My First Experience with Weights
Many years ago, too many to count, I belonged to an all woman’s gym. I’d strut in with my fluorescent orange leotard, tie dye bike shorts and perfect white Reeboks and head straight to the aerobics room. My friend and I parked ourselves in the front of the class to get a good view of the teacher. Freestyle music blasted from her Boombox and after carefully following her choreographed dance steps, our arms flailing overhead, we left thinking we transformed our bodies.
One day, after many years, I strolled towards the aerobics room ready for my step class and spied the weight machines in the adjoining room. They lied there untouched, alone and abandoned. Why wasn’t anyone using them?
I looked around, no one was watching, and crept over to a funky machine with a bar dangling from the top. Dust consumed the seating bench and also the black rectangular weights that encompassed this massive machine. A small card demonstrated the procedure for performing this exercise.
The Conversation that Changed My Life
Suddenly my friend tapped me on the shoulder, startling me. The conversation went something like this:
Friend: “What are you doing?”
Me: “Checking out these machines.”
Unsupportive Friend” “Um, why?”
Me: “No one’s using them.”
Sarcastic Friend: “Obviously! They’re for men.” (I’ll remind you this was an all women’s gym.) “Come on, we’ll be late for class.”
My friend sauntered off, exiting with one last chuckle and shook her head. I glanced back at the machine and something pulled me toward it. I ran my finger over the layer of dust, sat down and examined myself in the mirror. After reading the little card with instructions (picture included) I began using what I would later find out to be a Lat Pull-down machine.
What it Feels Like to be Empowered
I pulled the bar up and down, watched myself in the mirror and could almost feel myself getting stronger with each pull. Not because I was lifting some enormous weight (actually I probably didn’t have any weight on it at all. I was clueless, remember?). But because, as I watched myself engage my muscles, pushed myself to yank down the bar, slowly released it, observed my muscles contracting in the mirror, I suddenly felt powerful, like I could take anything on.
I never made it into the aerobics room that day. In fact, I hung out in the weight room more and more and watched as all the other woman tossed their arms around in the aerobics room to some Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam song. Before long I switched to a Co-ed gym, subscribed to Muscle & Fitness magazine, and Cory Everson became my idol (still is).
Flash forward fifteen years
One day at the hospital, while training a new intern, the twenty-three year old whipped out an Oxygen Magazine. The women in the magazine weren’t the steroid induced Ms. Olympia’s I was used to. They were career woman, mothers of four, college students, grandmothers, and single moms, all ranging from age twenty to seventy, hooked on weight lifting and clean eating.
I bought a copy of the magazine that day, read everything from the editor’s letter, to the exercise routines, recipes, success stories and articles written by women that woke up one day and decided to transform their bodies. The gym took on a whole new meaning for me.
What I call The Zone
Not sure how it happened but I went into this kind of Zone. Focused, determined, I went to the gym five days a week, ate perfectly (not even desserts) and followed the specific weight lifting routines provided in the magazine, separating my days into body parts. Mondays – upper body! I would shout. I performed slow, rhythmic movements, concentrating on what I was doing.
The greatest advice I ever read was from Monica Brant: (seen in the picture above) “You have to lift heavier and harder than you ever imagined.” And that I did. No cute little pink dumbbells. No five pounds weights. No sitting there for six months with the same weight, lightly pushing it over and over again. My goal was to grab a heavier weight every few weeks and even if I could only do four or five repetitions, that was okay. Next week I’d make it to six, then seven.
After eight straight months of weight lifting, never missing a day, and eight straight months of eating perfect, I dropped my body fat down by 8%. One percent a month. I only lost two pounds though.
Only two pounds? What a waste. Uh, No. Because you see, although I lost 8% of my total body fat, I gained a tremendous amount of muscle. And no I didn’t look like a steroid juice head. I went from skinny fat to a woman with tiny little triceps muscles popping out. Cut marks running down my thighs. Rounded shoulders. And a six-pack. The blobs of fat I lost, were replaced by tight muscle. (Remember, if it jiggles, it’s fat).
The Big Myths
There are many women that still don’t lift weights. Why? These are some of the excuses I get:
- I don’t want to get huge (I’d like to see one woman actually put in the time that’s needed to build a substantial amount of muscle.)
- It will make me look bulky (Well, if you keep stuffing your face with cheeseburgers and doughnuts, then yes the lovely muscles will sit on top of your globules of fat.)
- I don’t know what I’m doing (That’s why you ask for the Free personal trainer session they give you when you join a gym. And hey, instead of Googling Michael Kors, try Googling exercise routines on Youtube)
- Everyone will look at me (Listen, the people that are serious about working out are there to WORKOUT, not look at you. If we glance your way, you probably got in our line of vision.)
- I need to burn calories so I have to sit on the treadmill for seven hours a day (Guess what? You burn a ton of calories while lifting weights too, possibly more than your cardio routine. Just because a cute digital screen doesn’t pop up with your “calories burned number” doesn’t mean you didn’t burn any calories. And check this out, while your muscles are tying to repair themselves and rebuild, you are burning more calories. Try to get that out of your elliptical machine.)
- The only way to lose weight is by doing cardio (Surprise! During those 8 months of weight lifting, I never once did any cardio. Unless you consider huffing & panting while lifting the heavy weights. If you do it right, if you don’t rest for five minutes in between each lame set, if you lift heavy, push yourself, keep moving, don’t stop, jump from machine to machine, you can get a cardio workout AND build muscle.
- It’s too hard (Really? Lifting a dumbbell up and down while sitting on a bench is too hard? What kind of exercise do you want?)
- I want to lose weight first before I gain any muscle (Why? To waste more time?)
- It’s boring (Want to know why guys stare at themselves in the mirror at the gym? Because one day, after months of pushing yourself, dealing with muscle soreness, giving up junk food and happy hours with your friends, you will look into the mirror while doing a shoulder press and blow your own mind! Is that a bicep? Where did that cut line down my chest come from? Do I see the start of a six-pack? That is never boring. Seeing how strong you are, how strong you’ve become, how much weight you are capable of lifting, and then to reap the rewards of not only burning calories and losing weight, but to get the added bonus of building muscle so that when you do lose all that fat, your body is tight, toned and devoid of any jiggling flesh. You tell me how boring it all was. Being able to completely transform your body, by yourself, is astounding.)
P.S. No amount of exercise will undo a bad diet. You have to give 100% to both. For a suggest meal plan to help you transform your body, check out this post: How to Drop your Body Fat by 8% in 8 months.
So what is your excuse for not joining a gym, for not lifting weights? Let me know your fears. For those of you that do lift weights, are you pushing yourself enough, have you transformed your body yet? Please share your stories with me!
I love hearing from you!