Why Women Should Strength Train

There is an old adage that women should not lift weights because they will get big and bulky and manly.  So, let’s just scrap that idea now.

BW Lifter

A woman’s strength and muscular development are predetermined by hormones, physiology, and genetic make-up.  Generally speaking, women have about 1/10th of the amount of testosterone compared to men.  Because of the smaller amount of testosterone, the average woman does not have the ability to “bulk up” like her male counterparts.  In addition, women do not possess the same size muscle fibers or amount of lean tissue as men.  So, unless you are a professional bodybuilder – or have an overwhelming amount of testosterone (whether natuarally or by supplementing) – you are unlikely to turn into the Incredible Hulk

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s focus on the reasons why you should be lifting weights.

Boost Your Metabolism Naturally

Although cardio burns more calories than strength training (during the first 30-minutes of your session), lifting weights burns more calories overall.  When you build muscle by adding strength training into your life, your resting metabolic rate (your ability to burn calories and fat) also increases.

           = Muscle Growth And Fat Loss

Strength exercises increase lean body mass while decreasing fat stores. The greater your proportion of lean mass to fat mass, the more metabolically active your body becomes, providing an increased metabolic rate, fat oxidation, and energy consumption (which means you burn more calories and fat simply by carrying more muscle!).

oxygen

Via Oxygen

Structural Tolerance

Structural Tolerance (strengthening of tendons, ligaments, other connective tissue) will aide in the ability to sustain greater stresses in training, and greater resistance to injury. Ligaments, tendons, and cartilage hold your bones together. These joints are at risk of injury when they become unstable. Resistance training strengthens the connective tissue, resulting in improved joint integrity, stability, and injury prevention.

Bone Modeling (and “fighting” Osteoporosis)

Bone modeling (and remodeling*) is the process by which bone adapts to load by changing size and shape and removing weak or damaged bone tissue. (*Remodeling affects material properties such as microdamage, mineralization, and collagen cross-linking.) When muscles contract against bone, it creates stress that causes bones to strengthen against the contractions. The stronger your muscles get, the stronger your bones must become to handle muscle contractions. Bone modeling helps prevent fractures and reduces your chances of getting osteoporosis.

As women age, their levels of estrogen decrease.  We lose both bone and muscle mass.  In addition, as women age, we are prone to osteoporosis due to loss of estrogen.  However, resistance training can increase bone density. When bone feels the “pull” from the muscle contractions, bone growth is stimulated. Not only can strength training offset bone loss, it can actually cause an increase in bone density in women who regularly lift weights.
In addition to all of the benefits above, strength training can also provide improved mental health (as with any exercise, you’ll be happier and reduce your stress levels), better sleep, stronger (and more defined) body, a healthier heart, improved posture and balance, reduce diabetes risk, and longevity (that’s right!  Lifting weights can help you live longer!).
With all of this in mind, if you are not already implementing strength training into your regular exercise routine, you should consider doing so.  The benefits outweigh any negative aspects (whether there is truth to them or not).  So, just get out there and start.  You don’t need a lot of equipment or even a gym membership; improvise with what’s around you (laundry jugs, water bottles, cans, etc.) and go from there.
~FB
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Why Your Rest Days Are Important

Several years ago I wrote about my addiction to exercise .  I had been working out nearly every day for years, and avoided my rest days like the plague.  Although I’ve come a long way since then, I still often struggle with finding the time to take my rest days – between teaching boot camp classes, running, cycling, and my regular gym routine – finding down time to recoup really can be a difficult task.

I so often preach to my clients and friends, “TAKE YOUR REST DAYS!”  And I explain to them the repercussions of not doing so (and threaten them with a huge bill if they don’t listen).  (I’m working on heeding my own advice.)

WHY REST DAYS ARE IMPORTANT

REST

Taking a break from your workout routine is just as important as your workout because it’s an equal part of the total process required to build strength, endurance, and muscle. Exercise, especially strength training, breaks down body tissues.  Rest days allow your muscles, nerves, bones, and connective tissue time to rebuild.  Your rest days, and the way you handle them, can greatly affect your ability to build muscle and get stronger. For many lifters, the problem isn’t that you take an occasional rest day, but that you don’t take enough. And not using your time wisely in your training week can also hinder your progress.

I know all too well that it can be torturous taking down time from the gym. If you’re like me, a rest day can make you feel like you’re slacking off, or even guilty for taking said down time. Instead, we will train six or even seven days per week – hindering our progress.  But the proof is in the pudding – the most successful lifters and bodybuilders usually train (only) four or five times per week.  Those of us who train more than that will see our progress (if any) at a slower pace.  Of course there are always exceptions to the rule, but most of us are not that fortunate (or genetically inclined) to reach those successes so sudden.

WEIGHT LIFT

I can attest that my seven-days-a-week training addiction caused more problems than it proved progress.  I suffered (and still do) from over-training syndrome and adrenal fatigue. My cortisol levels were/are elevated, causing weight gain, which I am still struggling to lose, and my sleep was severely disrupted.

We have to let go of the “all or nothing” mentality and the mindset that we “must work out every day”.  I know first-hand how difficult this can be.  Instead, we should consider our future progress and the way we look at our training program.  It we think “stimulation days” instead of training days and “growth days” instead of rest days, would we be more inclined to take those well-deserved and needed days off from our training?  Growth days are meant to be exactly that: growing more muscle and preparing your body to perform the next day.

When you take a rest (growth day), you build more muscle, your glycogen stores are replenished more easily, and allow the nervous system to get back to an optimal working state.  Not only will you grow faster, but you will also improve your performance on the day(s) you’re back in the gym.

If we consider this: Our bodies have limited resources – think of it like a bank.  If you spend all those resources (your money) on your workouts, instead of resting (saving), then eventually, your bank will be empty, meaning you won’t have enough available resources to fuel your workouts or allowing for adaptation and growth.  Allowing your body to rest will replinish the resources, allowing for faster muscle growth and improved performance.

During off days, your body is devoted to more of your resources for growth and repair. the nervous, immune, and hormonal systems are also back to a place of growth and performance.  A rested body (and mind) will perform at a higher level, which means more volume, making your time in the gym more effective.

Those growth days make you grow directly by allowing your body to recover. They make you grow indirectly by allowing greater stimulation on your body during your sessions.

In addition to taking your rest days, you also must consider such things as your nutrition during your rest days.  Many people will lower their macro or calorie intake.  Seems like a good idea, but it would be wrong.

Sure, it seems like the right idea to lower your intake of carbs, since you won’t be burning as much when not working out; therefore you do not require as much fuel*.  (*If your goal is to lose weight, then there is some truth to this.)  If your goal, however, is muscle-building, then your rest days should be spent trying to maximize growth and performance, and not just days where you aren’t doing anything.   Thinking back to the bank analogy, your rest days should be seen as an investment.

So, with respect to the value of your nutrition on your days off, don’t cut carbs and calories that will leave you with muscles that aren’t replenished with glycogen and not taking advantage of the anabolic properties of insulin.  Instead, be sure to consume plenty of good carbs and protein during those rest (growth) days.  Either keep your carbs and protein at the same level of intake as your work days, or even increase your intake slightly.

Optimize your growth days.  If you are training four or five days a week, then you will need two rest (growth) days.  But, to get the biggest bang for your buck, it is not ideal to take two rest days consecutively.  (This does not apply, of course, if you are suffering with an injury.) To optimize your training, your heaviest lifting days should be your third and fourth training days because your performance should be at its highest.  Your first training day can certainly be heavy, but you don’t want to be negatively fatigued on your second day (which should be your lightest).  Your training days should always be challenging.

Each training day you should perform at the highest possible level.  On your rest days you should be putting your body in the preparation to perform at the highest level.  This also goes for your nutrition, supplementation, and training.

Training should be triggering biochemical responses that will tell your body to adapt and grow.  Once that’s been triggered, doing more will simply deplete resources.  Your body should be better to adapt if you treat if properly, including allowing it to recover.  It would be counter-productive to have to take more, unplanned, rest days because it was under-recovered from a previous workout.

If you over-train and don’t allow yourself the proper recovery time, you’re setting yourself up literally for failure and the possibility of injury, over-training syndrome, etc.  In addition, you could spend more time in the gym trying to make up for “lost time”, which could all be avoided just by ensuring you take proper amounts of rest.  We must keep in mind that intense workouts definitely shouldn’t be a daily occurrence.

Your goal respecting your growth days should be to train hard and rest hard.

REST TO GROW

In the not-so-long run, rest makes you stronger!  Rest allows the muscles that you have broken down to heal and recover.  It is the rest that allows you to recover so you can be strong, and thereby handle the increased weight, and increased number of sets and reps needed to gain further.

Plan your week.  Plan your workouts and your rest (growth) days.  Consider your nutrition (and supplementation).  Be flexible, adjust your training, rest, nutrition, and even sleeping accordingly.  And most important, listen to your body (and respond accordingly).

~FB

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August Challenges

It’s been a little while since I have posted any challenges, and with the start of a new month just around the corner, I figured…..why not!

So here you go.  I’m posting two separate challenges.  You can do one or both.

The Awesome August Abs Challenge

August Challenge

The 30 Days of Abs and Squats Challenge

30 day challenge

These challenges can be mini workouts or a compliment to your regular exercise routine.

What I love about challenges is that they are a simple, yet effective way to keep you moving almost daily (remember to take your rest days!).  If you are a newbie to exercise, it’s also a great way to begin a workout regime.  AND, you can do the workouts right from your home – if you don’t want to leave the house.

Give one or both of these challenges a-go and see how you make out for the month of August.

~FB

Confessions

Inadequate
I’ve recently had to confess to someone why I’m such a nag.  I’ve owned up to my feelings of inadequacy and why, to this day, I still don’t feel like I measure up.  I can freely admit I have never felt beautiful.
I grew up the little fat girl.  It’s embarrassing to say this still, but I need to speak my truth. I was fat, chubby, chunky.  And I heard about it all the time.  I was teased and called names and shamed – from a tiny child until adulthood.  Being fat was never out of my reach.  And I still feel it.  I still feel like it.
Once I was old enough to figure out I could do something about my weight, I tried.  I did my best.  But, I was a teenager and I didn’t think things through and I took the “easy” route – resorting to eating disorders.  Starving, purging, non-binge purging, excessive exercise.  I damn near killed myself and ended up hurting the people around me.  I screwed up my body, my health, and my mental well-being.  I spent a lot of time getting better.  A lot of wasted time that could have been better spent for a 16, 17, 18 year old girl.
And then I was fat again.
Fast forward to years later and finally really figuring it out – for real – the fitness and nutrition part – and losing that weight and feeling better about myself.  BUT, I’m still the fat girl.  I still feel like the fat girl.  I can’t shake it.  Dammit!  I am still often focused on what’s wrong with me rather than what’s right with me.
And so, I often feel inadequate.  I feel like I don’t measure up to the standards some people have, and I nag them.  I NAG them.  I pester.  And it’s shitty.  Because, I’m not a jerk.  I’m not an asshole.  I just wear my heart on my sleep and I think the worst and I worry.  I still feel like a little (fat) girl.
And it’s even shittier because I’m an adult.  I have a good job, and I’m funny, and I have a wonderful social circle of friends and family; but I feel bad.  I feel like I’m hurting my relationships with people because of my pestering nature and I’m screwing up friendships before they even happen.  Because I still feel like the fat girl and I feel like I have to earn my way.
When my clients tell me they are struggling with their fitness or their nutrition or their self-esteem, I can tell them I can relate – because I’ve been in their shoes (and often still feel like I am).  And what’s really important is that I remind them of their self worth.  I have to remind myself sometimes of mine.
Being overweight or lackadaisical with our exercise habits or nutrition doesn’t make us worth less or worthless.  Yet, we continue to put so much emphasis on what we look like, rather than how we feel and on our physical and mental health.  This may seem hypocritical coming from a fitness and nutritional professional, but being healthy is as much mental as it is physical, and the aesthetic side of it should just be a bonus (rather than the main focal point).
Finding out the root of personal issues (like my feeling inadequate) can often help us let go of whatever is holding us back so that we can move forward with a better, healthier life.  Letting go of what hurts us and hinders us so that we can become fit – mentally, physically, and emotionally.
MiniMe
~FB

Day 31 – Reflect

Day 31 – Reflect

Today is the final day of this 31-Day Health and Wellness Challenge and your goal today is to Reflect. Reflect on the last 31 days, the last year, the last decade. Think about what is working for you and what isn’t. Deep reflections can really empower us to gain self-awareness and to improve and become better humans. And who doesn’t want to be a better human? If there is something in your life that isn’t working for you – change it. If things are going great, keep it up. Reflect on your relationships and your accomplishments. At the end of the day, be proud of who you are. And smile.

Be the good.

~FB

Day 30 – Let’s Talk

Day 30 – Let’s Talk.

bell-lets-talk

Today is “Bell’s Let’s Talk Day” . Every second, every minute, and every day, someone is impacted by mental illness. Join the conversation and end the stigma. (Bell’s link is below.)

Bell is donating 5 cents for each text message, mobile and long-distance call and social media mention made by Bell Canada, Bell Aliant and Bell MTS customers before midnight on January 31st. The company will also donate 5 cents for each tweet using the hashtag #BellLetsTalk, each view of the Bell Let’s Talk Day video on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or Snapchat and each use of the Bell Let’s Talk Facebook frame or Snapchat filter.

End the stigma.

~FB

Day 29 – Laugh and Inspire

Day 29 – Laugh and Inspire

laugh

This is one of my favorite photos because it’s so honest….we were caught up in the moment and having a great laugh.  I look like a dork but it is also utterly lovely.

Did you know that Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

Inspiration starts with you. Lead by example. Cultivate and express the inspiration within yourself first, and it becomes infectious. Just like laughter.

Today, don’t be afraid to laugh. Out loud! In addition, do something good and inspire others to follow suit. Whether it’s signing up for a course or paying someone a compliment – both are big gestures and neither is more important than the other. Smile when you’re working down the street, laugh at yourself when you trip, throw some change in the charity bucket.

~LOL

Day 28 – Be Kind to Earth

Day 28 – Be Kind to Earth

Map painted on hands showing concept - the world in our hands

Walk or bike or carpool today. Eliminate waste. Recycle, reuse, and all that jazz.

Every little act, each individual show of kindness to Earth, will make a difference to our future.

~FB

Day 27 – Combine My Workouts

Day 27 – Combine My Workouts

Today you’re challenge is to combine all the little exercises I’ve given you over the last 27 days:

1. Plank (30 – 60 seconds) x 3
2. Get some steps. It’s a gorgeous day so get out for a walk/run/hike
3. Do the Body Weight Workout from Day 14 (do it twice)
4. Do 50 Push-ups (x1 or x2)
5. Squat. Find the perfect song and squat til you drop. (Well, not really drop.)

You can always find a workout somewhere. #everydayistrainingday

~FB

Day 26 – Shop Local

Day 26 – Shop Local

It’s Saturday. Get out to a Farmers’ Market or shop at locally owned stores in your community; try craft breweries in your town. Keep your money in your local economy.

honey dew

So get out there today: Pick up some fresh fruit or pastries or local meats; shop at a store in your town and support your friends and neighbors. Have an adventure in your backyard.

~FB