Joining a gym a couple of years ago was the start of a better lifestyle for me, but for most of that time I only used the cardio machines or pool. The treadmill, cross trainer, rowing machines, bikes – we all know how they work, and I liked using them. But a few months ago it started to get a little too monotonous, and I was bored of doing the same exercises every time I went to the gym. I’d also been reading a lot more about the benefits of lifting weights for women, so I decided to book an appointment with a trainer to show me how those mysterious weight machines worked.
The weight room had always seemed a little intimidating to me – aside from a couple of women, it was usually full of men who looked strong enough to break me in half with just a glance. I know a lot of girls feel the same, but I can honestly say that walking in there with my trainer was the hardest step, and I’m so glad I did. Once in there I was made to feel right at home: I explained that I was tired of cardio and I wanted to get stronger and build a little muscle, so we got straight to work.
Recently a lot has been written about the importance of using weights in conjunction with cardio, especially for women. Whilst we can run and run until our legs give in, this mainly aids with fat loss rather than building muscle. So yes, we might get slimmer, but we won’t gain much muscle definition through jogging alone. Muscle cells are little powerhouses – they are packed full of mitochondria, the components of the cell that use oxygen to churn out energy we can use, and for this reason they burn a lot more glucose than other cell types. This basically means that the more muscle you have, the more glucose you need to consume just to maintain your cells, and the higher your metabolism even when not exercising. And yep, that does mean you can eat a little more!
I want muscle not only for its great benefits for my metabolism and blood glucose levels, but also because I want to be strong. I won’t lie, it’s a great side effect of being strong that you look more toned and lean, but my main concern was functional strength, just as I want to improve my functional fitness. ‘Functional’ refers to abilities that help you to ‘function’ in everyday life with greater ease – I want to be able to run after my little cousin, lug heavy suitcases around airports without help, and climb steep hills to explore far-off natural wonders. I don’t want to have experiences restricted because my lungs and muscles can’t handle it. Getting fit isn’t something I want as a summer quick-fix for lying on a beach – I want it for life.
Guess what the best part was guys? No one in that weight room judged me, and my trainer didn’t laugh but instead made me have a lot of fun trying out some hilarious moves to start me off. It’s easy to feel like others will think you out of place at the gym, but in fact we should remember we’re all in the same boat – no matter what we look like or how much redder or sweatier we get than the person on the next treadmill, we’re all there to try and improve and pursue our own goals. My advice: just walk in and grab those weights! You’ll leave feeling like Wonder Woman, and probably look a little more like her as well.