Growing up, I was one of those kids who wanted to do all the things. Movement has always been an integral part of my life. Over time soccer became my true love, and I continued to play throughout college. I was a midfielder for the majority of my years- and if you know anything about soccer, you know this means a lot of running. Once my soccer career was over, I craved that running high. I thought massive amounts of cardio was the way I would feel my best. I was a cardio queen. I had exposure to lifting weights in my collegiate years, but I tried to avoid it. If I wasn’t pouring sweat and running myself into the ground, I didn’t want anything to do with it. I didn’t get it. It wasn’t for me. Or so I thought.
After college, I belonged to a gym that held Les Mills Body Pump classes. These are barbell classes with moderate weight and high repetition set to great music. I kept coming back because they were fun, but over time I started feeling stronger too. I thought it was hilarious when I could hardly do a real push-up in college, but now I could do several on my toes. And it felt…good.
Now strength training is no longer an afterthought or something I avoid. Lifting weights is a regular part of my weekly routine, and if I have to miss out on it, I’m actually quite sad! As I have incorporated strength training into my life, not only do I feel strong, but I have a better relationship with my own body than I ever have before. I started running faster without even really trying. I am feeling empowered. And I am so grateful to Disney for introducing a character like Luisa Madrigal because now my 5-year-old daughter is running around my house, lifting her toys above her head and pretending to be strong.
Aside from my feelings about and personal experience with lifting weights, regular strength training has several known benefits. Let’s review a few.
You will get physically stronger
This one may be obvious, but if you lift weights, you will be able to lift heavier weights and get through day-to-day life with greater ease. Getting up off the floor while a toddler is climbing on your back, taking the trash to the curb, carrying that giant package in the front door – all easier.
Don’t be afraid to lift heavy weights. For years, I was afraid about “bulking up,” but this is just not going to happen for most women. Men generally have much more testosterone than women, which allows them to put on that bulk. For women, strength training helps you gain muscle which can help you become stronger and more toned. Now, I’m not talking about squat pressing my husband type of heavy weight (although if I could do that, it would be pretty sweet.) But when it starts getting easy, increase the weight. You won’t regret it. I feel confident Michelle Obama did not get her arms by lifting 3-pound weights forever.
You can improve athletic performance
If you have a goal such as running, swimming, cycling faster, etc. – strength training will help you get there.
Your bones will thank you
Strength training can help strengthen your bones. Your bones and muscles work together, so you are stimulating your bones any time you use your muscles. Not only does lifting weights help improve bone density, but it can help prevent falls which will further decrease fracture risk. Weight-bearing exercises (such as walking, running, hiking, etc.), yoga, and Pilates also have benefits for bone health. As a small, white woman, I am at higher risk for osteoporosis in the future, so I’m here for anything to help out these bones!
Your metabolism may increase
Increased muscle mass can lead to higher metabolism. Muscle mass has a higher metabolic rate than fat, which means muscle requires more energy to preserve daily. The act of lifting weights can also rev your metabolism for several hours after completing your workout.
Going on a run may burn more calories during your actual workout, but the effects of your strength workouts will last longer when it comes to increasing metabolism/fat burn.
Improve your confidence
Lifting weights and building strength can help you become physically stronger, look and feel healthier, and move through your life with more ease. All these things and more can work together to help you feel confident and empowered.
When developing any workout routine you will stick with; it’s important to fall in love with the process, not necessarily the result. Showing up each day will be easier if you find a method that you at least somewhat enjoy and that suits you. There are many different ways to go about strength training, and there is no one right answer that fits everyone. Start with changes you can sustain during normal life conditions (whatever “normal” is these days) – don’t try to do too much too soon, as this is a good way to get frustrated and give up all together when things do go exactly right.
Whether your motivation is improving your health, changing your body composition, or the ease at which you can make it from your car to your front door carrying what feels like a thousand backpacks, coats, and lunch boxes, I feel confident you can find a reason to start lifting weights too.