When I started working out all I thought I wanted was to lose weight. I was out of shape, so I started going to a lot of classes that were familiar to me. I took Zumba and Body Jam, which I loved, and they got me to get a good sweat on. They were a lot like the dance classes of my high school life, and I was pretty convinced that a few times a week of each with a little elliptical action thrown in would whip me into shape. Boy was I wrong.
Those classes were a great way to get some cardio into my routine, but I was completely ignoring strength training. One problem was that I was under the impression I would hate it. Dance had always been my go to fitness growing up, and it hadn’t particularly been strength training heavy. The second problem was that I had no idea where to begin.
One day while waiting for Zumba there was a barbell class in the studio wrapping up. Watching them for the last 10 minutes I thought to myself,
Wow those chicks look bad ass. I wish I could look like that!
I decided it was worth a try and the rest is history. The long and short of it is that I did feel bad ass “pumping iron” (hehe). And from there my strength training regiment became a very important part of my weekly routine.
It’s important to note that there are a lot of myths surrounding strength training as a woman. I even believed some of them myself when I started. One is that if you strength train with heavy weights you will bulk up like Arnold Schwarzenegger training for a body competition. I can say you don’t have to worry about this. If you keep at it you may begin to see muscle definition, but you won’t be the Hulk. People who want to bulk up like that have to work very hard, eating a very specific diet, working out in a prescribed manner. Regular strength training in your weekly schedule will not give you the same results!
The last myth, and the one I try most to dispel is that you can’t strength train until you are in better shape. Too many times I will hear girls say that they “can’t take that class yet because they aren’t in shape.” I’m not advocating for anyone to take a class which is outside their ability and would be unsafe for them to do, but you will never climb the mountain if you don’t take the first step! When I began taking the barbell class I mentioned above, I was the poster child for being out of shape. I could barely do a set of ten push ups on my knees, and the entire first class I used a total of five pounds on my bar. Even after a few classes there were some exercises where I used no added weight at all so that I could focus on form.
The point of this is that I had to start small. My gym bag probably weighed more daily than I was putting on the bar in the beginning, but I would still leave drenched in sweat. After two years of work I can now take the class using about 4-5 times my original weight (same amount of sweat). Any kind of training takes time and patience, but if you are up for the challenge you are the only thing standing between yourself and your end goal.
My most current goal is to be able to do a pull up. The August Women’s Health had an article that explained how it can be harder for women to achieve a pull up then men due to the differences in weight distribution (women tend to carry more fat in their lower body, which can throw off the mechanics of the exercise) and strength (women tend to be strongest in their lower body). But it is not impossible, it just takes training! I am up for the challenge. I’m practicing pull up form using assistance rubber bands and every time I seen my reflection over the top of the bar I’m excited about being just a little bit closer to achieving this goal. From not being able to do a push up, to training for pull ups in 2 years; who knows what my goal will be two years from now!
Still nervous to try strength training? Start off slow. There are quite few classes that incorporate both cardio and strength training. Give one of these a try if you are ready to take your workout (and yourself!) to the next level!!
BURN: This is a Healthworks class where you spend half of the class running intervals on the treadmill, followed by short segments of strength training, sometimes with weights or just with body weight. Healthworks usually runs these sessions so that you take one class a week for about six weeks.
Spin and Strength: If spin is more of your thing, then you should find out if your studio offers classes that incorporate strength training into their workouts. Quite a few in Boston do, including Healthworks, BTone, Recycle Studio and Handle Bar to name a few!
Tone and Blast: This is a BTone specific class that incorporates the megaformer for about 30 minutes of strength training and the 30 minutes of cardio work at the Barre (psst, the cardio/barre work includes strength training too!) This is one of my favorites and guaranteed to leave you sweaty!
Bootcamps: No two boot camps are built the same, but they usually will include intervals of cardio and strength training back to back. Contact the instructor in advance if you are like me and feel better if you know what to expect!