Tuesday, 30 April 2013
Drop the pink weights ladies
A few years ago I had an epiphany at the gym. I looked around and saw
that men were lifting hefty weights and getting results. Whereas women
(generally speaking) were running on treadmills and lifting small
weights without achieving anything. Trainers I worked with assumed I
wanted to “lose weight and tone up”. They would give me generic
programs consisting of a crazy amount of reps at unchallenging loads
on machines. And that was it. It was boring, it was pointless and I
strongly suspected the boys were having all the fun.
One day I thought sod this! I'm going to train like a man and see what
happens. For many women the idea of training like a man might not
sound particularly attractive. The world at large does not revere a
“masculine” women and it’s impressed on us from an early age that we
are expected to be delicate, to take up little room. Be skinny or be
pneumatic, be fragile, be helpless, for god’s sake don’t be in any way
like a man!
But being a physically strong woman is nothing like being a man. And
as I got into my training I realised that there was nothing
particularly gender specific about lifting weights. Although we are
composed differently hormonally, women and men have exactly the same
skeletal muscle composition, so there is no reason to train
differently. Our hormonal differences mean that it is much harder for
a woman to pack on muscle than it is for a man. Female body-builders
work exceptionally hard to look the way they want to look, so there’s
no way you could look like one by accident.
One of the first things I noticed about weight-training is how
time-efficient it is. Heavy weights at low reps meant that rather than
hanging around the gym for more than an hour, I could get a much more
meaningful workout in around 40 minutes. I also started to look
forward to getting into the weights room to see how I could improve on
my previous performance. Instead of focussing on losing something
(weight), I was making measurable gains (strength) and with this came
a very profound change in the way I related to my own body. Feeling
strong physically is one of the biggest confidence builders
And there’s more: Muscle costs your body more to maintain than fat.
When your muscle mass increases your metabolism changes, with fat-loss
as the happy by-product. As well as strengthening your muscles, weight
training has been shown to improve bone density, this is specifically
useful to women who are more likely than men to succumb to
osteoporosis in old age. Studies have also shown resistance training
improves the cognitive abilities of older adults, keeping dementia at
bay. It's also a powerful tool for combating depression as brain
chemistry is altered through the release of endorphins and increased
levels of mood-boosting serotonin. On top of all this, after a session
your body continues to burn calories at an elevated rate for several
hours even when you're resting.
Strength, fat-loss, confidence, enhanced mood, longevity, plus a hot
body. Why would anyone cheat themselves out of those benefits?
Squatting, benching and dead-lifting are for everyone. Not just
body-builders. Not just guys.