Women & Weights- Part 2

In part one of this series we discussed why strength training was beneficial (If you missed that post click here)

Now lets talk about how to get started on your own personal strength training journey.

If strength training is completely new to you, then an ideal first step is going to be finding a coach or trainer to work with. Preferably in person, but this day in age online is also a solid option. One-on-one coaching will give you the most concentrated attention to detail, and you don’t have to do it forever. Long enough to get a solid foundation, twice a week for 12 weeks is the shortest time I’d recommend.

I’m going to take this opportunity to call out something that makes me just an angry as women being told not to strength train, and that’s people actually getting hurt working with a trainer. Accidents happen, but stupid shit also happens when people don’t pay attention or have an agenda that has nothing to do with you and your goals.
Here are a couple things you might not know if you are new to a gym setting.

Not all trainers/ coaches are created equal.
The barrier to entry in the fitness industry is pretty low, and in the online space it’s even lower. Credentials are an important thing to inquire about and even then some of those are better then others.
I am partial to NSCA, ACSM, and NASM when it comes to the “governing bodies” that oversee personal training and strength training. I can attest to the fact that in order to pass those tests you have to have a decent knowledge of how the body works. Also, most people that have a degree in exercise science or the like have at least one of those designations under their belts. Is it the end all be all? No, but it is a solid place to start.
If the trainer you are interested in doesn’t have a certification (which they may not), ask them about their experience. What do they do for continued education? How do they stay current on information? See if you can speak to one of their current clients. Look into it as deeply as you need to in order to feel good about the decision.

Trainers in “Big” gyms work on commission.
That doesn’t mean they don’t know what they are doing. There are many trainers in big-box gyms all over the country helping change people’s lives. But it can mean they are really good at sales and telling you that you need something significantly more then you actually do because they need to hit their numbers for the month. Sorry not sorry, I hate pushy slimy sales which is why I have never worked in a gym like that. I’m not going to tell you something you don’t need, the time in the gym is about YOU, not me, and that’s how it should be.

If the trainer you get set up with does more talking about themselves then listening to you, mark that a red flag.
As I said above, training a client is about their needs and goals, not what the trainer has accomplished as a trainer or athlete. You are hiring this person to teach you a new skill, something that can be dangerous if not advised in an intentional manner. If you don’t feel heard in that first meeting, it’s acceptable to ask for someone else.

There should be some kind of movement assessment and paperwork before you actually begin lifting anything.
Even elite level athletes have basic movement patterns they need to revisit, and a pattern that isn’t ideal needs to be addressed before a movement is loaded. Injuries happen when people get over zealous. In most facilities you will have to fill out some fairly extensive paperwork about your health (past and present). It is equally as important for you to disclose all information as it is for your coach to collect it. Injuries that may seem inconsequential to you, could be a piece of the puzzle that we need to know in order to plan accordingly.

You can fire your trainer/ coach at any time.
The only bad part here might be how much money you are out, but if at any time you are unhappy or just not jiving with your trainer you can cut the cord. As a trainer myself I hope if you didn’t feel like you were getting what you paid for that you would speak up. We are adults here, so conversation is a two-way street. But if even after you converse, you don’t feel heard #girlbye.

My point is discussing all of this is not to discourage you from getting started, quite the opposite really. If I had to sum it up in one sentence it would be this- make sure the person you are working with is someone you feel better being around. Your trainer or coach should be assisting you towards your goals, and overall it should be an interaction that adds value to your life, not sucks the life out of you.

If hiring a coach is not in your budget, there are many other options out there to get you started. Fitness apps abound, and there are some great coaches out there that put educational and helpful content out on their social media, blogs and websites. The internet can also be a black hole of less then optimal information so proceed with caution.
Besides my own content (found here and here) below are other resources I send people to when they ask about various topics and would like to do some reading on their own.

  1. Strong First
  2. Girls Gone Strong
  3. B!RTHF!T
  4. Ben Bruno Training
  5. Coach Karen Smith

To wrap this up, if you are new to strength training, one of the best things you can do for yourself is hire a coach or trainer to get you started. Having their eyes on you to watch for things you are likely not aware of, as well as use consented tactile cuing are attributes that you cannot get from going the journey on your own. Find someone you like and feel can help you to reach the goals you have for yourself.

If I resonate with you, then let’s connect. You can reach me me by leaving me a comment below, DMing me on social media, emailing me at sara@activelylivingawesome.com or you can apply for my coaching program here.

The third and final installment of this series will be things you should know about strength training to get the most out of your workouts. Have a great week!

~S

Women and Weights- Part 1.

Once upon a time women were told that they shouldn’t lift weights because it would make them look like men and thus be undesirable. They wouldn’t want to be bulky, and they could get hurt. More “feminine” exercise was encouraged and anything that looked like “strength” training was il-advised.

Aren’t you glad we don’t live in that world anymore?? Oh wait…

It’s not as bad as it used to be, and with the rise in popularity of things like StrongFirst, CrossFit, The Titan Games, Girls Gone Strong, B!RTHF!T, and social media, strength training for women is getting some great press.

There are still those out there that preach that women shouldn’t lift more then 2lbs (which is laughable if you carry a purse or have children) but somehow that rhetoric still sells.

There are many reasons why women should incorporate strength training into their health and wellness routine, and this is what I want to chat about today. General aesthetics won’t be mentioned, so while that may be a motivating factor to get started I promise that by the end of this you’ll have more information at your disposal.

Before I dive in I want to be clear on a couple things-
The information presented is done so from time spent reading research/ journals and data collected by humans much smarter then I, as well as my own journey in the world of strength training both personally and professionally.
My goal in how this is written is for those that don’t want to read super complex data, but want the information in an easy to understand manner. I am happy to share any and all of my sources if you are interested in reading more. But for the sake of the scroll-averse I’m going to make this as easy to digest as possible.

4 Compelling Reasons You Should Be Strength Training:

More muscle= More efficient body at rest.

The more muscle mass you have, the more efficient your body is at rest. A pound of fat burns 1-2 calories per hour while a pound of muscle burns up to 6 calories per hour. (1) I’m not a mathematician, but I like those odds.
The quality of calories consumed cannot be dismissed, you cannot out-exercise a bad diet. But for those that say they do cardio so they can eat… strength training is a better long-term investment.

Women begin to see a decrease in muscle mass at age 40.

For women, we begin to lose lean muscle mass at 40. To put that into perspective, that means you will lose 50% of your lean muscle mass by the time you turn 80. The magic number “40” doesn’t mean you can’t start strength training at any time, it simply means the earlier you start the more muscle mass you will start with when inevitable aging begins.

Weight training improves bone health.

This one requires me to get a little more science-y, but bear with me. Strength training stimulates osteoblast activity which are the cells that promote bone growth (3).
It is estimated that 80% of the 10 million people that live with osteoperosis are women, and that 50% of women over age 50 will break a bone because of osteoperosis.
If that isn’t terrifying, a woman’s risk of breaking a hip is equal to her combined risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancer. (4)
YIKES!!!
Bottom Line, strength training makes your bones stronger so you don’t break them as easily especially as you age.

Being strong makes life easier.

Aside from being the Boss woman that can carry 25 grocery bags in one trip while also holding a baby carrier, when we are strong we simply FEEL more capable. It pisses me off when I can’t get the damn pickle jar open and I have to ask my husband. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does I get real annoyed. The fact that you can do more for yourself doesn’t mean you don’t need a man (unless that’s your jam, whatever floats your boat) but it will make your life easier and more convenient.
Another example I like to use is being able to play with your kids at the playground. Lifting them up and tossing them around, hanging from the monkey bars and jumping off a moving swing. You become a more active participant when you are focusing on what you can do and instead of what you can’t. Strength training helps you do all the things.

The journey to strength training can be intimidating, which is why many women choose not to pursue it at all. That is why for the month of March on my Instagram and Facebook pages I will be going over the “Big 4” movements that are the foundations of strength training.

I’ll also be following this post up with one that talks about how to get started on your strength training journey. Stay Tuned!

~S

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2980962/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4066461/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2811354
  4. https://www.nof.org/preventing-fractures/general-facts/what-women-need-to-know/



Thoughts from a frustrated fitness professional/ A little personal history.

Working in the fitness industry is a rather polarizing endeavor. I’ve written about this a bit before, but lately I’ve found I’m having a hard time just “being ok” with it. I’ve said before I’m not for everyone. I’m cool with it.

Women are one of the most highly advertised to demographics, and while we are making strides in the body-positivity area the same shit still sells and it makes me REALLY ANGRY. Like Hulk-Smash level shit.

But for just a little history, I’d like to level with anyone reading this why I feel the way I do. See, I myself have a L O N G history with my body and my feelings about it. Put your seat-belt on, this will take a second.

I made it through middle school fairly unscathed. Once puberty hit my hips showed up and I have since carried quite a bit of my curve through my butt and legs. It just was what it was. I have also always been an athlete of some kind, so muscle and being able to be fairly consistent with my weight was fine.

In high school I experienced some devastating firsts that began to mold a not-so-great relationship with my body.

  1. I got cut from athletics for the first time in my life. First from basketball, then from volleyball. I was devastated. Completely crushed. For the first time I wasn’t an active particiapant, and I used food and a general lack of motivation to move very little.
  2. It was the first time my parents (who were completely well-intentioned so I thank them for that) suggested that watching what I eat become a priority. My mom helped me the best way she knew how packing my lunch and for a while it did help and some of the weight I’d put on came off.
  3. I started dating someone that would ultimately be emotionally abusive and that would take its toll. I ended up in the hospital for exhaustion, dehydration, consuming less then 1000 calories a day while in-season for a Varsity sport I loved, and then there was this guy that made me feel like I was special and at the same time like I would never be enough.

Eventually it all culminated, and for all 4 years of high school my weight went up and it went down. It changed based on whether I was in-season, post-season or preseason. I’ll also interject here that we did not lift weights during pre-season/ off-season. We didn’t want to be “bulky” so everything was body-weight, tubing and cardio based until we could get into the cages and begin batting practice.

Strength training already had a negative connotation after freshman PE class when my best friend and I both were able to bench our body-weight in class and the boys called us “Beasts”. Male fragile ego at 14-15 years old. (Insert vomit emoji here)

Also, I LOVED entertainment news. I was all about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I wanted Britney Spear’s abs, and Blue Crush was my favorite movie for sure.

What no one told me about any of it was that I wasn’t built like that. I was not going to look like any of those girls, ever. But man is that what I wanted. Lots of cardio, minimal lifting, watch what I eat (to a point of starving then binge, then feel guilty then repeat). For years.

When I went away to college on a softball scholarship, I was introduced to the weight room, for a minute. It was expected but I don’t remember us actually doing it with any consistency. We shared the weight room with all the male athletes (IE the football and basketball team) it was gross and many of them were pigs so I don’t think any of us were in a big rush to run up there. Also, even then I had never been properly instructed on how to lift. I had no idea of mechanics or what I actually should be doing. We just loaded up the bar and gave it a shot. (Ugh, facepalm)
Also, in this delightful four years, I was introduced to BEER. I may have been a Div. II Collegiate Athlete but I was also a sorority girl and I could put it down with the best of them. That did NOT help me, especially my freshman year, but you live and learn.

Once I graduated I walked away from anything organized for a while. We had free gym memberships with our apartment so I’d dabble here and there but I was never able to be consistent. Cardio was what I knew and I’d try to do something here and there. I had a consult with a personal trainer and she gave me a very generic workout and told me to consume less then 100g of sugar per day. That was it.

One night my husband and I were watching a movie and the guys on screen were throwing kettlebells around in the “pump-you-up” training montage. I looked at NN and said “I want to do that.” He shook his head as he does and said “Ok babe”. But less then a month later we were both in our first class.

Meeting Dave (and his business partner at the time) changed my life. I was introduced to someone that actually gave a shit about how I moved. He helped me fix my squat (something I didn’t realize needed fixed), he showed me that load was important and that cardio or other measures of “a good workout” weren’t necessarily that great. He gave me so much from the beginning, and while it would take almost 3 more years before I would start coaching myself I was hooked.

DUring this time I also got pregnant with my first child. This is another post for another day, but I will say that pregnancy was a whole new struggle for me with body image. It’s something that should be talked about, but I felt so much shame that I didn’t know what to do. Postpartum, dear Lord that will be several future posts. But back to the actual story…

I was introduced to a community of professionals that took their job seriously. Yes, there are always polarizing opinions, and I had to learn some things the hard way. But at the roots, I’d had a long-standing viewpoint of my body that was driven by shame and by this ideal that I would never achieve. At 24 that began to change and I’ve spent the last 12 years trying to encourage a different dialog.

What I preach is wholly what I practice, and if I’m being honest it isn’t sexy or glamorous.

I don’t have a six-pack, I’m not a size 4, and I still hate long cycle cardio.

I move everyday. Even when all that looks like is walking. Some days that is all I’ve got in me. AND THAT’S OK. Other days I swing kettlebells (because I freaking love it) or I move weights around. I’ve started hitting up a Crossfit class a couple times a week. My relationship with that has been a moving target for years, but at the moment I’m in a good place with it.

I try to eat foods that come from the outside of the grocery store. Bread and pasta are delicious but they don’t agree with me and while I have always loved cereal and ice cream both make me feel like absolute shit. I very much have to weigh the pros and cons of consumption. I also love cheesecake. It is a non-negotiable in my life. The trick is not eating the whole damn thing, but instead a slice here and there.

I share all of this because it is a small example of what works FOR ME. It has taken me years to get a handle on it, and I am constantly tweeking and experimenting.

That mentality and approach is how I approach my clients as well. We establish goals, and then we reverse engineer how to get to them. It is a long road, if you’re being honest with yourself it is a lifetime decision. What you choose in your 30’s and 40’s will have an impact in your 60’s and 70’s. It’s never too late to start, but the sooner you do the better for YOU it will ultimately be.

I will continue to be annoyed and often angered by the bullshit I see people putting out about “30lbs in 30 days”, Detox Teas, Magic Wraps, and all the cardio. And while I sometimes feel like a broken record I will continue to educate, support, encourage, and hopefully inspire other women, especially Moms to find what works for them and allows them to live the life they DESIRE to live.

Thanks for reading Awesome Humans

~S