It's about a GREAT form of exercise that I'm afraid I'm not seeing performed enough by women.  And that exercise modality is strength training.

This morning I witnessed two women working out with their trainer.  They were performing a series of cable column exercises under his watchful eye, who was there to ensure proper form and to progress, coach and encourage them.  It was great to see.  I just wish the ratio of men and women was 50:50 in the weight room.

What's the biggest reason more women don't strength train?  Probably due to the unwarranted fear that they will get big and bulky like their male counterparts.  Sure, muscles will adapt to the stress of lifting heavy things repeatedly.  But women should not fear that they will turn into Schwarzenegger.  Their genetic makeups ensure that it will be much tougher to do so.

I would guess that the majority of people who exercise regularly do so at least in part for the aesthetic effect, as much as for the health benefits.  And that's okay.  If people want to look good in their clothes (or out of them), then good for them.  If they put the effort in to look good, then they will reap the numerous health effects as well, which is fantastic.  I personally don't care what your motivation is, because I know that regular exercise will benefit you in many ways.

I am not suggesting that women give up their ellipticals, treadmills, spinning, or Zumba classes.  They each add value in their own way.  I'm simply recommending that you consider adding some strength training.  The benefits are myriad, including but not limited to the following:

-Improved heart health
-Improved bone density
-Increased strength
-Increased metabolic rate (the ability to burn more calories at rest)
-Leaner body mass
-Increased insulin sensitivity
-Better fitting clothes

I added that last one because as I mentioned earlier, this is what really matters to many folks.  That's perfectly fine.  Don't rely on a scale to tell you the full picture.  Muscle is more dense than adipose (fat) tissue, so it's entirely possible to be heavier on the scale, but to have your clothes fit better and to be healthier.

Admittedly, exercising regularly runs the risk of becoming monotonous.  Combat that by trying different things.  You might find that you really enjoy something that you previously wrote off.  As for resistance training, it should hardly be reserved for men only.  Ladies, don't be afraid to venture into the weight room to complement your aerobic exercise. You will undoubtedly love the physical results.

***A WARNING ABOUT STARTING A NEW EXERCISE PROGRAM.  STRENGTH TRAINING DOESN'T COME WITHOUT RISKS, SO BE SMART ABOUT IT.  SEEK GUIDANCE TO ENSURE PROPER FORM AND TECHNIQUE.  AS A RULE OF THUMB, IF YOU CAN'T PEFORM A MOVEMENT WITH PROPER POSTURE, GOOD FORM, AND PAIN-FREE, YOU SHOULD NOT BE ADDING LOAD TO THAT MOVEMENT.*****