Monday, February 2, 2009

Habit-A-Week Challenge, Week 16: Strength Train

It's the final week of the Habit-A-Week Challenge! Yes, it has been 16 whole weeks since this challenge began. See how easy that was? Just one small change each week and it makes a huge impact on your health. If you are just joining us or want to see the previous weeks, here is last week's challenge with links to all the previous habits.

This week's challenge is: strength train! If you're like I used to be, you're groaning, rolling your eyes, and about to surf away to some other blog that won't tell you to lift weights. I *never* wanted to lift weights. I hated the idea. It seemed to artificial to me. "I'll just get strong by picking up my kids and carrying groceries," I told myself. Is that you, too? Are you resistant to the idea of strength training? Read on.

There are many benefits to strength training. It helps to prevent muscle loss as you lose weight (and as we age). It speeds up your metabolism and increases calorie burn (even at rest) so that you can lose more weight. Strength training can reduce your resting blood pressure, improve your glucose metabolism (helping to prevent diabetes), and increase your bone density (helping to prevent osteoporosis). And you get all this from just 20-30 minutes, 2-3 times per week! Can you spare 40 or more minutes per week to increase your health that much? I think so!

But for me, I didn't start strength training for those benefits. In all honesty, I did it because I wanted to feel strong. Losing weight (and being fat) made me feel weak and flabby. I didn't like it. I wanted to feel something sturdy under those fat/skin layers. I wanted to be able to carry more stuff and rake leaves without being sore. And boy did I get those benefits! After just a month of strength training, I noticed something hard on my upper arms. OMG, muscles!! It felt wonderful. I noticed that instead of having to make 2 trips from the car to the house with groceries, I could make ONE trip, carrying everything in at once... and it felt lighter! I also remember the day I had a huge box of apples under one arm in the parking lot at the Farmer's Market, and I easily folded and picked up my child's heavy stroller with the other arm, lifted it sideways and stuck it in the back of the car one-armed with hardly any effort. I felt like She-Ra!! There is something very empowering about feeling that strong. And I like it.

You do NOT have to go to the gym to strength train! I personally hate the gym. I've had two different gym memberships and just despised going in there with all the buff fitness people and putting myself on display... but if you like the gym, go for it! You can have a personal trainer help you out. But if you're like me and want to stay at home, that's great. You don't need a weight bench or a fancy machine. You can start with something as simple as food cans or water bottles, but 3 or 5lb hand weights are really cheap at WalMart. I started with 5 lbs and purchased 8, 10 and 15 lb sets as I needed them. I got a lot of my exercises from Sparkpeople, which has FREE exercise videos showing correct form for each.

It's a good idea to read up and learn about strength training, too. Get some books at your local library, or try any of these (all of which I own and have used to make up new routines for myself):

Strength Training for Women by Joan Pagano

Strength Training Anatomy by Frederic Delavier

Weight Training For Dummies by Liz Neporent, Suzanne Schlosberg, and Shirley Archer

Don't hurt yourself. I'm not a medical professional so check with your doctor and/or use your own judgement about what's best for you.

If you already strength train, take this week to change up your routine or add in some push ups. I can't do them on the floor yet. I started with wall push ups and graduated to doing them off the kitchen counter. Start where you are and build up. You won't believe how quickly you see results with strength training! In just a couple of weeks you will see a difference. Try it! You can always quit if you hate it, right?

Here's to being strong (in mind AND body) and reaching all of our goals!


Karen in Tennessee said...

See, Lyn, you should have been hoisting those wonderful farmer's market apples all along to build muscles! I tried to build muscles by carrying gallons of ice cream but it didn't quite work out for me! :)

So glad you are so positive about makes me more positive too. But you know what? Even when you strugggle and don't quite meet your goals its helpful (and generous)that you share that with us!!! None of us have success in a straight line and its reassuring and educational for me to see how and why we go wrong so that we can make corrections for the future.

Thank you for your honesty, compassion, and kindness. We are all better, healthier readers because you share so much with us!

Rachel said...

I freakin' LOVE strength training. It's what got me into the habit of exercising in the first place. But I understand it's not everyone's thing. Seeing the statistics on how much a pound of muscle burns (base metabolically speaking) vs. a pound of fat is also very convincing! Wahoo, less work to do elsewhere! Hehe.

erin said...

I love SparkPeople! It's one of the main reasons I've lost 57 pounds! And their exercises are great. They also have free vidoes, too.

Strength training is something I'm trying to focus more on as well. When I first started working out last year, I did some every week, but it wasn't very consistent and by the summer I had gotten to where I was hardly doing any at all. I'm determined to do at least 2 sessions a week and would love to do 3.

I love your blog! It's such an encouragement!

Lauren said...

I love your blog and read it regularly. I am subscribed to it on my blog reader. And I love your habit a week challenge. Unfortunately, I lost my way a few challenges in, so I'm kind of adjusting it to fit myself. This month I'm focusing on water intake.

Amy said...

Like Rachael, I love strength training. I figure, I may be fat but I'm strong. Kinda irritates me that I see a lot of 'fit' women at the Y lifting tiny little weights, but the trainer gives me these nutty workouts to do that work my muscles and is efficient and she knows I'm strong and gives me encouragement for it. Today she told me that another woman, also very overweight, said that I inspired her. Yay me!

So when the scale doesn't move, I still have the encouragement of being able to do more push ups or whatever and usually my clothes are looser. And the weight training and other exercise lets me eat a little more than if I was just restricting calories.

Also being able to lift heavier weights than many people in the gym helps make up (in my mind anyway) for all the huffing and puffing I do on the cardio machines. I loathe the first 15 minutes of any cardio!

I need the outside influence of the Y and the trainer there to help me. If I did it at home, I'd quit as soon as it got just a bit hard. My trainer (free with Y membership)encourages me to give it my all and then dig a little deeper. She's almost as encouraging as you are Lyn, but you are great!

Dawn said...

I love strength training. I just started a new program today. I'm hoping to get strong and fit.

Hanlie said...

I started strength training about 3 weeks ago and am also blown away by the progress I've made. It just makes me so much more aware of my body, which is a good thing! Am going to start doing the wall push-ups...

Wishing you a great and successful February!

moonduster said...

Having lost 70.5 pounds now, I definitely need to add strength training into my workouts! I HATE the flab!

Vickie said...

I felt VERY vulnerable when I first started losing - I felt scared much of the time - I started taking free weights classes over a year ago - and never thought about the fact that I do NOT feel scared now until I read this posting. But you are right - I feel very strong and I am sure it is the free weights classes. My middle child and I are planning to take a self protection type of class (her request). And that is something that I probably could have done when I was scared 2-3 years ago that would have helped too.

I would add pilates to go right along with the free weights - it helps so much with tone - if you haven't started already - and very little of pilates involved weight on the knees!

new*me said...

I love the way I feel after my core workout. I also do pushups each morning. I still have layers of fat ...especially in the tummy.....but it's nice to know the muscles are in there somewhere helping me be stronger and burning more calories ;)

Sarah said...

Hi Lyn-

just checking out your blog for the first time today, courtesy of Roni btw, and I love it! You are so inspirational and I too love going to the Farmer's Market for fresh, local produce. The only way I get through winter is citrus. Thank God I love oranges and grapefruit!

I strength twice a week (I do Body Pump) and I try to up my weights weekly. This isn't always possible but I do try. After I am done with a workout, I feel so empowered! I feel stronger, better and more motivated to stay on track. Plus I have tons more energy. It is one hour that I devoted to myself and I love it! Couldn't live without it!! :)

K said...

Strength training is wonderful, both for your health and for your mental outlook (at least in my experience). I love feeling strong and capable and I love seeing some definition in my arms too!

Another great benefit that I don't think you mentioned: increased aerobic fitness. My fitness level has increased by about 100% since I began strength training -- all those squats and lunges, uncomfortable though they may be, make running and other aerobic sports much easier. I can now run a mile straight without stopping, which continues to amaze me. Furthermore, seeing these results has pushed me to challenge myself athletically more and more, since I now know it is possible for me to be athletic at all.

Lynn said...

Great post and inspiration! Personally I am doing a combo strength/cardio class at the gym and loving it! Eventually, I will get the nerve up to work with a personal trainer!

The whole habit a week thing is an awesome idea! I wish I would have found your earlier!

Anonymous said...

Great post! I joined a Cardinal Fitness over the summer and didn't realize until January that new members are entitled to 30 minute free session with a personal trainer!

Once I get over my cough I plan on doing that.

bbubblyb said...

I love strength training, I think it is the one thing that has really empowered me to realize just how strong my body really is. If you give it some thought think how strong all of us are, we have carried around extra weight for years, no wonder we always felt so darn tired all the time. Anyway, this is definitely one habit a week I will be embrassing even more.

D said...

Hi Lyn, Just wanted to let you know that I've quoted you on my post for tomorrow (Wednesday) on my blog re: fat acceptance. You're doing great! Keep going! D

Danielle said...

I love strength training!
It's very empowering.
I love how strong it makes me feel when just doing normal, every day things like you mentioned- lifting things, bending down to get stuff, etc.
My favorite is sitting up in bed by just using my more rolling to the side first, or using my elbows and arms to hoist myself up!
I wish women would get over the notion that they need to lose weight first before they start strength training. That seems to be a common theme on many message boards. If they only realized how great the benefits are! It's never too soon to start!

Barefoot Pixie said...

Thank you so much for this. I needed this today. I've been doing cardio, cardio, cardio and my weight loss has stalled. I thought, I'll get online today, read blogs and someone will have somthing to say that is going to give me a push in the right direction to pick things up a bit. The second I read the title to this post I knew it was what I needed to hear. I'll be following your advice and Mizfits video with the bands.

Ria said...

Very inspiring post! I do use a gym, but I think I'm going to invest the time to develop an alternate routine I can do at home.