It’s that wonderful time of the week again! Happy Friday! Since it’s Friday, it also means it’s Fitness Friday! Like last week, I’ll review my own workouts for the week and then I’ll be discussing the amazing benefits of incorporating strength training into your workout.
Let’s get to it, shall we?
Saturday: Wow, feels like that was a year ago! Let’s see if I can recall. I completed five minutes on the elliptical, then did five minutes of jogging and ten minutes of incline walking. I was getting antsy with cardio on the machines, so I got off and completed 15 minutes of various exercises (done for one minute at a time, with a ten second rest in between each). I made them up as I went along, but the fifteen minutes included lunge jumps, burpees, jumping jacks, side-to-side jump rope, butt kickers and sprints. Nice and sweaty! After finishing all of that, my friend Christine and I headed over to the weights sections were we completed a super short chest and back workout. It was her first time using weights, so I guess you could say she inspired me to write today’s post 🙂
Sunday: Took the day off, but went for a walk.
Monday: Spinning! It was the first class of the semester and it definitely re-ignited my love for the class. I left dripping in sweat and did a quick triceps and ab workout.
Tuesday: Five minutes on the elliptical, followed by 20 minutes of jogging (at a 7.5 pace) and five minutes of 45 second-long sprints (at a 9.0 pace). I also did a bicep workout, but I was in a rush, so it was a quick one!
Wednesday: 40 minute spinning class, followed by 10 minutes of jogging, 5 minutes of incline walking and an ab workout.
Thursday: Ten minutes on the elliptical and then twenty minutes of running on the treadmill. My original plan was to do twenty minutes of cardio and more weight training, but I was watching TV and lost track of time! I had time to complete a shoulder and ab workout.
Friday: I only got five hours of sleep last night, but I was determined to start my day with a workout, so I did ten easy minutes on the elliptical, followed by twenty easy minutes of jogging. I finished up with a chest workout.
The picture is all blurry thanks to the sweat condensation on my camera. Cute, right?
The Importance of Strength Training
You go to the gym, you hang out on the elliptical, bike, or treadmill for awhile, and the you leave. You’ve been doing this for awhile now and you no longer see any improvements in your health or figure. What gives?! You’re eating right and working out, so why don’t you look toned and lean? The answer could be in those big bulky machines that they have scattered all over your gym!
I guess if you asked me how long ago I started working out, the answer would be 8th grade when I joined the track team. I ran, walked, ran, ran, ran. That’s it. If we fast forward to high school, I joined the cross country team and during the summer, we worked out in the weight room. I guess you could say that was when I was introduced to strength training. Truth be told, I didn’t like the weight room at all. I found it to be boring, repetitive and honestly, only boys should be lifting weights, right? I though lifting weights would make me look bulky, and pure running would be better for me. So, during those weight training sessions, I never pushed myself too much and never set any type of weight lifting goal. Of course, I never got any stronger!
During my senior year, I began to regularly lift weights. I started with the weight machines, because they have explanations of how to do each exercise. I started with very low weights (like ten pounds), and within a few months, I was making my way up to 12 or 15 pounds on most of the machines. Even more noticeable than my increased strength, however, was my new-found ability to run harder and run longer. What could that have possibly been from? I wasn’t running any more, or pushing myself any harder than usual. It hit me- the weight training was not only making me look more toned, but it was beneficial for my running, as well.
For the next three years, I continued to use the weight machines at the gym, gradually increasing the weight. It wasn’t until last winter break that my gym buddy, Hannah, convinced me to try the free weights. What was I waiting for?! In the last year, I have significantly increased the amount of weight that I can use. Using free weights is different than the machines in that you no longer have a machine to stabilize you. Instead, you need to activate your core and legs to support the weight. At first, it was sort of like going back to square one. I started by using the 7.5 pound weights, gradually making my way up to 10, then 12.5, then 15, then 17.5 (sometimes) and 20 (sometimes). I can completely see a difference in the strength of my arms since I’ve made the switch to free weights. I’ve also run further than I ever have in the last year. All that heavy lifting might have something to do with it 🙂
Occasionally, I feel self conscious when I’m using free weights with a bunch of big, muscular guys. I’m not worried about the fact that I’m the only girl, but I’m more worried that I’m doing something wrong and they’re going to call me out for it. With time, I’ve gotten over that fear. I spent a lot of time just observing people using the weights, which is how I learned how to do most of what I know. I plug in my headphones, find my own bench and own section of the mirror and just do my thing!
Of course I’m not saying that if you don’t use free weights, you shouldn’t strength train at all. Strength training in any form is SO BENEFICIAL! Also, strength training isn’t just limited to free weights and weight machines. Pushups, jump squats, and mountain climbers, etc. can be extremely beneficial to your well-being. Just to name a few of the major benefits of weight training:
- Better body mechanics: balance, coordination and posture
- Improve glucose control, reduce arthritis pain, and strengthen bones
- Reverse, prevent or stop the loss of muscle and bone mass. You lose about 1% each year, beginning after puberty
- Improve mood (by increasing the release of endorphins) and increase energy levels
- Strength training can boost your metabolism up to 15%, as your body is working to build and maintain muscle mass
- Sarcopenia is age-related loss of muscle, and with it comes a reduction in the ability to do functional everyday activities. As we age, our bodies are less able to create new muscle tissue.
An appropriate balance of cardiovascular exercise and strength training can help you lose body fat, gain lean muscle mass, and burn calories! Weight training also offers a nice break from the cardio rut. There are so many exercises out there that will make you stronger, fitter, leaner, and healthier. Look a few up on YouTube or pick a machine and try it!
You know what they say, if you don’t use it, you lose it. It applies to muscle and mass, as well. What are you waiting for? You’ve been eyeing up those machines for long enough. It’s time to try them out and see what a few weights can do for you! Of course, speak to your doctor before beginning any new exercise program and if you’re unsure of how to do a certain exercise, or how to use a machine, the trainers at most gyms are more than willing to help.
Weight training is beneficial for everyone; men, women, old, young, weak, and strong. It’s beneficial for YOU!
Next time you head to the gym, use the last ten minutes of your workout to try a new machine. I promise you’ll be sore the next day, but it will hurt so good!