The first step many people see in losing weight and regaining their fitness is stepping outside and hitting the pavement. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing like the endorphins released on a hard or long run. It is during this time I have worked out many of life’s conflicts, not to mention the ease and availability was right outside my door. Semi-housebound after a pregnancy, much less with a toddler and newborn in tow, you would have thought the double stroller a friend loaned me was gold! Running allowed me to elevate my heart rate, break a sweat, and regain a small portion of whom I was and what I loved before “mommy” became my new name.
There was a day, back when I first felt pulled in the direction of health and fitness, that running was my escape and my sense of “fit”. I owe much of my ability to reflect, cope, pray, and actually deepen my relationship with my husband from my discovery of running. I have had times in my life where I have focused on my running, either distance or speed. I have entered races and experienced that sense of accomplishment and exhaustion from crossing the finish line. However, once my passion in the fitness field deepened, consequently so did my knowledge. I realized that running was just like reading only a couple chapters of a book but not finishing it. Not only was there more to the story titled “fitness”, but also there was definitely more to the character experiencing it! The importance of weight training goes deeper than the visual effects you see. There is the scientific side that research can back and there is the personal side that I can vouch from firsthand with experience as well as years of working with others. I’ll approach the scientific side first and attempt to make it rather easy to understand with two important points.
Longevity and Quality: Longevity, who doesn’t want it? We all have been advised to eat the right diet, to learn to cope with stress in a healthy way, to get out and elevate your heart rate, to make sure you get enough sleep, and to find time for meditation, but seldom does anyone list the fact you need to work on your strength. Really work on your strength. Strength is the hub of your longevity. Without strength you exert more work than needed to complete a task, so you tire out faster than you should. Without strength common everyday acts of living will require maximal effort. Without strength you then choose to do less work and succumb to laziness, and without strength you risk injury following through with a task; now injured, you move even less and the cycle continues. Hopefully I have made my point. Strength pertains to the strength of a bone, the ligaments, the tendons, and the muscles, not simply how strong you appear. A proper strength training program will address the entire body and progress in a fashion that safely excels all aspects of your strength, adding longevity along the way!
As far as quality of life, this is for you to decide. However, for me, quality means being physically active with my children, from t-ball to piggyback rides, and hopefully one day doing this with my grandchildren. It means being able to set out on active vacations and explore this great earth that God has created if that means taking a walk, a hike, or a kayak ride. It means having enough in the tank to give my profession 100% and still feel good at the end of the day…most days! It allows me to get every last bit out of my day without questioning if I have the energy for it. So personally, strength training is not an option, it is a must. It adds to the longevity and, sometimes more importantly, the quality of my life. Do you want to live a longer, more active, enjoyable, and productive life? Then you must focus on your strength.
Fat loss and weight maintenance: You can choose to spin your wheels counting calories in and calories out, making sure your daily run or your “aerobic” exercise cancels out what you ate or on a good weight loss week burnt more than what was brought in. This is a hard game to play and literally has you obsessed with a number, not enjoying food for what it is meant for (i.e. as fuel) and seeing your exercise as a means to an end rather than an enjoyment or healthy challenge. Strength training will not only serve to burn calories while you are training, but it will help to raise RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate), setting your body up to burn calories even once your exercise is completed. This rate inevitably slows down with age and is unfortunately nowhere near what it is in an actively growing child. But to combat this decline of RMR, thankfully you can strength train. Muscle is high maintenance and serves as a burner. So you must work for it and be purposeful and consistent with your strength training. However, once muscle mass is acquired and maintained it will work for you in raising your RMR. On the other hand, excess body fat is easy to acquire and is a “storer”, not a burner. It slows down your energy and your ability to “burn” at rest. With more muscle mass, you will be able to push harder and longer at your training, and with longer or more challenging sessions, you will now reap more benefits from your exercise. So it is your choice: work for the muscle and in return let it work for you, or sit back and store the fat.
This final point is not so much scientific but more personal. Personal to what strength training has done for me and personal to what I have seen it do to numerous individuals I have worked with over the years.
Empowerment and Confidence: The gym I own contains no mirrors, no frills, no fancy dress code, no age limit. What it does hold, however, is an environment to bring to the table what you possess inside and make something better of it. This is the amazing transformation that I get to witness weekly in individuals and it is one of the things that has kept me persevering in the grind of the health and fitness world for so long. Inner strength and physical strength parallel each other in a multitude of ways. The physical discipline one must exhibit in a consistent strength-training program in order to see change with in the body will in turn, no doubt, develop discipline within the character. The physical strength developed over time plays a direct role with the development of inner strength in the form of confidence.
Inner confidence is not a boastful, arrogant confidence; it is a quiet but powerful confidence and will take you to places you thought you could never go. This quiet confidence will have you standing straight with upright posture, this confidence will have you jumping into an activity you may have at one time shied away from, this confidence will have you realizing your potential instead of doubting your abilities. The same goes for quiet physical strength. Not all strength is played out boldly and physically with large muscles (i.e. hypertrophy). Muscle density can provide tremendous strength without the appearance that it is present. There are several females in my gym that, from their feminine build, you would never know could quickly outlift a male, or a male that comes in one minute with work attire and a baby carrier and a half hour later is deadlifting twice his body weight. I have days where my lifting empowers me; I have days where it humbles me. Both days are needed, but regardless, it’s my task and no one else’s. In the end, it betters me. Consistent strength training has no doubt played into my confidence, my discipline, my sense of release, and my persistence. So for me there is no question: I lift.