My formative years of working out, meaning my tween/teen/early twenties, the trend for ladies at the gym was cardio, cardio, cardio. I would go to the gym before going to school my sophomore year, run on the treadmill for 20 minutes then hop on the elliptical for another 45 minutes before heading to the shower. I would never use the weights, well I would use the 5 lb hand weights I had at home (and still have). I rarely remember seeing any women lift weights, a few would use the nautilus equipment but overall the free weights were a male only zone.
I was under the impression that lifting weights would make me big and bulky. My MO as a 15 year old was to be as small as possible. Like really small. Like so small that people would go up to me and be like “Please, eat a sandwich you look too skinny” small.
In the past 5 years there has been a new trend in the exercise world: Lifting Heavy. Women are no longer working towards waif thin bodies, but sculpted strong bodies. Rather than using 5lb weights and doing 2 sets of 10 reps of tricep dips, people are really challenging themselves and lifting more weight for less reps (in some cases more reps too!). And, ya know what, many of these people are women and they aren’t looking too bulky to me!
Building lean muscle makes you more muscley which makes you appear more lean. Research shows that roughly for every pound of muscle you have you burn between 30-50 Kcal per hour. That’s crazy! Not only are you burning more calories during your exercise but you also are burning more when you are not exercising. Which is glorious, because when you are ravenous from lifting no need to feel guilty for eating 3 tacos, because let’s face it you deserve it. And, building lean muscle also helps to prevent diseases like osteoporosis which commonly effect women later in life. And for all you runners out there, research shows strength training helps improve running performance. By sticking to a strength training routine runners will improve “running economy-how efficiently the body uses oxygen-by as much as eight percent, translating into greater speed and more muscle endurance”.
I’m about to use a word I hate… Many women and some men do not lift weights due to “gymtimidation” (sigh). Inexperienced weight lifters do not want to look stupid trying to figure out how to use nautilus equipment, or worry that people will judge the 10 lb weights they are curling with. Ain’t nobody got time for that! But in all seriousness, I totally get it and that’s why I typically work out at 5:30AM when the women’s weight room is deserted.
Here are some of my tips to help you minimize gymtimidation and get yourself into a good strength training routine and eventually a string bikini (or tummy minimizing tankini, that’s how I roll)
1. Go to the gym with a friend! I always feel less like an ass when I got someone with me. Ideally your bffl is an avid gym goer who can show you some moves. But, if your bffl is like mine she has not been to the gym since wearing sweatbands and lycra bodysuits were in. If that is the case, you guys can try out the nautilus equipment together. Feel free to ask someone who works there to show you how to adjust the equipment.
2. Take a class! Seriously, Les Mills Body Pump is the only reason I know what a dead lift is or how to to properly do a chest press. The instructors are awesome! Get there early and let them know it is your first time. They will help you select weights and show you proper form. They will even correct you during the class. This can feel embarrassing but honestly no one is watching you as the regulars are watching themselves in the mirrors and the newbies are praying to finish the class.
3. Try out Crossfit! Many Crossfit Gyms have promotions where you can try it for free. I have yet to try but plan to some day.
4. Youtube! You can try out yoga, core training, pilates, resistance training… there are so many options and all for the very reasonable price of free. 99! This is much cheaper than a gym membership and no worries about people judging you.
5. Go old school and follow this simple routine every other day. No equipment necessary besides a chair and a flat surface. Complete this circuit 2-3 times. Don’t forget a 5 minute warm-up and cool down!
20 tricep dips (using chair)
1 minute plank
*If you really want to challenge yourself and burn some calories try this add on:
5 min warm up, followed by 5 minutes of running hard. If this is too challenging alternate between running hard for 1 min and jogging 1 min for a total of 5 minutes.
1 min high knees
20 tricep dips (using chair)
1 minute plank
5 minutes of running hard, 5 minute cool-down