Women, lifting weights is all good
Women have a lot of misconceptions about strength training. While more are lifting weights, many are reluctant to set foot in the weight room. One of the biggest fears is that they will bulk up and turn into the Incredible Hulk.
“One-third of all women have this preconceived notion that weights will make you big,” said Chris Kolb, general manager at LA Fitness.
“The female body doesn’t have the chemical makeup to be that big without chemical help,” said Elena Holler, the fitness director at the downtown YMCA. She has a master’s degree in sport and exercise physiology.
Holler said female body builders are doing more than lifting weights. They’re on strict diets and taking supplements. “If a woman is lifting two or three times a week, she isn’t going to bulk up,” she said.
Women believe that to lose weight, they have to focus on cardio. In the past, the fitness industry encouraged this attitude, but it’s changing. If a woman wants to lose fat, she needs to start a strength-training regimen.
“Your metabolic rate stays up 48 hours after resistance training and two to three hours after doing cardio,” said Kolb.
It’s about finding the right combination. “Cardio is great,” added Brooke Naylor, a certified personal trainer at LA Fitness. “But strength training builds muscle.”
“Muscles are our body’s furnace,” said Kerri Millburg, a personal trainer at FitClub North. Muscles keep us warm, burn calories and help us lose weight.
How a person structures their workout routine depends on their personal goals. Some may do a full body workout while others may work complimentary muscle groups on different days. “You have to find a balance,” said Holler.
It’s important to allow 36 hours between workouts to give your muscles time to recover. Holler recommends drinking plenty of water and stretching to help your muscles heal. “A little soreness is good,” she said. It means you’ve worked that muscle to its fatigue point, which will allow it to grow and become stronger.
Body image matters in today’s society. “Who is to say what is the perfect body type?” said Millburg. “Women just want to look good naked.” Strength training improves a woman’s well-being, confidence and self-worth.
“Don’t compare yourself to others,” added Heather Copelin, manager at FitClub North. It’s more important to do what you can and build from there.
Strength training converts fat into lean muscle tissue, which burns more calories at rest and will help a woman lose fat faster. For every pound of muscle a woman gains, she burns 50 calories. So if a woman gains 10 pounds of muscle, she burns 500 calories. Over a one-week period, she burns 3,500 calories.
Lean muscle weighs more than fat but takes up less space. One pound of fat takes up more space than one pound of lean muscle tissue. Women are too focused on the numbers on the scale. If they don’t see the numbers dropping, they think they’re gaining weight. In reality, they’re losing inches.
“Scales are a mechanical device,” said Anthony Nizzio, owner of Anthony’s One on One Fitness.
“It’s a lifestyle change,” said Naylor, who lost 80 pounds by incorporating strength training into her workouts. If a woman wants to live a longer, healthier life, she can’t be afraid of the weight room. “You have to push yourself,” she said.
“Once a woman begins to see changes in her body and what weight training does, she no longer fears stepping into the weight room,” added Millburg.
How quickly a woman begins to notice changes depends on genetic factors. If a woman sticks with a strength-training program, she should begin to see results within two weeks. “It’s a slow process,” said Naylor.
Diet is often overlooked. “How you eat is way more important than exercise,” said Nizzio, who said studies show people underestimate how much they eat. “Their perception is way off.”
Holler stressed the importance of a proper diet. “With strength training, you’re feeding the muscle,” she said. Muscles need proper nutrition to rebuild after an exhausting workout.
For many women, stepping into the weight room is intimidating. “Most have never done it,” said Aftan Noon, a certified personal trainer at Gold’s Gym. “They don’t want to look stupid.” If a woman is new to strength training, she needs to work with a personal trainer or take a group exercise class to build up her confidence.
Not many women are knowledgeable about the benefits of strength training. It reduces stress, reduces a woman’s risk of developing osteoporosis and reduces high blood pressure.
Nizzio calls strength training the “depression crusher.” Thirty to 45 minutes of strength training done correctly elevates one’s mood for several hours by changing the body’s hormonal structure and releasing endorphins, or feel-good hormones. A person has to perform the right exercises and lift the right amount of weight.
“Once someone does it, they fall in love,” said Millburg.
Roberta Codemo of Springfield is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Illinois Times.