If any of you have followed my journey long enough, you know how much I advocate weight/strength training, especially for women. I have definitely been a “cardio bunny”, spending hours upon hours on the elliptical or treadmill, taking 2 to 3 Zumba classes a week, reveling in the results I was seeing on the scale week after week. But, I looked sickly. I had pretty saggy skin from losing so much weight so quickly, with no regard to retention of lean muscle mass. I just wanted to be skinny :(.
I’m here to say that this is no longer my mindset. I picked up weight training (in conjunction with cardio) around September of 2014, and started seeing positive changes in my body almost immediately. Was it rough to step outside of my comfort zone? Absolutely. But, everyone has to start somewhere, and I had no worries starting at the bottom. I had done weight training around 2009 and forgot how much I loved it! However, I began to hyper focus on certain things, and my “addiction” moved from over utilization of cardio, to the same with weight training. I just wasn’t giving my body adequate rest & recovery time, working out 6-7 days a week, sometimes twice a day. Even though I was seeing positive changes physically, my mental health seemed to be worsening.
Once I discovered flexible dieting and switched to this sole nutritional approach, I felt I had more time to focus on my mental stability and rethink my approach to my training as well. I had always admired fellow gym goers for their dedication, especially the ones who handled the barbell in a way I had never done. I stopped and asked myself, “Why have I not done this? What are you afraid of? What do you have to lose?” The answers to those questions are simple: fear of failing or looking stupid and absolutely nothing. So, in October of 2015, I picked up my first barbell, felt a rush I had never felt before, and ran with it. I began working on my squat, bench press, and deadlift techniques and, over time, I have also cut out practically all cardio routines, only utilizing them when absolutely necessary. My mental health has also improved greatly, as I no longer hyper focus on negativity, nor do I fear failure. In fact, I welcome it. Without failure, we cannot succeed.
So, to answer the question, “do I really need to lift weights?”, the answer is very much dependent upon your goals. If you are strictly looking to lose weight, it’s not required, but highly recommended. The more lean muscle you have, the more fat you can burn at rest. Yes, cardiorespiratory exercise burns fat, but once you stop, so does the burn. The effects of weight/strength training can last many hours after the workout ends, which is why it’s been found to be more effective for long term weight loss. Of course, there are goal specific ways to strength train, such as my complex barbell movements for powerlifting, but standard dumbbell or machine use for the average person is sufficient.
Whatever method of fitness you decide upon though, should be fun for you and make you happy! If you are not happy lifting weights, don’t do it. Find other ways to incorporate strength exercise such as utilizing playground equipment with your kids and doing pull-ups on the monkey bars or using household items to increase difficulty of bodyweight movements. Just do you! Don’t worry about what someone else thinks of you, and have fun! Personally, I have solo dance parties in between sets while lifting and I’ve been told many times that my positive energy is contagious and motivating <3! Those types of comments just make me want to keep going, because you never know who is watching and what type of impression you are leaving.