Why lifting weights could be the pick-me-up you really need
So the dust has just about settled on your divorce.
You’ve spent the last six, 12, maybe even 18 months eating too much and/or looking at the world through the bottom of a wine glass.
The upshot is, you’ve done yourself some physical damage. You can barely climb the stairs at home without an oxygen tank. And, until you master the art of going all day without breathing out, most of your favourite outfits are off limits.
You know it has to stop because you now have two problems instead of one. You’re not only emotionally wrung-out by the break up of your relationship, but on top of that, you’re falling out of love with yourself. You don’t like you way you look, you hate the way your clothes fit and your confidence is in the toilet.
And let’s be honest, at some point you’re going to want to get back “out there” and find yourself a new person of interest. Do you want to shuffle out in an oversized overcoat and request your date meet you some place where there there are no lights and no mirrors? Or do you want to stride into that bar, looking and feeling epic?
Something has to give. You know it. You’re not stupid. You know that you can only allow yourself so much wallowing before something inside you stands up and shouts: ‘Oi, get a grip.
Want the good news?
No matter how much weight you’ve gained or how out of shape you have become, it is all reversible. All of it. And it’s all built on a very simple principle.
The body is a master adaptor. It will adapt to any stimulus to which it is exposed. If that stimulus is a balanced healthy diet. plenty of fresh veg, protein and an intelligent training programme, it will grow lean muscle, drop body fat, get strong and lean.
On the other hand, as you’ve found to your cost, if that stimulus is eating greasy Chinese from the questionable takeaway round the corner, washed down with a Marks and Sparks Chardonnay (I never said you didn’t have some standards!), your body will adapt by getting bigger in all the wrong places.
So, now you know you can undo it, let’s look at the best way for you do that.
Right about now, you’re probably expecting me to tell you that you need to start by eliminating sugar, processed food and alcohol from your diet. You think I’m going to say that you need to replace pizza and pasta with broccoli and quinoa.
Actually I’m not going to go all food fascist on you.
Not that swapping all the crap from your diet and substituting it with real grub like fresh veg and protein won’t do you the power of good. Of course it will.
But come on, you already know that, right?
You have some idea which foods to eat to be healthier and leaner, but right now, you’re choosing to eat foods that make you unhealthy, bloated, tired, sick and overweight.
And the reason you’re doing that is:
- 1/ You are, understandably. trying to comfort yourself after a very traumatic period in your life. (if you haven’t read my article on comfort eating, it might be worth a look now. INSERT LINK!!)
- 2/ You have nothing to motivate you to look after yourself. You are not currently demanding anything of your body that it can’t manage, even with your lifestyle.
So therein lies the answer. It’s time to test your body and find your inner athlete.
Truth is, we are all descended from a long line of athletes who hunted our food for miles on foot, then carried it home and prepared it.
We built our homes with our bare hands and took on sabre-toothed tigers. Hard work and physical graft is in our genes. Our bodies actually crave it.
But before you start having nightmares about having to spend hours pounding a treadmill or trying to follow some complicated choreographed gym class, I’m not talking about that. That kind of training would give me nightmares too.
I’m talking about taking up the kind of training that makes you feel strong both inside the gym and out of it; the kind of training that helps you become aware of your body and its capabilities; the kind of training where you can set tangible goals and smash them, the kind of training that really changes your shape.
I’m talking about picking heavy metal up and putting it down again, over and over until your legs hurt and your arms hurt and everything’s burning, but you feel amazing. I’m talking about squatting, deadlifting, pressing, pulling…or to give it a technical name, weight-training.
Getting remotely interested? Good.
Here’s seven things you should know:
- 1/ Lifting weights will NOT, I repeat NOT turn you into the Incredible Hulk. The main reason for this is that women do not have enough testosterone – the muscle-building hormone – to get massive lifting weights. Ladies have a small amount of testosterone, but we do not have the equipment to mass produce the stuff. So, in a nutshell (no pun intended) no testes means no testosterone overload. Also, people do not build massive muscles by accident one day just because they accidentally lifted a 2kg heavier than normal. It’s hard work to increase muscle mass. So stop worrying about giving Arnie a run for his money and get lifting!
- 2/ Lifting heavier weights will challenge and stress your muscles to the point where they adapt and become stronger and bigger. (Yep, That’s what happens when you “tone up”) As the amount of body fat decreases and the amount of lean muscle mass you’re packing increases and so will your resting metabolic rate. This is your body’s ability to burn calories when you’re not training. Muscle is metabolically-expensive tissue. In other words, it requires calories to feed it. The more of it you have, the more calories you will burn doing bugger all. How cool is that?
- 3/ Being a strong woman makes you more confident and empowered in everyday life. Who cares if you don’t currently don’t have a man on hand to help you shift furniture around or carry your bags from the car after a big shoe shop, you can do it your bloody self. With one hand. Packing on some muscle will make everyday tasks like carrying your kids around, lugging a suitcase or doing a bit of digging in the garden a lot easier, plus you’re protecting your body from injury too by strengthening the connective tissue that joins your bones and muscles together. And you’re also decreasing the risk of osteoporosis and brittle bone disease in later life.
- 4/ Nothing alters your shape like weight training. If you want Beyonce’s bum, six pack abs or that nice cut in the top of your arms that makes you want to point at things a lot in a vest, you won’t get it from the cross trainer. And if you think that weight training doesn’t get your heart and lungs working, think again. Grab a 20kg barbell for starters and bang out a set of 10 back squats, then put the bar down and have a set of dumb bells nearby, say, 8kg and do alternate leg lunges for 20 reps. See how long it takes you before you’re ready to start chatting about the weather again.
- 5/ You can’t walk more than five foot in most gyms without hearing someone mention “core strength” these days. Fact is, you can do all the one-legged, one-handed balancing exercises on a fit ball you like, but, done correctly, nothing creates a core of steel better than getting dead good at deadlifts, power cleans, front squats or overhead pressing.
- 6/ I’ve kind of already touched on this in point number three, but when it comes to feeling good there’s no such thing as labouring the point. Loading a barbell up and lifting it will just make you feel damn good about yourself. There are few better sensations than walking into the gym, bypassing the cross-trainers, treadmills, ab rollers and 3kg dumb bells and instead making straight for the barbells like a lady boss. There’s no getting away from it. It’s seriously cool and that’s how you will feel. Cool, strong, capable, fabulous. Ready to take on the world and anything it throws at you, both inside and outside the gym. You’ll radiate this coolness and fabulousness and people around you will notice and wonder what your secret is. Hell to the yeah! Give me a virtual fist-pump on that.
- 7/ And just when you thought you were going to get away with it, here’s the food bit! Lifting weights helps the penny drop on nutrition. This is because you will start to appreciate what an amazing thing your body is and how much better it can be if you feed it with the right fuel. If you show up to a training session with a hangover or after a day of bingeing on sugary processed crap, you will realise how much you have hampered your own ability to perform well. You will feel tired, shaky and off-your-game. You will be annoyed at yourself for wasting an opportunity to improve yourself but, on the plus side. you will learn from it and make those food mistakes less and less frequently. In short, when you become focused on performing well in the gym, you will stop wanting to sabotage yourself in the kitchen, in the pub after work, at the garage when you stop for petrol. on the weekend etc etc. You will have realised that working on yourself is the best and most rewarding project you will ever be involved in. Amen!
How to get your lift on
- Firstly, don’t try and do this alone. If your washing machine breaks down, you don’t throw on a pair of overalls, grab a spanner and start trying to fix it yourself, do you? Of course you don’t, you call in a professional.
- Same goes for your training. Hiring a professional coach who will discuss your goals with you and design you a programme that will help you achieve them. This will save hours of wasted time and frustration at the gym where you will inevitably just end up using the treadmill because it’s easy and you won’t feel stupid or self-conscious.
- Ask around for recommendations for trainers from friends and work colleagues.. Don’t be afraid to spend money either. If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. This is an investment in an amazing Amazonian new you and that shouldn’t come cheap.
- Do some research on Google. There are lots of private gyms out there offering transformation programmes. These are generally small group personal training sessions where you will be taught all the big lifts safely and progressively with someone to watch over your technique. (I run one myself called Ladies Who Lift.)
- Look for a trainer that shows an interest in the finer details, assesses your body mechanics and how you move. You also wants someone who writes programmes and keeps data so you can analyse your progress.
- Find a coach that actually lifts herself and has a passion for it. Look for someone, like me, who specialises in helping women get stronger, fitter and more confident through lifting weights.
- You want a coach that will inspire you, motivate you and commit to your journey with you. Someone who will push you just hard enough, but never put you in danger; someone who will be just as delighted as you are when you hit a new personal best.