Are you interested strength training and weightlifting, but find it a little scary or intimidating? Do you have a desire to add weights to your workout but simply don’t know where or how to start? If so, this article is for you!
When I work with women in the area of fitness I hear over and over things like, “I’m super comfortable with cardio, but weights scare me. I don’t know where to start”, or “the weight room/equipment intimidates me”, or “I know I should lift weights but I’m afraid of getting too bulky.” Do any of those sentiments ring true for you? If so, I want to both assure you that I understand (been there), and encourage you that it’s easier to overcome these obstacles that you may believe. My hope is that with these few simple tips, you’ll feel more equipped to introduce strength training into your fitness routine.
Before we begin, let’s touch briefly on why we hear so much about the importance of weights and strength training. Why is strength training an important component of a well-balanced exercise plan? There are actually a number of reasons why incorporating strength training into your workout is important. From simple aesthetic benefits to significant health benefits, most everyone will enjoy the rewards of lifting weights. Just a few of the benefits include:
- Improved ability to do day-to-day activities. A strong body is more easily able to lift groceries and things around the house, chase little ones, enjoy vigorous yard work, or any of the daily tasks you tackle!
- Keeping and building muscle mass as you age is so beneficial! Without strength training we naturally lose muscle mass as we age. Lifting weights helps counter this and reduces risk of Osteoporosis, and high-blood pressure, while helping keep you strong, stable, and at less risk of injury from muscle loss and decreased bone density.
- Contributes to a leaner body and makes you more efficient at burning calories. Strength training is one of the most effective ways to tighten and tone the body. While you can’t target fat-loss, you can target muscles in order to increase leanness. And, an added benefit is that strength training “ups” the body's metabolic rate, causing the body to burn more calories throughout the day. This helps with overall weight loss over time.
Ok, so now that you understand the “why”, let’s talk about the “how”!
To help get you started, I’ll address the top three obstacles I hear most often:
Obstacle #1. I don’t know where to start.
I understand! I’ve been in those shoes! Starting a weightlifting plan can feel a bit overwhelming, but it’s worth it! My experience has been that it’s most successful to approach it in small steps versus diving headlong into an advanced workout. If you’re just beginning try:
- Printing a basic routine to follow. Don’t be embarrassed to carry a piece of paper or your phone with instructions and demonstrations. This is using wisdom! Learning how to lift weights with correct form is a CRUCIAL part of being successful long-term. There are many good, sound, basic weightlifting plans available here on Dashing Dish, as well as on reputable websites and Pinterest. Start simple and master technique!
- Begin with a strength class. If you belong to a gym starting in a class where you’re being led by an instructor can take a lot of the fear and mystery out of lifting weights. If you don’t belong to a gym, there are videos that can easily be done at home to give you safe and basic introduction to weights.
- Hire a trainer. Simply having someone escort you through the gym and introduce you to the weight machines goes a LONG way toward taking the fear out of weights. It can be very helpful to have someone with experience walk you through how to use the machines. Even once can be really helpful! Again, don’t be embarrassed to take notes so you feel confident when you go back to try it yourself!
Obstacle #2. The weight lifting room/weight floor intimidates me. I’m scared to go in there.
Yep! Been there too! My advice to overcome this obstacle is two-fold. First, remember that everyone in there is a person, just like you and me. They have successes and struggles just like us. And, they all started new at one time or another. At some point they tip-toed in themselves, but with time have simply gained experience. If you have a question, or worry about “etiquette” politely ask! Most likely they will be more than happy to help guide you!
Second, go in with reinforcements! It’s always easier to tackle an intimidating situation with the support of others! Plan to go with a friend or family member who can help support you. Irons sharpens iron, there is strength in numbers (no pun intended)!
Obstacle #3. I’m afraid if I lift weights I’ll get too big and bulky.
This is an incredibly common concern among women who are thinking of adding weights to their workout plans. This is a legitimate concern, but in almost all cases not likely to become an issue. There are a very small percentage of women who build muscle mass really efficiently and can achieve the “bulkier bodybuilder” appearance. If you believe that’s you, simply decrease the amount of weight you’re lifting and increase your repetitions (the number of times you lift the weight during a specific exercise).
For the majority of women however, lifting moderate to heavy weights will only improve your health, strength and appearance. In fact, most women I talk with are lifting significantly less weight than they can or should because out of fear of getting to bulky. As long as you’re doing it safely, lift more than you’re inclined to. You can probably handle much more than you think. For instance if you feel comfortable grabbing a 5lb weight, try an 8 or 10 lb to see how you do. Remember, you can always back down and reduce weight if you need to.
To help you gauge the amount of weight to choose, you can keep a basic rule of thumb in mind. You should shoot for a weight that you can lift eight times without straining and keeping good form. The muscle or muscle group you are working should feel worked and tired (but not injured) on your final rep (lifting movement) of the first set (the number of reps you perform). If you could easily keep going, you need to add weight! Celebrate that! You’re a strong, capable women in a strong body!
Finally, an important piece of encouragement is to keep going. As with most components of fitness and a healthy lifestyle, change on the outside doesn’t occur overnight. It’s for this reason that I so often remind people to focus on the change in your mind – renewing our minds produces instant results and change. Adopting, and sticking with, a strength training plan will reward you with many benefits over time. If you don’t see or feel change right away, just commit to stay the course. If, as time goes by you continue to desire more change, consulting a fitness expert or reaching out to one of us here at Dashing Dish may help keep you motivated. Sometimes, there simply needs to be a small adjustment that results in big change. Make today the day that you embrace weights and celebrate your strong healthy body! Remember, women can be strong AND gentle! Enjoy!
Proverbs 31:17(AMP) 17 She equips herself with strength [spiritual, mental, and physical fitness for her God-given task] And makes her arms strong.