The other day I was lifting at the gym, and realized I was the only woman in the weight room.
This isn’t the first time this has happened, and most of the time if there are other women besides me, there are at least double the number of men.
I’m not sure what first perpetuated the myth that women shouldn’t lift weights. I suppose I could blame Jane Fonda and the aerobic-fueled 80s, but I think it likely goes back much farther than that, to a time when “feminine” meant small, meek, and weak.
Thankfully, those days are gone. Unfortunately, the myth about women and strength training remains. Many women either think they won’t like lifting, or they just don’t know where to start and find a room full of muscular, grunting men intimidating.
For years I was a cardio queen. My daily workouts consisted of hour long cardio sessions, the sweatier the better. I thought it was all about burning as many calories as possible. What I didn’t know is, strength training actually burns more calories overall because it increases your metabolism, which means you burn more throughout the day and not just while you’re working out.
Once I started strength training, and later, lifting weights, I started to see the shape of my body change. I wasn’t just thin- I had muscles! It felt so good to be physically strong and feel capable of anything.
After the age of 30, a woman who does not strength train loses about a half a pound of muscle every year. That muscle gets replaced with fat. By 50, that’s 10 pounds of muscle lost, and 10 pounds of fat gained. So no matter how clean you eat, or how much cardio you do, after 30 you will lose muscle mass unless you do something about it.
Strength training also helps increase bone density (which naturally decreases as we age), and helps prevent things like osteoporosis. It makes every day living easier: if your muscles are stronger, activities like walking up stairs or carrying grocery bags aren’t as difficult.
Many women say they don’t want to lift weights because they will “bulk up.” This is just a myth. Women don’t have enough testosterone to build mass like a man. However, if you add muscle underneath fat, you may appear bulkier. That’s why it is important to also eat clean and incorporate cardio into your routine.
There are many different types of strength training, and not all involve weights or dumbbells. Body weight exercises like squats and push-ups are great ways to build muscle.
Over time, you will need to add resistance in order to continue to challenge your muscles. This can be done with weight machines, resistance bands, even every day objects like milk jugs!
Don’t be afraid of weights. To shape your body and your health you need to pick up something heavy! Tell those grunting guys to get out of your way, you’ve got work to do.