Why are so many women afraid to strength train?

Strength or weight training is a crucial part of a complete exercise program, especially for women. So why are so many women afraid to weight train? I’ve exercised many years and heard numerous women state concern that they will become bulky like a male bodybuilder. This is simply not true!

Many women either refuse to strength train at all, or if they do strength train, many will not push themselves to their full potential.

In a misguided effort to stay thin I see women using only cardio machines in their workout routines. They feel that they are going to loose the most weight this way. While cardio is major part of any fitness routine, and does burn fat, strength training will allow a woman to get fit with optimum results, and in less time!

First of all, as women, we do not have the same capacity to “bulk up” as a men do; at least not without some serious hormonal help! We are simply smaller creatures. Women and men can both develop healthy lean muscle mass, however, a women’s body will be on a much more reduced scale than a man’s. Look at all those Hollywood stars and models, many have trainers that incorporate both strength training and cardio into their exercise routines. How many Hollywood actresses can name that look like bulky male bodybuilders? I for one would have to seriously consider that one.

Strength training has many vital benefits.

1. Strength training has many vital benefits for women. For one thing strength training helps decrease the overall risk of osteoporosis. When women strength train they not only strengthen their muscles, they also create strong bones. Osteoporosis occurs when bones become less dense, they become porous leading to weakness and thus leading to fractures.

2. Strength training is what allows a woman’s body to change its shape. Strength training both large and small muscle groups is equally important, however, training large groups like the quadriceps and biceps will change your physical appearance faster than just cardio alone. When women strength train they see results in less time. This will also reduce the appearance of cellulite and will help get rid of that bat wing appearance. You know that underarm flabby appearance many of us worry about.

3. Strength training allows the body to burn fat more effectively. When strength training is incorporated into out workouts, our body burns more fuel than just performing cardio as it tries to rebuild the muscles. This speeds up the metabolism and optimizes fat burning.

Important things to keep in mind while strength training.

1. Never underestimate the importance of varying your routine. What I mean by this is do not exercise the same muscle group two days in a row. Allow for adequate rest in between workout sessions. This will allow your muscles to fully recover and will reduce the risk of over training injuries.

2. Stretching is vital! Stretching before a workout should be light and should be followed by a 5 to 10 minute warm up to get blood circulating. This will allow optimal performance during the strength training period. Also, a longer stretching session after the workout will ensure that the muscles do not become too tight. You should stretch all your major muscle groups to maintain optimal performance.

3. Overall, strength training will allow a woman to look and feel her best. Do not be afraid to incorporate weights into your regimen. If you are just starting out, try to use lighter weights and gradually increase weight and intensity as your strength and endurance increases. You’ll not only look great, but you’ll feel great as well.

How to get started strength training as a woman

Here’s a list of Do’s and Dont’s to help you get started with your own routine.

Do: Stretch muscles pre and post workout to reduce the risk of injury.

Don’t: Train the same muscle groups on consecutive days.

Do: Take a day off to rest your body at least 1-2 times per week.

Don’t: Perform only cardio, this will help you gain cardiovascular endurance, but remember by strengthening muscles groups cardio performance can be optimized.

Do: Keep a workout journal to track your progress.

Don’t: Worry about if you are starting out lifting too light. The goal is to increase strength, this it is a building process.

Do: Have fun!

Exercise is supposed to really good for you. But some people have some mistaken ideas about what it can – and can’t – do. Here is a list of some common exercise myths, and the facts associated with them.

General myths

You won’t be getting any benefit unless you exercise hard enough to be out of breath. Actually, you should still be able to talk while you’re exercising. If you can’t talk, you’re overdoing it, and should ease off.

Using light weights on your arms or legs will make exercise more effective. These small weights are really not enough. If you want to get more out of exercise, you can add weight training, but that’s a different matter.

Building muscles will make you less flexible. You can stay flexible, or even improve your flexibility, if you take your muscles through the full range of their motion. It’s only if you don’t do this that you’ll lose flexibility.

If you don’t keep exercising, your muscles will turn to fat. Muscles and fat are two different kinds of tissue. They can’t change from one to the other.

Sport drinks keep you healthier by replenishing nutrients lost during exercise. Sport drinks contain mostly salt and sugar, and can be helpful if you’re doing a lot of really intense exercise – like running a marathon. But most people don’t need them. The average exercise routine doesn’t cause you to lose enough salt (through sweating) or carbohydrates to need a sport drink. Experts say water will work just fine for these kinds of workouts.

Gender myths

Women don’t have as much endurance as men because they’re not as muscular. Actually, women have just as much endurance as men, and they recover faster from intense exercise as well. They don’t have as much muscle mass, but that’s because they don’t have as much testosterone.

Myths about exercise and your health

Strength training is designed to build muscle, so it won’t help with weight loss or keep your heart healthy. To lose weight, you need to burn calories, and strength training does do that. It also can help lower LDL – the “bad” cholesterol. Combined with aerobic exercise, which lowers HDL cholesterol, strength training can be very good for your heart.

The more strenuously you exercise, the healthier you’ll be. Actually, exercising at a moderate level is best. It can reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes Type 2 and lower your stress and anxiety levels and your blood pressure. Plus, strenuous exercise, especially when you’re starting a new exercise program, can be more hazardous than helpful; consider the sedentary people who have heart attacks while shoveling snow.

Exercise won’t improve your health if you can’t do it regularly. Of course it’s best to exercise on a regular basis. But even one session can help you be healthier — as long as you don’t overdo things.

You can be too old or too sick to exercise; in other words, exercise isn’t good for the elderly or for those with chronic diseases. A study at Tufts University with nursing home residents aged 72 to 98 showed that exercise had some very positive benefits. The participants were stronger, could walk faster, and had more endurance. Certainly people who are very ill might not be able to be very active. But those with chronic conditions might actually see a lessening of their symptoms if they exercise. For example, exercise can help people with arthritis be more flexible and have less pain.

Conclusion

Exercise can help a lot of people in a lot of different situations. But it’s always good to know what works and what doesn’t – for you. If you’re at all uncertain about whether exercise would help or hurt you, check with your doctor before starting any activity program. That way you’ll be more likely to find a program that is not only safe but also effective.

With New Year’s fitness resolutions in full swing, it’s time to get a “running start” on your fitness program. By starting off with a bang, you can also beat the post-stress of the holidays and reduce the lingering food related overindulgence guilt.

Starting a running program

So where do you start? First of all, you need to make an honest self evaluation about your current level of fitness. If you have been dormant for an extended period of time, consult a physician and get clearance for exercise. Next you need to determine your running goals. Are you interested in fitness only, completing a 5K, 10K, half-marathon or marathon? Each of these activities requires a different workout plan. I will cover specific training programs to complete 5K runs/races through marathons in future articles.

Proper running gear

First and foremost, you will need the proper running gear. This is the time of year when weather can change rapidly. Always dress in light weight layers. If you become too warm, you can remove a layer. The best practice is to warm up and stretch before starting the workout. This will allow you determine if you have too many or too little layers before jumping straight into the workout. There are numerous “high-tech” running garments available that “breathe” and allow moisture to evaporate. Try to avoid bulky cotton type garments that absorb moisture and become heavy. A light weight hat and gloves will also be beneficial in retaining body heat before, during and after your run.

If you live in an area that receives snow, then you may want to invest in a trail type running shoe with better grip on snowy surfaces. There are also products that are designed to fit on your shoes and provide traction in icy/ snowy conditions.

Be seen while running

While some municipal trails may be passable for running in the winter, most are not. This requires runners to share roads with motorists. Combine the reduced daylight hours with motorists distracted by holiday lighting, and you have increased potential for a collision. Always wear highly reflective materials so you will be seen by motorists. Running vests are a good option if you don’t have clothing with reflective strips built in. Stores like REI have numerous options for reflective running gear .

Additional cool weather running tips

  • Make sure you hydrate as often during your run in the cool months as you would during warm weather months.
  • Try to plan your run so you can finish by running with the wind. If you run with the wind to start and finish by running into the wind, you may get very chilled and uncomfortable.
  • Keep an eye on traffic at snowy intersections. Motorists have a tendency to roll through stop signs to avoid getting stuck and there is potential for a collision with runners.

By following these basics, you can get a “running start” on your New Year’s resolution running program.