Can I be honest with you? Less than a year ago I was TERRIFIED of weight training. But that started to change when I felt like I was totally stalled out on handstand progression in my yoga practice, and I was feeling a bit impatient… I knew I needed to strengthen my core, arms, and shoulders and that I needed something that I could do in smaller increments because #momlife wasn’t allowing me to attend a yoga class every day like I’d hoped- and this only intensified after I decided to train for a half marathon and almost all my focus went to running. Then, even my running training program called for cross training… So I realized I’d have to suffer through some strength training…
What I found was that, while suffering is involved at times, I kind of love weight training. I love how strong I feel when I finish (even if I simultaneously feel like my arms or legs are jelly) I love seeing very measurable progress as I level up how many pounds or reps I can do. I love that it can change so much so easily- some days I use the fancy gym machines and other days I use small barbells at home. One of the greatest responses I got on instagram when I asked who incorporated strength training and why was from a friend from grad school, Angelina, who battles fibromyalgia. She said, “YES! It (Strength training) made pain management easier and I LOVE feeling STRONG!”
I also love that it feels a bit like I’m breaking down a gender barrier because most women I talk to seem totally freaked out by the weights at the gym and only focus on the cardio equipment or the classrooms for yoga, pilates, Zumba, etc. I TOTALLY get that fear. That’s the exact fear I had less than a year ago. I was afraid of being judged for having no idea how to use most of the weight machines, afraid to ask for help because everyone around me seemed so in the zone, and afraid above all that I was going to do something wrong and hurt myself. So here are a few ways I got over the weight training woes and built up some courage, little by little.
*Take some classes that include strength training as one component: If I was going to invest a full hour into a class, I usually chose a yoga or barre class. But when I wanted a starting point and didn’t want to feel like I was on display, it was easiest for me to try and bend in to the back of other classes. There were some high intensity classes that included lifting that I found too advanced for me at first, but I found my groove in a circuit training type of class (think Orange Theory Fitness style) that my gym had. The group was small enough that I got some personal coaching if I had bad form or was feeling like I might be hurting myself and needed a modification, but large enough that I didn’t feel on display or like I couldn’t look around at classmates to reassess what I was supposed to be doing.
*Get personal training: This is a PRICEY option. Too pricey for our monthly budget, but I did get a few training sessions as a Christmas gift to help me prepare for my half marathon, and I told the trainer that, aside from focusing on race prep, what I’d really like to use the sessions for was to get as familiar with various equipment in the gym as possible. Once my sessions were up, I no longer had the personalization of how much weight/how many reps, but I had the confidence of at least having tried a majority of the equipment before. What I found needed to happen next was that I needed to…
*Come in with a plan. For some reason it is STILL really hard for me to decide in the moment what machine to wait for/get on or how many reps to do. I do sometimes adjust weights or reps in the moment, but I need to come in with a plan and a goal or I end up wasting a LOT of time- and one of the reasons I like weight training is that it is so efficient! I use Pinterest for some work out resources, but I have also texted friends or family that I know are familiar with strength training and asked them to assign me components of my workout and then build from there. It’s kind of a fun way to feel like others are holding you accountable still, even when doing it on your own.
*Realize that, for the most part, if you are in your typical gym setting people will be willing to help you. I STILL struggle with this. The other week I was at the gym and I wanted to use the sleigh (the thing you push down the aisle to work your legs… think what football player use in practice… only without the dummy quarterback on it…) and someone had put just a HUGE amount of weight on it and I was worried I’d hurt my back lifting some of the weight off. I literally wandered around the gym for 20 minutes just hoping someone would randomly re-set the sleigh to its base weight while I waited… that, of course, did not happen. And you know what happened when I asked a few people nearby to help? They did! No disparaging or sexist comments like I dreaded. No eye rolls or patronizing looks. They were happy to help and then they got back to their workout and I got back to mine… but I didn’t get those 20 minutes back… so hopefully I’ve learned my lesson for next time.
*Challenge yourself but listen to you body. Similar to one of the lessons I learned in yoga, there’s a difference between discomfort/your legs feeling a bit on fire and the pain of your body telling you you are injuring yourself. The hardest part about no longer having a trainer or a workout buddy when it comes to strength training is that I have to walk that line on my own if I can’t make a class/group workout. Having a plan, like I mentioned above, helps, but I’d love any ideas for a playlist that sounds powerful but not angry for me to lift to! (It seems according to Spotify playlists that most people want to feel really angry while they workout… and my cardio music just isn’t quite right for how fast my strength routines are…)
*It’s OK to be a beginner. No one is judging you for starting with the smallest barbells or setting the machine to its easiest setting. If they are- that’s their weird problem and something is wrong with their workout routine if they have time to snoop on your weight settings. As I say so often- little steps add up to a big difference. So what’s one thing you can do today to start getting stronger if that’s one of your goals?
I’m hoping this post helps someone else out there step into and past their fears and just go for it when it comes to strength training! I am by NO MEANS and expert on this subject and I have so many strong friends who inspired me to keep going with this aspect of my fitness, but none of it mattered until I found the courage to just start trying different things and asking for help. You can do that too! I’m cheering you on!
PS: If you have a fitness goal or any kind of goal and you want to embrace the #progressnotperfection mentality or if you want to try the crazy Powersheets I go on and on about in so many blog posts… The 6 month set are on sale now! Get them HERE before they sell out for the year.
Do you strength train? Do you prefer free lifting? Machines? TRX straps? Body weight exercises? I’d love to hear about any favorite routines! I’ve found that one of the coolest parts about this aspect of fitness is how easy it is to diversify workouts so I enjoy hearing what others do!