Strength Training: The What & The Why.
Besides the well touted and frequently Instagrammed (2.9 million) posts dedicated to #strengthtraining, there are still a whole host of reasons why people are hesitant to start weight and strength training.
Intimidation, confusion, self-consciousness, feeling that they don’t look a certain way so they can’t possibly be part of it – the list goes on. And frustratingly, it is usually women who are wary due to the associations and stigma that weight training is for men and will make them ‘too muscular’ (these last two points reaaaaally make me tick).
If you’re struggling with any of those feelings or thoughts, it’s totally normal to feel apprehensive before giving it a go, but I promise you, the rewards are so worth it!
WHAT IS IT?
Strength training, also known as resistance training, is the process of strengthening and toning your muscles by contracting them against a resisting force.
The basic principle is to apply a load, then overload the muscle so that it needs to adapt and get stronger.
I remember vividly, the first time I ventured into the weights section of the gym – it was intimidating and I did feel super out of place. But, I had a personal trainer (Ben Clarke I owe you a whole lot!) who took me through each movement; showed me how to use the equipment and most importantly, taught me not give a F*** what other people thought. So what I was there? I had just as much of a right, I paid my membership just like those grunty boys.
Fast-forward a few months, and I was in the weights room by myself without a care in the world and sometimes, lifting heavier than some of the men (I still love when this happens). And fast-forward a few years; the weights room is where I feel most confident, strong and empowered.
Getting a new PB (personal best, not peanut butter) is the most rewarding feeling ever; and watching myself get progressively stronger and better over time is something I’m really proud of. Yes, there are some days I still do cardio to get a good sweat on (and mostly because I actually quite enjoy it), but it’s not for the same reasons as before and I take real pride in this.
Long gone are the days where I would absolutely dread the 40 or so minutes I’d dedicate to the cross-trainer. And when I think back to this time, I felt like I didn’t belong in the gym – it felt like such unfamiliar territory and I felt like I stood out like a sore thumb. I was so self-conscious of everything – what I wore, what trainers I had, what my hair looked like, making sure I had make-up on… It became such an un-enjoyable experience and one that I associated with punishment and un-doing.
Taking the first steps into strength and weight training can be an eye-opening experience and once you make the change and commitment to stick to it, I can assure you, you won’t go back!
With all new habits and challenges, consistency is key and this couldn’t be more applicable to training. Hitting a few bumps is all part of the process but it also means that you learn so much. You learn about muscles soreness, (I had aches and pains in muscles I didn’t even know existed!) times of the day that work best for you, and what muscle groups you enjoy training the most. It takes experimenting with lots of different ways, but that’s all part of the fun.
5 TIPS FOR ANYONE WANTING TO START STRENGTH OR WEIGHT TRAINING.
What leads you to step foot in that section might not be what prompts someone else to do the same, but that doesn’t matter. As with everything, no two reasons or journeys are going to look the same. But what doesn’t differ (too much), are the kinds of reasons that keep you being consistent.
Here are my 5 top tips that might help you get started and will hopefully keep you going…
1. Have a plan. As someone who absolutely loves plans, lists and routine, going into the gym knowing exactly what I’m going to be training means I have such a productive session and is sooo much better than wandering around trying to figure out what exercise to do next. I personally use an app which allows me to put in all my different routines and means the only thing I have to do is press ‘start’.
2. Get a plan that is tailored to you and your goals. As with everything in life, what works for one person might not work for you. Getting a workout routine that is tailored to you and your goals is fundamental and should be your no. 1 priority. You might absolutely hate deadlifts and that’s fine, there are a plethora of exercises that work the same muscles. I owe so many of my plans to my boyfriend, who if you didn’t already know, is now an online coach… If you need a programme, be sure to let him know. He’s pretty damn good at it!
3. Work it around your schedule. In order to make it stick, you’ll need to work it in and around your life. If you start work at 9am but want to get to the gym pre-work, adjusting your bedtime route to include laying out your gym clothes (including socks!) will make it that much easier when your alarm goes off. Seeing your gym wear lined up in the morning serves as a fantastic reminder that you’re clearly v. dedicated, and if that’s not a nice thing to wake up too, I don’t know what is.
4. Check in with yourself. When you’re working to make your new habit of strength or weight training stick, it’s really important to check in with yourself, set realistic intentions and goals. If you’re really achy or start to feel your niggley knee, take a break! (Read my top tips for Rest & Recovery here!)
5. Find support. A solid support system is so incredibly helpful on your strength journey. Support from friends and family can pick you up and keep you going when it starts to get tough. Another way you can get support is by joining an online community. Connecting and sharing your thoughts with other like-minded individuals is really good for keeping motivation sky high! I’m in quite a few forums and it is so nice to meet others who love to lift and celebrate those PB’s.
More and more women are becoming so interested in harnessing and developing their strength, which I think is honestly amazing! Gone are the days when the weights rooms are dominated by the male species (#tellhimboybye). There’s strength in numbers and the more women that take that step, the better!
AND, if you’re still wondering whether it’s for you, here are just a few additional benefits.
- It improves your balance, coordination and posture.
- It elevates your levels of endorphins, which, lifts your energy levels and improves your mood.
- There’s evidence to suggest that strength training can improve your sleep.
- It helps boost your metabolism (rate your resting body burns calories throughout the day) and can help boost your calorie burn during and post workout. Your body continues to burn calories after strength training and this process is known as ‘excess post-exercise oxygen consumption’ or, EPOC for fitness experts out there. When you do strength or weight training, your body demands more energy based on how much energy you’re exerting. That means the more calories burned during your workout, the more calories burned after your workout. Winner winner, chicken dinner!
I post workout snaps on my Instagram, so be sure to check it out if you’re ever in the need for inspo or motivation!
Do you have any strength, weight or general training tips? I’d love to know some of your workout stories. Let me know if the comments below or feel free to get in touch. Happy training!