Women & Weights: Debunking the Myths!

For as long as I can remember women have been spending countless hours on the treadmill and elliptical, chasing after what they call a “toned” body. Or completing high rep/low weight workouts, hoping to blast arm fat and shrink 2 sizes in 2 weeks.

Women have been told that if we lift weights we will become bulky or manly looking.  Who comes up with this stuff? I mean really, who is in charge of deciding what a toned body looks like? And since when does being strong and confident make you manly?

As a personal trainer and lover of heavy lifting, it’s painful to know how many women are misinformed about the benefits of lifting.

Ladies, it’s not your fault you’re misinformed. You can’t go into a store without seeing 5 or 6 different magazines promoting the new fat blasting workouts for your stomach.  And don’t even get me started about all the people and ads on social media pushing fad diets and fat fighters.

I’m not surprised that many of you are confused about how to achieve a leaner body.  So with all that being said, let’s talk about some of the common myths when it comes to women and strength training!

Women only need to do cardio to become toned.

First of all, “toned” isn’t a real thing so let’s get you all use to saying the term lean.  What you are looking for is a lean & muscular body. That’s right, I said muscular… But I will tell you right now the women on the cover of Oxygen Magazine don’t look that way by only doing cardio! If you only do cardio, your muscle and fat will be burned for fuel (leaving you with no booty or “toned” arms you desire). Many studies have shown that women who do resistance training along with cardio are stronger and LEANER than women that do not!

Women will become bulky or manly looking if they lift weights.

I won’t say that this is impossible because that would be disrespectful to the women of the bodybuilding world that bust their butts to achieve that amount of muscle mass.  So let’s clear a few things up about this myth that seem to be scaring women out of weight room.

Achieving a body resembling that of a body builder is extremely hard for women because of testosterone levels.  Women cannot naturally produce as much testosterone as males, which should assure you that you won’t gain huge amounts of muscle mass by picking up a barbell.  What picking up the barbell will do (along with proper nutrition, of course) is help you achieve a leaner physique, not a bulkier one.  Muscles respond to resistance training, if the resistance is to light there will be no reason for your body to change. So what about those women who do have large amounts of muscle mass?  Well, they don’t look like that by chance. A lot of these women use anabolic steroids (synthetic testosterone) to achieve that degree of muscle definition, along with good genetics, strict eating routine and of course a killer work ethic.  It can take years for a women to accomplish that look.   So don’t’ be afraid to lift, and lift heavy!

Weight training will make you tight and muscle bound.

A lot of people believe that you will lose flexibility if you start lifting weights but that’s actually not that case.  If you perform all exercises through their full range of motion, your flexibility will increase.  Exercises such as flys, stiff leg deadlifts, DB press and chin ups stretch the muscle in the bottom range of movement. Therefore, if you perform these exercises correctly your stretching capabilities will increase!  Another great reason to lift!

Women should use machines not free weights.

Weight machines isolate muscles and force your body to move in a single plane of motion, both can limit your range of motion and results.  Free weights have been shown to recruit more muscles and can result in great strength gains. Ladies, this is your lifetime pass into the free weight room, USE IT!!!

Weight lifting is bad for your joints.

It’s a common misunderstanding that weightlifting puts a harmful load on the joints.  It actually builds muscles that help absorb shock and protect joints, if done correctly.  A study published in the Journal of Rheumatology found when people suffering from knee joint pain performed weight bearing exercises, they experienced a 43% increase reduction in pain after 4 months. Assuming you are performing the exercises with proper form, you should greatly improve your joint health.

I could go on forever with all the different reasons people tell women not to lift.  The bottom line is we all want to be healthy & strong so your body needs a balanced training regimen. I am not suggesting that you cut out your time on the treadmill completely.  I’m just suggesting that if you want the most “bang for your buck” you should consider picking up those weights and doing some circuits! You will be surprised how much your body can transform in just a few weeks not only from the outside but internally as well.   There is no better feeling than completing a workout with some heavy ass weights! You feel like the hulk but look like superwoman.

So ladies, please LIFT!!!!!

P.S. Below is a link with an article written by one of my favorite athletes Pauline Nordin.  She’s a total badass and doesn’t sugar coat anything… it should give you a good laugh!

http://secondtononenutrition.com/blog/10-reasons-why-heavy-lifting-is-terrible-for-women/

Kombucha Craze

 

So you’ve probably seen bottles of Kombucha sitting around the gym *Mike, cough, cough*!  Have you been wondering what all the kombucha craze is about?

Kombucha has actually been around for more than 2,000 years and has quite an extensive list of health benefits.  It is thought that kombucha origninated in Asia during the chinese Tsin Dynasty all the way back in 212 BC. And was referred as the remedy for immortality or the tea of immortality.  Even though we all know we can’t live forever its pretty intriging to come across a drink that had such an impact on peoples lives.

So why has kombucha just recently gained prominence here? Well, that’s because we live in the midwest and people more focused on perfecting the deep fried butter stick than figuring out a way we can live forever! Kidding, but seriously who eats fried butter? The rising cancer rates in the first half of the 20th century drove scientists to do extensive research on the health benefits of this so called “immortal health elixer” drink.

Still a little unclear of what kombucha is?  It’s fermented tea made from caffeinated tea, sugar, and a scoby (coloy of bacteria and yeast) but don’t scrunch your noses so quickly! The sugar and caffeine is used up in the fermentation process so no worries, it actually has very little of either in the final product.  The brewing profess takes around 7-25 days and you end up with delicious naturally carbonated drink! The best part is you can flavor it however you want. My personal favorite is passion fruit flavored!

Now that you have a better understanding of what kombucha is let’s talk about some of the healing properties this amazing drink has (Kombucha Kam):

  • probiotics (healthy bacteria)
  • alkalizes body (balances internal PH level)
  • detoxify the liver
  • increases metabolism
  • improves digestion
  • rebuild connective tissues (helps with arthritis)
  • boosts energy
  • reduces blood pressure
  • relieves headaches
  • reduces kidney stones
  • high in antioxidants
  • speeds up ulcer healing
  • aids in healthy cell regeneration
  • lowers glucose levels

If you’re human, you’ve probably experienced something on that list. Just the thought of an energy boost is enough to get my to try some kombucha! Now that winter is officially here my 2 O’clock feeling hits several times throughout the day, and lets face it…coffee gets old sometimes!

I’ve recently started brewing my own kombucha from home. Despite the long turnover rate, its fairly easy and gives me a good feeling to know that I’m putting my time and energy into something that is good for my body! If you’d like to try it stop me in the gym somtime and lets chat! You never know, I may be your key to immortality! 🙂

Stay healthy, stay humble, stay positive, stay fit !!!

-Leah

The Importance of Stretching: Don’t Learn the Hard Way

Do I have to stretch? Isn’t it enough that I’ve made it to the gym to workout. I’m ready to get this workout overwith and get out of here

…. sound familiar?

This was totally me a couple of years ago.  I wasn’t into stretching – at all! I was the get in, get out type of gym-goer. We all know that stretching is important, but why is it that so many of us pass it up?

Do you really know all the benefits of stretching and what good it can do for your body? I didn’t until about a year ago. I’ve always been an athlete and aware that I needed a good warm up before a game but once competitive sports were over for me, I didn’t think much about warming up before a workout in the gym.

My first trip to Cameroon changed all of that. I was all excited for my first international trip and even more excited that I was going to have an opportunity to work out with some real athletes. So, of course, I go into the situation a little cocky thinking, “I’m in decent shape, I’m gonna give these guys a run for their money.” Boy, I was wrong. Let’s take a look at day one;  4:30 AM alarm goes off and my thoughts are as follows:

  • You’ve got to be kidding me, the sun isn’t even up, why did I do this to myself?
  • I’ll just ignore the alarm and say I overslept!
  • I hate mornings.
  • Alright Leah, get up – you can’t chicken out on the first day!

My body was not awake, I was jet-lagged and stiff from the long plane ride. So here we are, a group of 4, ready to take on this workout.  Everyone gets in a circle to start stretching and I’m thinking to myself, “Lets just go and get this over with already!

Our team leader, Poker, takes us through a stretching/warm up routine from our ankles to our necks! It felt like it took forever. They warned me to do them right and tried to tell me how important it was for my body but I wasn’t listening – I’m not even really sure if I was actually awake!

The stretching is finally over and we take off running. 20 minutes later we are still running, up a hill, and up, and up. I’m dying inside because my leg is cramping and my side is aching.  I wanted to quit so bad but I kept going. I was basically in tears on the inside, thinking to myself, “I guess I should have stretched!”

This workout goes on for about 2 hours before we call it quits and gather around in another circle for the cool down stretching. Trying to keep my cool, I half-assed (excuse my french) my stretching again because I felt tired and just wanted to eat and sleep.

Fast forward to the next morning… The alarm went off at the same time, I wake up and literally cannot move.

That is the very moment I started to deeply believe in stretching before and after workouts!

Moral of the story?  Flexibility is one of the five components of fitness and should be an essential part of every one of our workout programs! It is just as important as strength training and cardio! As we get older, our bodies naturally become less flexible and more prone to injury.  By adding in some flexibility training we can help keep our bodies more limber and youthful.

Still don’t believe me? Below I’ve listed the top 10 reasons we should all take a little more time to stretch (American Council on Exercise).

1.Decreases muscle stiffness & increases range of motion

2.Reduces risk of injury

3.Helps relieve post-exercise aches and pains 

4.Improves posture

5.Helps reduce/manage stress

6.Reduces muscular tension and enhances muscular relaxation

7.Improves mechanical efficiency and overall functional performance

8.Prepares the body for exercise

9.Promotes circulation 

10.Decreases risk of low-back pain.

If my story and this list doesn’t inspire you start stretching, you’re going to have to learn the hard way.  Trust me, you don’t want to learn the hard way!

It only takes 21 days to create a habit.  I think we all have an extra 5-10 mintues to do our body a favor and stretch! And let me be the first to say I have fallen off my stretching game! The past few weeks I’ve been skipping my routine.  So now that this blog is live, I am going to lead by example! No more excuses for not stretching.

I’d be more than happy to run through my stretch routine, adapted from my trip, with you!

Happy Stretching!

BONUS: Check out this Swingers warm-up routine from BodyBuilding.com