Follow along as this mom of two finds her way back to a healthy and fit lifestyle, one day at a time.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Women and Weights

Sometimes, I think that the universe tries to tell us things, but sometimes we're too busy to pay any attention. But sometimes, the universe tells you over and over and over again until you can't help but pay attention!!!! For the past week, I have literally had someone ask me a question about women lifting weights every single day, sometimes several women! I've been asked in school, at the gym, via email and on facebook…. And since I've been repeating myself over and over and over, I thought I'd share this info with you here. Not only because I've been asked so many times, but because you need this info. And clearly, the universe wants me to share it with you J

I have so many friends who are perfectly happy at the weight they are at, but just want to tone up a little, or flatten the post-baby belly, or get rid of the jiggle on the back of their arms (that would be the triceps, by the way!). When I hear these comments, I always reply the same way: "You have to lift weights." And this is always followed by the same reply "I don't want to get muscles/get bulky/get big/etc etc etc!"

Let's go ahead and dispel that big myth once and for all, here and now. WOMEN CANNOT GET BULKY THE WAY THAT MEN DO SIMPLY BY LIFTING WEIGHTS! I don't care how heavy you lift. You can be lifting more than your husband, more than an Olympic athlete, more than Arnold S. back in the day, and you still will not get big and bulky. It's just not in our buildup to be able to do so. Seriously. The science behind it is deep and confusing, but it boils down to a few things. Mainly, men have much higher levels of testosterone in their bodies than we do, and this is one huge reason why they have bigger muscles. We have different body make-ups, we carry our weight differently, and the effects of working out show differently as well.

Ok, so maybe you kind of believe me now… so tomorrow I'll see you at the gym with a 3 pound weight in each hand, doing 5 or 10 bicep curls. Yay, Nikki will be so proud of me, I lifted weights! Right? Nope, sorry. You need to LIFT WEIGHTS. They should feel heavy. And at the end of your workout, you should feel tired. I have seen so many women in weight lifting classes who don't want to lift too much (again, fear of getting big and bulky, which we all now know is FALSE, right?). These women are also the ones who claim they "don't sweat" when they work out. Well, duh, of course you don't sweat! You aren't doing a whole lot!!

I'm sure everyone reading this has heard the saying "muscle weighs more than fat." It's yet another common myth, but at least I can see where this one comes from. The truth is that a pound weighs a pound, no matter what. That means that a pound of muscle and a pound of fat both weigh the same amount: one pound. The difference lies in the amount of space that each take up on your body. Muscle is much smaller and takes up less space than fat. So if you weigh 120 pounds but have a very high body fat percentage, there is a good likelihood that your best friend who weighs 140 pounds (but who lifts weights 3 times a week!) has a lower body fat percentage and can fit into smaller jeans than you can!!!

I'm not saying cardio isn't important; we need cardio for our respiratory tract, to keep our lungs and heart healthy, for endurance, for lots of reasons. It should definitely be a part of your workout. But strength training is imperative, especially for women. It keeps our bones strong (preventing osteoporosis), it keeps our body fat lower, it makes us lean, and makes us strong. And as mommies, we need those muscles so we can lift our kids, carry the groceries, build the forts, etc etc etc!

So if you are serious about getting healthy, and want a lean, toned body, do yourself a favor and start lifting. You don't have to spend hours in a gym- find a way to lift that feels good to you. Maybe you want to join a gym and sign up for sessions with a trainer. Maybe you want to do free weights on your own at home- there are a ton of online videos and programs you can try. Maybe you want to try some group fitness classes- there are weight lifting classes you can take, where the instructor will tell you exactly what to do. No thinking required J

I hope this cleared up a bit about women and lifting weights. If you have any questions, let me know. I'm more than happy to share what I know.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Are moms more unfit than non-moms? ALL or NOTHING mentality...

Recently, a friend posted a shared a link to this article that began like this:

"Does having kids make parents less fit? New research suggests it might. The study found that mothers of young children ate more calories and were all around heavier than childless women. Parents were also less active than adults without kids"

Several moms weighed in on their opinion of the article, and their replies seemed to fall into one of two camps:

1- Since becoming a mom, I don't have as much time to devote to fitness and being healthy, so it has to take a backburner.


2- Fitness and health have to stay one of my top priorities, regardless of the time commitment it takes.

To me, these replies seem to reflect the two extremes: either all or nothing. Some moms say they don't have time to even brush their teeth some days (don't say ewww, you know you've been there!), forget about having time to exercise! Others stay up late and sacrifice sleep to work out while their baby(ies) sleep. Again, it's the two extremes: either ALL or NOTHING.

So I really have been thinking about this all or nothing mentality, and questioning it. Why does it have to be ALL or NOTHING? Why can't something in the middle work just as well?  Isn't a little bit of exercise better than none?

There has to be a way to make fitness and healthy living a part of daily life.

And in order to do so, we have to change our thinking.

First, let's get rid of the words ALL or NOTHING. Every single day, we have the opportunity to make choices, whether big or small. After all, it is our lives, our bodies, and thus our decisions, right?

Second,  let's stop being so hard on ourselves. Maybe you didn't have a chance to get to that workout class tonight, or to run your 3 miles after work. That doesn't make you a failure! However, it also doesn't give you a reason to say "well, I missed my workout, so I might as well eat this half gallon of ice cream anyways..."

Third, and maybe most importantly, let's start celebrating the small stuff!  Maybe you walked 3 flights of stairs today instead of taking the elevator. Maybe you parked in the farthest parking space instead of the closest one. Maybe your ab workout today consisted of lying on your back and lifting your almost 3 year old up with your feet into the air so he could fly like Buzz Lightyear, screaming "to infinity and beyond" as loud as he can (that was MY workout tonight!!)  Any of these things are SOMETHING. Maybe they aren't what you consider ALL, but they certaintly aren't NOTHING either. Celebrate yourself for the choices you are making.

After all, standing burns more calories than sitting, and walking burns more than standing. Any moving is good, whether its running a marathon or chasing your Buzz Lightyear (because you are Evil Dr. Porkchop... hey, I didn't choose the characters, clearly...)

In my next post I'll write more about how you can fit in little bits of exercise into your daily life, no matter how busy you are. And I'll write about how those little bits add up!

But for now, just remember: it isn't ALL or NOTHING. There is a very happy middle ground :)