When I first took up weight training it was simply for a lark. I was studying in America and decided to take a non-academic class – something mindless. Little did I realise what I was in for. I was pushed beyond the limits I thought capable of my petite frame. I vomited, I cried, I questioned my sanity and I fell in love.
Sports in general are an important part of the American culture, even for women. In 1972 a law was passed, Title IX, which stipulated both genders must have equal access to all educational programs, including athletics. Many people earn their livings by swinging bats or throwing pigskins. Prowess at these seemingly basic skills can allow full scholarships at universities and set that person up for life financially. Gabrielle Reece, a professional volleyball player, is worth $10million. Miesha Tate, a professional MMA fighter is worth $2million. Weight lifting is common in most sports training sessions.
There is a stigma against weight training for women though. There’s a rumour flying around that lifting weights make women bulky, let alone it’s dangerous and bad for your joints. These notions are often unfounded and repeatedly proven wrong. It takes much more than a few dumbbell curls to look like Arnold Swazernegger. In fact, it’s in our very make up to not ‘bulk’. To gain muscle size and mass, such as that seen on the stage of Mr Olympia contests, the body requires testosterone, women do not produce enough naturally. These misguided beliefs saw my initial training sessions to be less than they should have been, but with knowledgeable consultation, I learned the capabilities of my body and how to obtain the results I desired.
Weight training is not for the weak of heart, soul or mind. In saying that, you do not need to be a steroid-head to enjoy the benefits. You do not need to spend hours pumping weights or sculling mass-gainer protein shakes. You will gain strength physically, mentally and even spiritually, simply by lifting weights. I am not one to compete. I have no desire to be a body builder or bikini model. I just wish to be fit and healthy. I’m just your standard gym goer, but weight lifting has become my exercise of choice.
The most notable changes your body will undergo involve its general appearance, but what about the rest of it? Muscle building has been proven to increase bone density. A study completed by Beatrice Edwards, MD, MPH, associate professor of medicine and director of the Bone Health and Osteoporosis Center at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, showed that we lose muscle as we age. “By the time we’re 70, we only have about 50% to 55% of our muscle mass left.” Her study proved that postmenopausal women that participated in weight training gained density in their bones, significantly so in the spine and hips, areas most times affected by osteoporosis. Added to this, weight lifting can actually reverse the damage done to joints. During training the body is encouraged to produce more synovial fluid, the fluid that cushions the joints and stops the bones from rubbing together. Studies run by Doctor Miriam Nelson have formed the basics of her new book “Strong Women and Men Beat Arthritis”. Her studies further support that of Edwards, “The changes were astonishing.”
In the book “The First 20-Minutes: “Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better Train Smarter Live Longer”, author Gretchen Reynolds explains how muscles require glucose. The more you train, the more glucose the muscles absorb from the bloodstream, regulating the levels of sugar within the body. Our bodies actually require sugar to function, but exercise can significantly reduce the risks of diabetes. Isn’t it nice to know you can enjoy that odd slice of cake and not feel guilty for it?
You may not actually want that cake though. IFBB competitor Kimberley Shawcross said she doesn’t crave sugary foods anymore and her skin has cleared because of her healthy diet and increased water intake. I too, have found this to be a result of weight lifting. The wrinkles that were beginning to show between my eyes have receded as my skin plumped and smoothed. The increased level of protein in my diet, to assist in muscle repair and growth, resulted in creating healthier and fuller hair.
There’s a great deal more to weight lifting then big men swinging big weights. With our health conscious society, is it any wonder the sport has surged in popularity in recent years. I’m not going to lie. It is hard work and the first few sessions will hurt, a lot, but the obvious benefits and the hidden may just be worth it. Not just physically, but mentally as well. As weight lifter Chase Reeves stated, “Today’s fluctuating sense of worth, whether man or woman, is dangerous stuff. Confidence changes the kinds of thoughts you have.”
Bass, Clarence. “Weights and Arthritis – Good & Bad”. CBASS. 2002. Web. Accessed September 2014
Clear, James. “Hidden Benefits of Weight Training”. Keith Clinic Estramonte Chiropractic. 2013. Web. Accessed September 2014
Ebben MS MSSW CSCS, William and Jensen PHD, Randall. Strength Training for Women: Debunking Myths That Block Opportunity”. The Physician and Sports Medicine Vol 26. May 1998. Web. Accessed September 2014
Nelson PHD, Miriam. “Strong Women and Men Beat Arthritis”. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2002.
Shaw, Gina. “Women and Weight Training for Osteoporosis”. WebMD. 2009. Web. Accessed September 2014