I received the following email the other day and it made me realize I have yet to really explain on the blog how I made the transition from flabby Cardio Queen to firm and fit Lifter of Heavy Things:
Hi Emily. I read your recent post about the importance of strength training. Nothing new. I KNOW all that.
But I can’t get myself to do it on a regular basis. Cardio, on the other hand, I do.
Why is it easier to do cardio? Because I feel the benefits immediately. If I’m stressed, even a brisk walk helps. Between forcing changes to respiration patterns and getting to the endorphin level, I have results when I step off the treadmill, and they can last for hours.
With strength training, well, first of all, I just don’t enjoy it as much during the workout. I don’t feel much immediate gain, in general. Maybe some, but not enough that I remember it as “gee, gotta do that again”. Then the next day, there’s likely to be pain. If I’m just starting up again–it might be even worse two days later. Now there’s a disincentive…. It’s not that the benefits aren’t there–but they’re far enough removed from the actual workout that it’s harder to link them for motivation.
So hey. I could have written that five months ago. I actually DID write that, right here on this blog, heaven have mercy, FOUR years ago! And yet, although I knew I needed to do less cardio and more strength training, I resisted and resisted and resisted. And I resisted so much that it actually grew into one of those horrible things I started having anxiety about!
At the end of September 2013, an off-shoot FB group sprung out of the main Vegan Body Building and Fitness FB group. A group only for women. A group, that at the beginning, was small and intimate enough, that I felt comfortable to reach out for help. My first post was something pretty much like what my reader wrote to me above. “I know I need to lift weights but I can’t make myself start, and by the way, I think I have an actual phobia of the weight room.”
Support and accountability – forever the two things that have been behind every change or success I have ever accomplished.
I got both. The ladies told me to hire a trainer so I wouldn’t feel like a fish out of water in the weight room, and I challenged myself to do so by the start of the following week.
I was almost paralyzed with fear, but since I had said it publicly, I felt I had to follow through. I did. It was fine. Of course.
We are now five months later and I am on my second trainer, this one now virtual and vegan herself. I have seen my body change in ways I never knew possible. I’m not quite ready to share a Flex Friday photo, but hopefully by the time warmer weather rolls around, I shall be rockin my swimsuit with a confidence I have never had before!
Strength training, or body building if you will, does not mean turning into a muscled out Arnold. It’s actually pretty hard for women to build serious muscle. What lifting weight does do is give everything an overall firm and yummy appearance. I used to rue the fact that after training six months for a marathon, I would stand at the starting line with flabbier thighs than when I had begun training! That is because I lost muscle doing all that cardio. How sad is that?
Aside from making you look flabby, want to know why else losing muscle sucks?
- Because muscle is metabolically active, it burns calories. Fat doesn’t burn calories. So trading a pound of fat for a pound of muscle means you GET TO EAT MORE! I am eating a crazy delicious amount of food and getting trimmer and slimmer, yay! Contrast that with before when I was gaining weight during marathon training while feeling hungry all the time!
- We lose muscle as we age. That lowers metabolism but also makes us weaker. If we don’t actively work to build it, we will get flabbier and weaker naturally with the passage of years. That ultimately can lead to falls and we know where falls in older people lead to…
- We lose muscle when we diet too! Then, because our metabolism has slowed, re-gain is SO much more likely! Strength training is a MUST for permanent weight control efforts.
To answer my reader’s issues above – not getting that cardio endorphin rush and getting sore and achy from lifting:
a.) You WILL get an endorphin rush from lifting weights if you lift vigorously enough or if you do active recovery such as jumping jacks etc in between lifting sets.
It turns out that iron makes me just as high as asphalt ever did! woo!
b.) Sore and achy does happen, usually after 2 days (DOMS = delayed onset muscle soreness), but it’s a great excuse for booking regular massages! Soreness can also be reduced by stretching, foam rolling, eating enough calories and protein between workouts, getting enough sleep, taking glucosamine and using turmeric to spice your foods. And then there’s this bad assery factor whereby lifters come to perversely enjoy the fact that they can’t blow dry their hair two days after a shoulder workout b/c they are too sore to hold up the hair dryer!
Sore muscles mean you’re working and growing!
So, there my secret is out. I promised there would be a new incarnation and a new sport after marathoning, and this is it!
Assuming I have convinced you to give strength training a try, how to begin, you ask? You can do what I did and hire a trainer at the gym to show you how everything works. Or if you have a basic gym vocab, you can start with Jamie Eason or Erin Stern’s free programs on bodybuilding.com (Those link directly to the programs. You’re welcome). No gym? Try body weight workouts such as Betty Rocker or Zuzana. There are plenty of free workouts on youtube and pinterest. Or hire a trainer to your home or to meet you in a park where she will take you through the paces using playground and/or TRX equipment!
Let’s get out there with some sexy, yummy muscle ladies! And if sexy yummy doesn’t motivate you, did you read the part where I said you get to eat more food??
Here’s a little visual motivation: