Throw some weight around, ladies

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

Sorry, guys … but I had to dedicate this one to the women. This article can definitely be useful for men, but I wanted to speak directly to the women today. Why is it that so many women are afraid of the weight room at the gym? I have often found myself in the weight room surrounded by nothing but testosterone, and I wonder to myself, “Why am I the only girl in here?” I talk about a gym setting because I am a gym rat, but I could just as easily be talking about lifting weights in your own home. Regardless of the location, a large majority of women either don’t lift weights or don’t lift enough to really make a difference. WHY?

There are several reasons that women tend to ignore the weights and use all of their workout time on a piece of cardio equipment, in an aerobics class or taking a walk or run around the block. Let me say that there is nothing wrong with cardio or aerobics classes! I am an aerobics instructor and I love cardio, but cardio alone does not complete your workout experience.

So, why are women so afraid to pump that iron? Here’s the top answers that I have been told over the last 20 years in the gym ... (1) I don’t want to get bulky; (2) I don’t know how to use the machines/weights; (3) There are too many guys in there; (4) I don’t have the time to lift weights and do cardio so I’m just going to do cardio; (5) I don’t like lifting weights.

I don’t want to get bulky. Naturally, women have a significantly smaller amount of testosterone in their bodies than men. Women cannot gain the muscle size that men do nor should we want to. Women will not get big and bulky by strength training, but we can strive for lean muscle mass. Think toned arms in a tank top ... shapely calves in a pair of high heels ... defined back muscles in a backless dress. And, every pound of lean muscle burns between 35-50 calories per day! If you add 10 pounds of lean muscle mass, then you will burn between 350-500 calories. Pretty sweet, huh?

I don’t know how to use the machines/weights. Nobody was born knowing how to use the machines in the gym or how to perform all of the various weight exercises for each body part. I remember the first time I walked through a gym and looked around at all of those contraptions. I felt like a fish out of water, but I wanted to get stronger, so I asked a friend of mine who was already into weight training to teach me the basics. Trainers are also on staff at all the local gyms. Their job is to show you how to lift properly and how to become comfortable using the weights. There are also trainers in the area that will set up at private locations like your home or office if you don’t want to do the gym scene.

There are too many guys in there. I hear this often when I’m at the gym. And sometimes it is a true statement. Unless you choose to join a ladies-only facility, men tend to outnumber women in the weight room, but this should not keep you from your workout. Most of the guys that I have met in the gym appreciate the fact that women want to strength train.

I have learned a lot from the guys that I have met in the gym over the years ... new exercises, ways to improve my form, etc. Workout partners are awesome to have, and my best ones have been guys. Why? There is no competition. You’re not trying to lift more than him and he doesn’t feel like he has to max out every exercise like he does when “the guys” are around. And having a workout partner who is stronger than you is always a good thing. They can constantly push you to that next level and help you make quicker gains in your muscle strength. So, get in there and tell that guy to move over because you’ve got some weight you want to throw around. (Smile.)

I don’t have the time to do both weights and cardio so I’m just going to do cardio. You only want to do cardio because you think that is going to help you burn the fat and strength training will not. Wrong. Strength training increases your metabolic rate by increasing the calories that you burn every day. The more calories that you burn, the more body fat you will lose. Also, think about those 350-500 calories I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago just by adding lean muscle mass through strength training.

Another time-saving option may be to set up something at your home. I remember my daddy had his own little gym in our garage when I was little. He would go outside in the evenings after life had settled down and work out. I can still see him doing pull-ups and dips and push-ups. ... I don’t remember “Eye of the Tiger” ever playing in the background but I think it should have been.

I don’t like lifting weights. This is a tough one. I don’t like going to the dentist but I go. Why? Because it’s good for my teeth and I only have one set of them. You only have one body. You need to take care of it so it will take care of you. Don’t be negative. Don’t say to yourself, “I don’t like lifting weights so I’m not going to.” Think positive. Strength training builds stronger bones and helps fight osteoporosis. It also reduces blood pressure and can help lower cholesterol levels. Do you play tennis or swim or ride a bike? A regular training routine can enhance your performance in sports. And the best one ... increasing muscle mass and reducing body fat can help prevent sagging body parts!

Strength training has been shown to increase our muscle mass, decrease our body fat and so much more. A toned body is a great thing, and the positive mental benefits are even better. I often leave the gym after a good strength training work out with a sense of accomplishment and feeling stronger. And that’s worth every pound and every repetition ... and then some.

Michele Moulton has been a fitness instructor for over 21 years and is a certified Spinning instructor.