In my last post, we dispelled some of the most common myths about strength training but at this point I’m going to assume that I’ve already lost a few of you. Why? Because a few years ago, I would have lost me already too.
As I shared in previous posts, when I started working out regularly in the later part of my 20s, I was really only into cardio…and boy did I love me some cardio. Running mostly but I wasn’t one to turn down a good interval training sweat session if you know what I mean. After all, cardio is good for you so it’s all you really need to be fit, lean and strong, right? Not quite.
Here is the part where I level with you: at that time, I was described by my doctors as a poster child for cardiovascular health, but unless you saw me in action on the course or in a group fitness class at the gym, you probably wouldn’t know it. I simply didn’t look the part. And I was constantly injured. Turns out, cardio (as awesome as it is) is not the end-all-be-all if you are going for lean and strong. Trust me, I’ve literally done the leg-work for you, no matter how much cardio you do, you will reach a point where your strength and physical appearance will plateau if you do nothing else.
I know that you’ve read (or at least skimmed) enough articles touting the benefits of strength training to know that there actually are benefits. But for some reason or another, you still aren’t into it. Perhaps you are intimidated. Perhaps you believe- as I did- that cardio is all you really need. Maybe you believe that picking up a light dumbbell or two during an interval training session fulfills the requirement.
Whatever your reason for not participating, hear me out. I’m not going to spout off all the things you’ll find if you do an internet search for “the benefits of strength training” because I believe that if such things were truly capable of changing your mind, you’d already be strength training and this post would be completely unnecessary. Instead, I’m going to share with you the truths that brought about my eventual enlightenment and put me on the strength training bandwagon.
- It’ll keep your body young. We all have two main types of muscle fibers: (i) slow-twitch muscle fibers (responsible for those longer-duration or repetitive daily movements like walking, typing, and folding laundry) and (ii) fast-twitch fibers (responsible for those movements requiring a quick burst of power like getting out of a chair or dashing into the street to rescue your kid from oncoming traffic). If you have no noticeable issues with walking, talking, and folding laundry, you may be tempted to stop reading this post now but consider this: have you ever noticed that people get less spry as they age? That is what fast-twitch muscle fiber loss looks like and it’s largely preventable through the use of a good strength training program designed to strengthen and maintain these fibers. Think of strength training as an investment in your own personal fountain of youth.
- It’ll make long-term weight loss more likely. As I pointed out in my prior post, not all pounds are created equal. If you think of calories as currency, muscle is VERY expensive- the more of it you have on you, the more it costs to upkeep whether you’re moving or not. This is basic metabolism stuff here. It’s also important to note that a good strength training session causes tiny little tears in the muscle fibers (which is fine, totally normal, and exactly the way our bodies are designed) and those tears require a ton of energy to repair which translates to an elevated metabolism as well. How’s that for a one-two punch?!
- It’ll make your body feel less fragile. Have you ever tweaked your back by reaching to grab a pen or pulled a muscle getting off the sofa? Okay, that’s not normal. Common perhaps, but not normal. I’m not criticizing, I used to be in the same position but I got tired of it. I was fit and young so why did I feel so fragile all the time? Like the slightest little routine movement would put me out of commission for the next 4-6 weeks. Who wants to live like that? No one. Two words: strength train.
- It’ll challenge you in an entirely different way. It’s very easy to feel like you’re strong when you stay in your comfort zone, only doing those workouts that you know you’re good at. For most of us, our comfort zone is cardio. But what I found is that this sense of strength is a house of cards that comes crashing down the second we have to venture outside of our comfort zone (like stubbornly deciding that I MUST carry all my groceries up the stairs in one pass or when being guilted into helping someone move furniture). I knew I was fit but I never truly felt strong until I knew I could handle any task that was thrown at me. And that’s what happened when I began to strength train regularly, which leads me to…
- It’ll change your perspective about your body. Once you begin to see how your body rises to each new challenge, you’ll start to genuinely appreciate how capable and incredible your body really is. Take it from me- someone who used to have horrible self-esteem and constant body-image issues for years- nothing leads you to make peace with your body faster than seeing what it’s truly capable of. I learned, largely through strength training, that my body was an incredible piece of machinery and when I do right by it, it’ll continue to astonish and amaze me in ways I never thought possible.
- It’ll help you live longer. Now that you’re feeling fantastic, strong, energetic, resilient, and happier in your own skin, why not stick around to enjoy it a little longer? Consistent strength training has been shown to play a role in:
- Improving balance and coordination – making you less prone to fractures caused by falling
- Improving posture – making you less prone to chronic back, hip and knee pain
- Preventing other chronic health issues – by stopping or limiting the age-related loss of bone and muscle and assisting in the control and regulation of glucose
So there you have it- no technical speak, no sales pitches, no lies. Just the facts that rocked my cardio world and brought me over to the other side. I still run a ton of miles and do interval training but, with the addition of strength training, I’m rarely injured or complaining about aches and pains anymore and I have never looked better or felt stronger in my life. I move easily and freely and it just gets better and better as time goes on. Give it a shot, what have you got to lose?
Wanna know how to pick the correct weight or resistance for you? Check out my latest Weekly Challenge to find out.
Photo provided by Stories by M Photography