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.
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).