Archives for March 2017

Why many mid-life women don’t lift weights | overcoming common objections

Despite understanding the myriad benefits of strength training, many midlife women still aren’t lifting weights.

While cardio workouts and yoga classes are important components of a well-rounded midlife fitness program (I do both and encourage my clients to do so as well), they just don’t stimulate muscle growth, enhance metabolism and slow bone density loss the same way a good old-fashioned weight lifting session does.

In my experience, the objections women typically have to strength training can be grouped into three categories; worries about ‘bulking up’, fear of injury and a simple lack of knowledge about where to start and how to progress their workouts.

Below I’ve expanded on these three objections and made some suggestions for overcoming them.

Read, comment, share and meet me in the weight room 😉

 

Why many midlife women don’t lift weights: common objections and how to overcome them

 

  • Fear of ‘bulking up’.

The word ‘bulky’ means different things to different people. Suffice it to say, the word is rarely used as a compliment.

Many women aren’t interested in developing the physique of either a body builder or a power lifter and believe that this is what will happen if they lift weights.

Most would prefer the ‘fitness model’ physique and don’t understand that the women in fitness magazines have to lift weights (and lift ‘heavy’) to get that look.

By ‘heavy’ I mean choosing a weight that allows you to perform only 8 to 12 good form repetitions before your muscles fatigue. (Read more about choosing the right weight for you here >> How much weight should I be lifting?)

Depending on the exercise, your fitness level and your experience with strength training, ‘heavy’ might be 5, 10 or 50 pounds. It’s all relative.

Midlife women have to work hard in the gym to build visible muscle mass, let alone ‘bulk up’. I regularly lift ‘heavy’ and have never been referred to (at least to my face. 🙂 …) as ‘bulky’.

  • Fear of injury

While strength training does have a risk of injury (let’s face it, any form of physical activity can lead to injury if you’re not careful…), the primary reason to lift weights at midlife is to create a body that’s more resistant to injury during every-day-living, as well as during the pursuit of all the other physical activities we love.

The key is to go slow. Start with simple movements with little to no load. Body weight exercises are a great place to begin.

Learn proper form. Read a book, watch a video or hire a coach (I currently have room for two new clients in my online coaching practice) if you need help. Watch yourself in the mirror. Create a strong mind-to-muscle connection.

Progress when your body is ready to. You’ll know it’s time to choose a heavier weight or a more challenging version of the exercise when you could easily perform a bunch of extra repetitions without losing form or feeling tired.

Always warm-up before you begin lifting. Spend time practicing the movements you’ll be doing in the workout. Cool down and stretch when you’re done.

And make sure you’re getting adequate rest between sets and sessions.

  • Lack of knowledge

If you’ve never lifted weights before, the gym can be an intimidating place. There’s lots of strange-looking equipment. And depending on where you work out, the sex-ratio in the free-weights section of the room may be heavily male-biased.

Remind yourself that we all start as beginners. And the only way to progress beyond your beginner status is to begin 🙂

For many women, group fitness classes are the perfect place to start their strength-training journey. Choose a class that includes a strength component (for example, bootcamp, body sculpt, lift and pump etc.) with an instructor who looks like she lifts weights. Pay attention to the form cues she gives you and don’t be afraid to approach her after class with your questions. Many of us relish the opportunity to turn other women on to strength training 🙂

Hire a personal trainer for a few sessions. She’ll help you figure out where to start, create a program that’s specific to your fitness level and goals, and tell you how and when to progress your workout.

Hanging with her in the gym will help you overcome those initial feelings of intimidation and start you on your way to feeling ‘at home’ in the gym.

Already have a little experience with strength training? Prefer working out at home? Looking to join a group of like-minded midlife women striving to be the healthiest, happiest and strongest version of themselves possible?
My 40+ Online Women’s Training group is about to get started with a new 3-month program.
Registration for the Spring 2017 session opens next week. Add your name to my Course Interest list (below) to ensure you get the details as soon as they’re available (and an early registration offer that I don’t share anywhere else).

 

5 reasons you’re not loving your workouts (and what to do about it)

Not everyone loves to exercise.

Even those of us whose livelihood depends on working out go through periods when exercise is not our favourite thing to do.

Days when we’d rather hit the snooze button than go to the gym.

Weeks where we have to have a stern chat with ourselves before each and every workout session.

There are lots of reasons why you might not be loving your workouts. Here are the five most common and some suggestions for getting past them.

5 reasons you’re not loving your workouts (and what to do about it)
  • You’re new to exercise (or returning from a hiatus). Making change is hard. Especially when that change requires you to move your body in ways it’s not used to. Or carve out time in an already busy schedule.

Newcomers don’t know how good regular exercise feels, so they often give up before they get to the stage of noticing the difference. Remind yourself that change takes time and that often, we might not enjoy the initial stages of developing a new habit.

That’s okay. Try focusing on all the positives that regular exercise brings to your life and trust that it will get easier and more fun if you keep at it.

  • You’ve chosen the wrong mode of exercise (for you). Not all types of exercise are equally appealing to all people. Sure, you can learn to like (and even love) a new form of exercise over time, but choosing a mode of exercise that’s in complete opposition to your preferred form of movement (not to mention your personality) is bound to lead to a lack of exercise love.

Need the accountability and energy of others? You’re probably better off choosing a group fitness class than heading into the weight room on your own.

Prefer the forest to the gym? Take your run out-of-doors to avoid the boredom of the treadmill.

And don’t discount the value of cycling to library or doing your errands on foot. Exercise comes in many different forms and as long a you’re moving your body regularly and at an intensity that’s a little higher than your normal mode of locomotion you’re doing something good for your body. Why not create your own weekly women’s hiking group?

Hiking with friends (and canines) is a great non-traditional form of exercise

  • You’re been doing the same thing for too long. Don’t confuse dislike with boredom. If you’ve been going to the same group fitness class forever or haven’t changed up your strength exercises for a month or two, chances are the reason you’re not loving your workouts is pure and simple boredom. Guess what? Your body is probably just as bored as your mind.

Try switching up the exercises in your workout. Or venturing into a different instructor’s class. (Don’t worry; we never take it personally when our regulars decide to try a new class 🙂 ).

It’s possible that a complete change of venue is what you really need to re-kindle your love of working out. Many gyms and boutique fitness studios offer introductory specials to newcomers. Use this as an opportunity try out that new kick-boxing facility or indoor cycling class for a week or two before committing to a longer term membership.

This is what I did in January 2016. It was exactly what I needed to re-discover my love of movement and weight-lifting (and paved the path for me to return to my first exercise love, strength training for muscle growth).

  • You’re feeling discomfort. By ‘discomfort’ I don’t mean pain. If exercise is painful, you need to stop immediately and make an appointment with your primary health care provider to figure out what’s up and how to fix it.

Instead, I’m referring to that feeling of doing something far enough outside of what you usually do that your brain tries to convince you to stop.

We all like things that are easy for us. Activities that are within our comfort zone. Things that we’re already good at. It’s the reason we push back when our trainer gives us a challenging workout. Or switches the order of our lifts. Or asks us to start our training session with core activation exercises rather than leaving the floor work until the end…

Exercise should push you slightly beyond your comfort zone. If it doesn’t, you won’t get faster, stronger, leaner or healthier.

Identify what’s causing the discomfort. Is it something you can sit with until it goes away? If not, and you’re actively avoiding it, try placing it higher on your priority list and get it done earlier in the workout, day or week.

This is what I’ve done in my own training. I strength train four days per week. The fourth workout of the week focuses on hamstrings and glutes; my least favourite muscles to exercise. Why? Because they’re the weakest muscles in my body and every exercise in this workout is hard for me.

Setting up for a barbell dead lift

After about a month on my current program, I realized that I purposefully placed this workout at the end of the week because it’s the one I’m most likely to blow off. I’ve since moved it to the top of the workout week, getting the discomfort out of the way before I move to the more ‘fun’ workouts.

  • You aren’t seeing results. I frequently hear from women who are frustrated and discouraged because they’re not seeing the results of their exercise efforts. As a consequence, they begin to loathe their workouts, viewing them as a waste of time and not worth doing.

Often this is because the only measure of progress they’re looking at is the bathroom scale.

© Okolaa | Dreamstime.com - Feet On Bathroom Scale With Scared Cute Face Photo

Changing your mindset about exercise is crucial to becoming someone who enjoys working out. Finding other ways to measure progress not only increases your enjoyment of exercise, it also helps you sit with discomfort long enough for the work to become less uncomfortable (and to start seeing the results your desire).

Try taking measurements. Or trying on the same pair of ‘thermometer’ jeans (you know, the ones you can just about get in to…) at regular intervals. Keep track of how many good form toe pushups you can do. Or how much weight you’re squatting. Give yourself a ‘star’ on the calendar for every workout you do and reward yourself at the end of the month for sticking with the program.

Remember that it takes longer to build muscle, lose weight and improve flexibility at midlife. We don’t have all those great hormones working in our favour the way we did in our 20’s and 30’s.

That doesn’t mean it’s not possible, just that we need to be realistic about our expectations, consistent with our routines and more patient with our bodies.

And remember that we’re in it for the long haul, not just to fit into a bathing suit next summer 😉