I love lifting weights! It is something that comes easily to me and I enjoy it.
I have noticed that a lot of women tend to stick to the cardio machines and avoid lifting.
Here are the top three reasons that I have been given by various women for avoiding strength training machines and free weights, and why they are common misconceptions.
“I don’t want to bulk up and look like a man.” The biggest excuse seems to be that they don’t want to “bulk up” and “look masculine.”
That is a common fallacy because what often comes to mind is the image of female bodybuilders, some of whom take anabolic steroids, various supplements and spend hours in the gym lifting heavy weights to help them gain muscle mass. The fact is, women do not naturally produce the amount of testosterone needed to “bulk up.” So the average woman who lifts weights is going to become leaner, more defined, and stronger, not bulky and masculine looking.
“I don’t want to gain weight. Muscle weighs more than fat.” Some women have said to me they are afraid to gain weight from weight lifting, saying “muscle weighs more than fat.”
A pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat, and in fact, a pound of muscle is more dense and takes up less space than a pound of fat. A 145 lb. woman with a lot of muscle is going to look smaller and leaner than a 145 lb woman who doesn’t have as much muscle. In addition, lifting weights will also slightly increase your metabolism, so you’ll burn more calories.
“I don’t know what to do. I feel intimidated in the weight area.” If you don’t know where to begin, just ask.
When I first started lifting weights, I didn’t know what I was doing. I stared at a machine trying to figure out how to use it. When I thought I had it figured out and adjusted the weights, I sat down ready to begin, only to have a guy tell me that I was sitting backwards. That was officially my most embarrassing gym moment. I didn’t give up and avoid weights though.
I had a free fitness orientation at the YMCA and was shown how to use all of the machines and tried them out with supervision to make sure that I could do it on my own. Eventually I ventured into the free weights. Yes, at first I was intimidated a bit, but I watched what other people were doing and I asked a personal trainer for suggestions and to make sure I was executing the movements with proper form. Then, I started reading Muscle and Fitness Hers and other fitness magazines for ideas of new things to try.
I spoke with Dana Mickens, Wellness Program Manager at the Fort Meigs YMCA and she said, “A lot of people don’t realize that they are beginners. It takes time to notice how your body responds to different training, seasons, and other factors and you learn to adapt your workouts to your body. Not everyone’s body responds the same way.”
So, even after lifting weights for the last two years, I am still learning and trying new things and asking questions. The point is, you don’t have to know everything in order to begin weight training. Dana said, “Nobody starts out knowing what they are doing. Most people will be willing to help other people out if they have any questions.” So, just watch, ask and learn.
There are many benefits of weight training for women. Not only will you look leaner and more defined, the increased strength will make daily activities like carrying laundry baskets, groceries and carrying kids easier. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are many health benefits of weight training including reducing the signs and symptoms of chronic conditions and diseases including arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, back pain and depression. They also stated that it can help with balance, improved sleep quality and healthy heart tissue.
To all of the women out there who are on the fence about weight training: continue your cardio workouts, as that will increase cardiovascular fitness and endurance, but incorporate some strength training into your fitness routine. You’ll love the results.
Jennifer Wagner is a Perrysburg High School graduate and current Perrysburg resident, who has an interest in health, nutrition, fitness and exercise-related topics after losing more than 120 lbs. through Weight Watchers and exercise. She won first prize in the national Weight Watchers Inspiring Stories Contest and is being featured in the July issue of More Magazine. She was recently hired as a leader for Weight Watchers International.