Back in the day, before I ever really thought about being healthy or losing weight or concentrated too hard on how to look after myself, I had a gym membership. Every now and again someone would suggest we go and I’d gather myself together and pop along for as short a time as possible. Without fail, this involved one of a step class, a spin class, a walk on the treadmill (no way I was running anywhere!) or a half hour or so on the stationery bike. The weights room was for hardcore people, scary people, male people … definitely not for me!
However when I first started looking into losing weight I wanted to do something that would a) make me lose weight in a way I could sustain for life; and b) something that would make me achieve my a lean, muscular body rather than a twiggy kind of body (not least because twigginess would be totally unachievable for me with my basic skeletal frame). I did loads of research into it before I started because I really wanted something that I would be motivated to stick with. In the end I chose P90X – which is pretty oldskool now but at the time was unheard of in the UK. I’ll talk about that in another post, but the point is that for anyone who’s not aware of it, it’s got a lot of resistance based work in it. Of the six weekly workouts, three are resistance, one is plyometrics-based, one is martial-arts based and the sixth is yoga. Therefore, it’s heavily biased towards resistance. I was super-surprised to discover that I actually really loved the resistance workouts – they quickly became my favourite by miles! I also loved the effects – the sculpting of my body was something I’d never be able to achieve by cardio alone.
The problem with resistance training is that although men are generally pretty keen on the whole idea, women tend to avoid it on the basis that they want to lean out, rather than bulk up. Ladies I can reassure you that that won’t happen! Muscle production is to a large extent dependent on testosterone, which is why men will always put on muscle more quickly than women.
benefits of resistance training
There are sooooooo many benefits of resistance training! They are well rehearsed on the interwebs but just a few are here …
- increased muscle tone (obvs!)
- better posture
- increased metabolism and therefore reduced body fat
- increased good cholesterol and decreased LDL – bad cholesterol
- reduced risk of diabetes
- reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
- lower blood pressure
- reduced oestrogen levels and therefore lower risk of breast cancer
- decreased risk of osteoporosis
- reduced symptoms of PMS
- improved sleep
- reduced tiredness
- improved mobility and balance
- reduced stress and anxiety
- reduced risk of colds and flu
- reduced risk of injury
- reduced skeletal pain
- reduced depression
- increased strength (no kidding!)
- increased ability to do day-to-day tasks (think carrying groceries, walking up stairs, dealing with heavy files at work, carrying stuff home etc etc)
In light of all that, what’s not to like?! However there are a few things to bear in mind …
tips and tricks
First and foremost … trust me, the weights room is NOT SCARY! It is scary when you first go in because it’s new and everyone looks like they know what they’re doing. Please note the emphasis on looks like. As soon as you pick up a weight you’ll look like you know what you’re doing too.
Having said that, it’s a good idea to get someone to show you how to use the weights and machines before you get involved. The reason for this is twofold – first, you won’t get the benefit if you’re not using them properly, and there’s nothing more soul-destroying than working out but not feeling any benefit! Secondly, there is always a risk of injury with any new exercise and that is all the more so with weights because, by definition, they’re heavy!
Personally, I am not a fan of machines – I believe that free weights are way more beneficial. This is because, first, you are having to balance out your centre of gravity which makes your core work much harder than if you’re using a machine. Secondly, every person is structurally very different and a machine will always hold you to a posture which isn’t necessarily right for your personal biomechanics. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t learn to do it perfectly – of course you should. However, with free weights you can make tiny adjustments which will allow you to move properly and freely.
There are a million other tips out there so I’m just going to leave you with one other … and that is that it’s loads less boring, and loads more effective, if you have a programme to work with, otherwise you’ll likely find yourself wandering around the weights room aimlessly. On top of that, the number of reps that you do is key (the general rule is sub-8 reps to bulk up and 12-15 reps for longer, leaner muscles) and that’s hard to get right without a programme. There are loads of programmes on the net, and there’s always the option of a personal trainer. Some gyms also have a free training session built into your plan once every now and again. It’s well worth investigating these options so that you know exactly what you’re doing when you hit the weights room.
So … enjoy!!