Updated: Oct 22, 2021
It can be overwhelming when thinking about starting a new exercise, in particular if you are recovering from a spell of inactivity either due to work commitments, illness or just losing your passion or motivation, goals unreached, and you are left feeling dissatisfied and demotivated. Whatever the reason its never too late to start or start again!
Lets breakdown the myths and stereo types.. I'll start with weight lifting/ strength training.
Most women worry they will bulk out and have huge legs. Not true. Unless that is your goal and you follow an eating plan with a specific ratio of carbohydrates, protein and fat and you are following a strength training plan. So that's one nipped in the bud. For men, there may be pressure to bulk out, to gain lots of muscle and have a 6 pack (abs not beer) and a big chest. There is nothing wrong with that but it does not have to be that or nothing. Nobody will pick up a weight and suddenly start putting on the muscle you want. If you want to gain muscle you can, If you want to gain strength without the big muscles and have a leaner look, you can do that too.
People also tell me, I am too old, I'll never get rid of the bingo wings or change my shape at my age. NONSENSE! There are many older women and men out there that are just starting out and realising the benefits that weightlifting can bring. I have just recently begun training a woman who is age 62. She is loving her new found fitness and strength. It's changing her life as well as her body, She had never lifted a weight, we started with Pilates, and I added in a few bodyweight exercises, and now she is lifting 8kg weights with one arm!
Other myths I hear allot, "You must lift really heavy weights in order for weight training to be effective". Or "I'll have to spend hours in the gym, I don't have time for that."
1) Everyone has start somewhere and something is better than nothing. There are many different ways to gain strength, you can start with using your bodyweight or you can start with one exercise. If I had to choose one exercise it would be the squat, it improves strength in the buttocks (glutes), legs and is functional and useful in your daily life without you even realising it. Every time you sit down on the sofa and get back up again you are squatting.
Once you have mastered the squat you can add on another exercise, then another and so on, then once your body is used to using your own body you might decide to move on to light weights.
2) Whenever starting a new exercise it's always a good idea to check with your G.P first if you have any reservations or have any health issues. Providing you have the all clear form your G.P you don't have to let age stop you from performing weight training exercises. building strength and muscle which will help you to stay independent and manage daily activities
3) Your workout routine doesn't have to be lengthy, exercises that work multiple muscles at once are a great time saver and mimic peoples lifestyle. Kettlebells are fantastic for this. You don't have to work every single muscle in the body or have long rests in between sets, approximately 40 seconds to 1 min max depending on the weight you are lifting. After a few weeks the muscles will adapt and the weights you started with will eventually become to feel much lighter as you gain strength. You will then increase the weight you are lifting to make further improvements in strength and muscle gain as the muscles adapt to your training.
4) Female Lifting: Its good for you! As a Personal Trainer I have spent my fair share of time in the gym. It's sad but true that when you walk through or into the free weights section it's normally full of men. it can be very intimidating and put many women off weights. where as in the cardio section there is more of a mix. It is so important for women to lift weights, not just to stay strong, but to increase bone density. Women are at a high risk of developing osteoporosis as we get older. Taking calcium supplements will only help so much. You cant beat good old fashioned weight lifting to increase the strength in your bones. So if You want to decrease the chances of you breaking a hip or elbow if you fall and slip when you get older, now is the time to start lifting.
"But I don't want to bulk out"!
Many women stay away from weights because they are afraid they will bulk out or they stick to light weights. You have nothing to worry about. Women don't have testosterone so you won't bulk. Testosterone and human growth hormone are involved in building muscle. Whilst everyone has both, men have much more testosterone than women, this makes it biologically impossible for women to build muscle like a man. I get my male and female client's to do the same numbers of reps and sets and I lift as heavy if not heavier than some of my male clients that I train but I am not at all bulky. Lifting weights will change your shape, increase metabolism and give you a more athletic look.
But what about body builders?
Female bodybuilders use additional testosterone and and anabolic steroids, and more, they are able to increase their muscle mass and strength. It does not happen naturally from lifting heavy weights.
The 7 Benefits of strength training for women
1) Increases bone density and prevents muscle and bone loss
2) Increases metabolism (burn more calories at rest)
3) Shapes your body (giving you a leaner more athletic look)
4) Helps promote a positive mindset and boosts confidence.
5) Increases muscular strength and endurance
6) Helps to reduce blood pressure
7) Decreases the like
Breaking down the myths and stereotypes
There is a lot of pressure on men to look a certain a way, to have the "perfect body". It's also assumed that as a man you somehow automatically know what to do and how to do it, and you will automatically put on muscle, lose fat, and have pecs and abs like the model in the ad or on the packet of your vitamin tablets. This puts a lot of men off.
Gym or PT? What's best?
Both are an excellent way to boost your confidence and get you started. You can hire a P.T for as long or as little as you like.
If you belong to a gym, speak to one of the fitness instructors and ask them to write you out an exercise plan and show you what to do, this is a great way to start lifting, they can check your technique.
Alternatively, If you want something more specific for your body. and you want someone to help you to make strength training become habitual and you want to have someone check your position and ensure you are doing it correctly and help you move in a progressive direction and you want to include changes to your diet have a few private Personal Training sessions, set yourself a goal of 2 sessions a week for 1 month, set a goal with your P.T they can design an eating plan and exercise plan for you at the start, You can ask them for your plan and once you know what your doing, you can feel more confident that what you're doing is right, then just check in with the P.T once every few weeks to keep you on the right track.
Whatever you decide, make sure you don't lift too heavy, be careful and use good technique. Include rest days into your routine, this is active rest, walking or slow jog, no sprinting, no HIIT.
Benefits of strength training for men
1) Increased bone density
2) Helps to maintain a healthy weight as strength training boost metabolism
3) Strengthens your joints
4) Reduces the risk of injury
5) Increase your confidence
6) Improved mood
7) Improved sleep
. weight loss
. improves lung capacity
.boosts energy levels
.improves mental health
.improved immune system
Cardio: "I don't like running, I don't want expensive gym membership for use of a machine. I haven't got time for long walks. Its too dark"!
Regular cardio vascular based exercise is as most of us know, great for weight loss but what are the other benefits? According to NHS, regular cardio reduces type 2 diabetes, stroke, coronary heart disease, and even lower your risk of early death by up to 30%. Its also FREE!
I know the benefits but Its dark in the winter... breaking down the barriers
OK it's dark, its cooler. first things first. Think of a time in the day that would suit you best, when realistically you are most likely to stick with it. If the morning is the only time, invest a little money in a really good head torch, I'm not talking hundreds of pounds here, under or around the £50 mark will buy you a good one.
Make it the same time for every walk and run. If you're working in an office you will get sweaty so remember to take a hand towel and have a wash in the toilets if there is no shower or plan a brisk walk instead and save the running for the evenings or the weekend.
Make sure you have a good torch for the winter, some warmish clothes, and if you can, go straight after work as once you get home the sofa and comfy arm chair and T. V, wine, beer, tea etc will be calling for you.
Get organised, put it in the diary and if you are going home first, make sure you have your clothes ready, tell others in your household that you are going for a walk/run and they can help make you go or go with you.
What about eating? Wont I need breakfast in the morning before I go or supper. ill be hungry and If I eat before wont I get a stitch? indigestion?
If you are running in the morning, eat a satisfying meal the evening before so you have energy for the morning, If you are walking, you will be fine to grab a banana if you really can't manage to go out for a walk before eating, or make up your breakfast the night before then when you are back you can eat that before you get showered or dressed for work or your day. If you're short on time because you're dashing out of the door to work, make yourself a protein shake and chuck in a banana or 30 to 40 g of oats in the blender and you have got yourself a healthy nutritious breakfast. If you're exercising in the evening or at lunch
make sure you have a mid morning or mid afternoon snack to energise you and keep hunger at bay.
How Much exercise do I need to do?
Physical activity guidelines for adults age 19 to 64
Always speak to your G.P first if you haven't exercised for a while. or if you have any medical conditions, Don't over do it, and try to run too fast or walk too fast and then you'll find its too much and are more likely to give up.
Do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week.
Moderate exercise - walking briskly, mowing lawn, hiking, bike riding water aerobics.
vigorous - increasing your efforts in swimming, hill walking, football, rugby, running, skipping trampoline, spinning.. anything that elevates your heart rate.
Spread your exercise evenly over a few days a week or every day. Aim to reduce your time sitting and break it up with walks or moving around.
Once you've got into the habit, set a new goal to prevent boredom, try a couch to 5k plan, then a 5k park run, or a longer walk. Perhaps look online to find out about any walking events or a walking club to help motivate you to walk longer distanced when you have time If running is not your thing.
Other cardio exercises
Running and walking are just two ideas, there are plenty of other options. If you're looking for something for free and you can motivate yourself, there's is plenty on offer on Youtube where you can subscribe to a a certain person and see use the regular exercise classes that they stream or choose one for free. There are so many workouts and not all are for the super fit with plenty for beginners or intermediate or advanced and low impact. Also your local gym has a lot to offer but of course you will have to pay for that. But its an investment in yourself and your health and well being and fitness.
I would say if you are not so good at motivating yourself you would be better off joining a group/class or asking a friend. Avoid spending money on new clothes for exercise, save that as a reward once the exercise has become ore habitual after a few months.
So, there you have it, there is something for everyone and really no excuses not to. There are so many options, you may have to try a few before you find the thing that's right for you.
Just because you used to enjoy running, or spinning, it doesn't always mean that you'll enjoy it now, so be open minded. The first week or two will be a novelty once the novelty has worn off that is when it can be hard to motivate yourself to continue. That's in another blog ...
So, what are you waiting for?? Take the first step, do your first squat, press up, jog, power walk, rowing, weight session. Women, feel strong, don't be afraid of the weights., start light, take it steady, and if in any doubt ask your G.P.
Till next time,