Six months in and my quest to become a healthier, stronger and fitter Mum is still going strong. I’m three stone down and (more importantly) have lost 26 inches from around my body (9 from my waist alone!) and I can honestly say that I have never felt better. I’m proud to say too that I’ve done this without counting calories, syns or points. It’s just been pure hard work at the gym and cutting out the junk food.
It’s New Year now and like so many, I over indulged a little over the Christmas period. Having been quite strict with myself in the previous months, I relaxed a little on the food front. Many others in this situation may now be looking at joining a local slimming club in the search of a ‘quick weight loss’ solution but I know exactly what I need to do. It’s back to the gym for me and I know that it won’t be long before those cheeky festive pounds have gone.
If you’ve been following my journey, you’ll know that it’s not been easy, in fact it’s been seriously hard work but I’ve never lost faith and the motivation to make a difference to my health has been strong throughout. I have to thank each and every one of you for all your support, it’s been amazing to know that there are women out there who identify with this journey. I have to say a huge thank you too to the experts, Declan and James at Avena Leisure in Sligo for offering me this incredible opportunity which was changed my life.
I’ve learned so much during my last 6 months and I want to share with you something that I feel has really contributed to my success.
When women head to the gym, they often stay on the treadmill, cross trainer or the bike. Some may venture over to the weights area and lift some light weights but are secretly worried that lifting anything heavier may lead to developing big muscles.
This is a common misconception.
Most women think that lifting heavy weights will make them bulky. However lifting weights does NOT, I repeat NOT turn you into a over-muscled body builder. It makes you strong and healthy and, in fact, the benefits of weight training far outweighs the benefits of cardio alone. For one, lifting weights is actually more effective than cardiovascular exercise for burning calories.
Here’s the science bit…
Women do not have the same levels of anabolic hormones as men. It’s actually really hard for a woman to look like a body builder from lifting heavy weights as we produce only 5-10% of the amount of testosterone a man does.
Still not convinced?
Here’s the 8 reasons why women should be lifting weights.
1. You will burn more calories
Metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. Muscles are responsible for your metabolism. “The more muscle you have, the more energy your body expends” says women’s strength expert Holly Perkins.
2. It will change your shape
Many women feel that the best way to have a toned body is by spending hours doing low-intensity cardio however cardio can help you lose fat but it can’t shape your body.
If all you do is constantly endure long (and boring) bouts of low/moderate intensity cardio then you are basically lowering your metabolic rate while losing muscle mass. In the end, you will have lowered your bodyweight but increased your body-fat percentage (i.e. you will look “skinny-fat”).
Many ladies (me included) often feel that one area that needs toning is the tummy area. It’s been proven that weight training is better at helping people lose belly fat compared with cardio. While aerobic exercise burns both fat and muscle, weight lifting burns almost exclusively fat.
It’s worth noting that muscle does weigh more than fat so forget what the scales says, use a tape measure around your waist as a more accurate way of monitoring fat loss. That explains the 9 inches lost from my waist then.
3. You will be stronger
You will get stronger by lifting heavy weights and being stronger helps make everyday life a little bit easier. I know that lifting the kids, housework and lifting the shopping in and out of the car is noticeably easier.
Repeatedly lifting lighter weights is great for building muscle endurance, but if you want to increase your strength, you’ve got to bump up the weight.
4. You will sleep better
Weight training helps you fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply.
5. You will be happier
Studies link weightlifting to lower anxiety and better overall mental health. Being strong and feeling strong does wonders for your self-confidence and self-esteem.
6. It’s good for your heart
Evidence suggests that strength training can have a positive effect on cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as decreased levels of LDL “bad’ cholesterol, and increased HDL “good’ cholesterol in the blood.
7. It’s good for your bones
As we age, us ladies are susceptible to bone loss and osteoporosis. Lifting weights have been shown to help increase bone density and slow down the process of bone loss over time.
8. It’s good for your joints
Do you have bad knees? Then you should be squatting!
Strangely enough I thought the complete opposite when I started. I had a weak knee due to a previous injury so was nervous when I started squatting during my strength training but I trusted James (my personal trainer) when he said that it would be good for my knee. He was right! Stronger muscles better hold your joints in place. My knee feels stronger now than ever.
I really believe in this. Over the last 6 months I have combined strength training with high intensity interval training (HIIT) and followed a ‘relatively’ healthy nutrition plan. As a result, I have become physically smaller but much much stronger.
When I started I was 43% body fat and I could barely squat with no extra weights. Now I have reduced my body fat to 20% and lost 9 inches on my waist. I can now squat holding 50kg and I have never felt better and I firmly believe that I would not have seen the same results if I hadn’t been lifting heavy weights.
So I urge you ladies out there, throw away your scales, chat to those lovely experts who work at your local gym and, with their support, start lifting heavy weights. I promise you won’t regret it. Remember, strong is the new skinny!
Would you consider giving weight training a go?
If you’re based in Sligo, Avena Leisure are running special offers on gym membership for the month of January and also a reduced rate for personal training sessions. Check out their website or Facebook page or give them a call on 0719130882. They also have a range of exercises classes for everyone from pregnancy yoga to Aquafit. I know their twice weekly HIIT classes (at 7:30am) are very popular.
Stay tuned for the next instalment of my fitness journey….
Disclaimer : I was given my two month membership and eight personal training sessions by Avena Leisure centre for the purposes of this review. My opinions are, as always, honest and 100% my own.