If I were to name the most important thing I do consistently, it’s this: I strength train.
Let’s face it: life is full. Every day you juggle a hundred different responsibilities, opportunities and distractions vying for your time. For many us, finding time to exercise is hard. If we’re going to do anything it has to be convenient — a walk or a run, maybe a bike ride. If you make it to the gym you deliberately dodge the weight room and head to the cardio machines. Right? If you’re like the vast majority of women, strength training is not part of your routine. And why not?
I’ve heard all the reasons before and, believe me, I’ve had some of them myself. I don’t want to bulk up. I’m embarrassed. I don’t want to work out with a bunch of guys. I don’t know what to do. I’m afraid I’ll look dumb.
Let’s talk about it.
What keeps you from going into the weight section in your gym? Or, if you don’t have a gym membership, what stops you from lifting weights and strength training at home?
You and I both know that fitness is more than skin deep. But the reality remains: We all want to look and feel our best. Often, we try to minimize our bodies as merely a part of a much more important spiritual whole. We criticize ourselves or others for being selfish, indulgent or obsessed. But our bodies are worthy of respect.
God designed your body to move and breathe; to be living and active. Are you treating it well? Are you challenging it to grow? Are you caring for its health and wellbeing? Do you make investments in how you move and what you eat that allow it to function at it’s best?
I think what you really want is to be strong. Strong in spirit. Soul. Mind and body. Here’s what I know: Strength training is the answer to a stronger, fitter, healthier, and happier you.
There are at least ten reasons I can think of to incorporate strength training into your normal routine, and probably a hundred more.
Strength training will help you:
1. Get or stay healthy: Strength training aids in the prevention or control of chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, back pain, depression and obesity. It also helps to increase HDL (good cholesterol) and decrease LDL (bad cholesterol), lower blood pressure, decrease or minimize risk of osteoporosis, reduce stress and anxiety, and decrease colds and illnesses.
2. Lose/maintain weight: Not only does strength training aid in weight loss, it also helps you keep it off over time. The more you increase your lean body mass (higher percentage of muscle to fat) the more calories you will burn even at rest.
3. Change body composition: While you’re busy burning calories during your strength session, you can take sweet satisfaction in knowing that you’ll continue to torch calories even after you’re done. Because more calories are required to make and maintain lean muscle than fat, strength training can boost your metabolism by up to 15%!
4. Protect bone and muscle mass: Lean muscle mass naturally diminishes with age. Starting at puberty, you begin to lose 1% of bone and muscle strength each year. You’ll increase the percentage of fat in your body if you don’t do anything to replace the lean muscle you lose over time. Not only can strength training stop or prevent that loss, it can reverse it.
5. Become stronger: This is what we all want, right? To be STRONG. What you are doing when you strength train is toning and strengthening your muscles by contracting them against a resisting force. This force can be your body weight, added weight or pushing against a non-moving object like the floor. Strength training helps to enhance your performance of everyday tasks like lifting, carrying and walking up stairs.
6. Develop better body mechanics: As we age, our bodies want more and more to succumb to the power and persuasion of gravity. By working muscles through the full range of motion, strength training helps to increase balance and flexibility.
7. Prevent injury: Strong muscles, tendons and ligaments are less likely to give way under stress and are less likely to be injured. Increased bone density and strength reduces back and knee pain by building muscle around these areas. Plus, because you’re more balanced and flexible, you’ll reduce risk of falls.
8. Stand tall: The way you sit and stand are influenced by the health of a network of neck, shoulder, back, hip and abdominal muscles. Stronger muscles can help you stand and sit straighter and more comfortably. And we all know, good posture has the equivalence of an instant 5 pound weight loss. Who doesn’t want that?!
9. Manage stress: As you begin to notice the positive physical changes in your body and develop a regular exercise routine, your ability to handle stress will improve. Strength training also allows you to sleep better and deeper. Clinical studies have shown regular exercise to be one of the three best tools for effective stress management.
10. Be happy: Who knew?! All exercise, not limited to strength training, will increase your level of endorphins, making you feel great. Strength training has also been shown to be a great antidepressant, a tool to increase confidence and body image, and improve overall quality of life.
Here’s what I know: life is full. And while you juggle all the responsibilities, opportunities and distractions vying for your time, you must remind yourself that taking care of your body matters. It matters to you; it matters to your children and your families; it matters to your purpose, ministry and legacy; and it matters to God.
There is a purpose for your life and you’re not going to find it sitting on the couch. I know that for sure. And while strength training isn’t the answer to every question or problem, it’s a good answer to a lot of them. It literally changed both my body and my life. In every way I am weak – spirit, soul, mind and body – strength training reminds me I can work and train and learn to be strong. So can you.