This post title may seem a little bit unusual, but let me explain.
Last week, I had an interesting discussion with someone at the gym. She was a young woman and mother of a two-year-old boy. She was not overweight by any means, but she just wanted to get into a better shape.
We got some really interesting conversation going. It quickly came clear that our working out philosophy and strategies are really different. She had her opinions that I found hard to agree with.
That's what got me writing this post. I realized that many (women) probably have similar thoughts about working out.
Here are the four things she told me, four of her biggest workout-related fears and, I would say, misconceptions.
1. When I work out, I don't use too heavy weights, because I don't want to get BIG and BULKY.
Okay. Where is the idea that lifting makes you big and bulky actually coming from? It's way too common.
First, she, being a mom of a 2-year old little boy, gets a chance to go to gym three to four times a week. Out of these three to four times she takes a group fitness class at least once a week, which typically is a core or stretch class, followed by 30 minutes steady state cardio on the elliptical.
The rest of the times she goes to the gym she does some sort of strength training – squats, lunges or core work, using quite light weights. Because “big weights grow huge muscles and make bulky”.
Here's the thing: Working out three times a week following a plan like this, there is not even a tiniest chance that you ever get bulky. Using really light weights is not going to take you anywhere. You won't get bulky but you also won't get lean.
I'm not even sure what bulky means. If it, for someone, means lean and defined muscle, then getting that takes some really hard work at the gym and a lot of food to support the muscle growth. Most of the ladies that are scared of muscle gain unfortunately skimp on their calories, too. There's no way to see any results like this.
Moving only really light weights does nothing to your muscles. No nicer shape, no fat burn, no leaning out. Lifting really light weights and not getting your muscles tired is pretty much useless and is just a waste of your precious time.
2. I don't want the workout to make me tired. I don't like being sweaty and I hate muscle pain.
When I started working at my current gym, our head couch had a training session with us. One thing that I will definitely always remember from that training and something that I strongly believe in is that you need to get the sweat on every time you go to the gym.
Going to a relaxing body and mind type of class is a different story, but if you are at the gym to do strength training or metabolic workout, you have to get your heart beat up and your shirt wet. This is what indicates that you have actually worked and this is how you get results.
What comes about muscle pain, this is not necessarily an evidence of a good workout. But it's totally normal to feel muscle soreness time to time, especially after trying a new type of exercise that your body is not used to, or after increasing the weight from your usual.
To see the results you are after, you need to kick your ass and sweat. There's nothing embarrassing in sweating, it's not gross or unacceptable. Not at the gym!
You will learn to enjoy those super sweaty workouts and muscle pain when you see how they are taking you closer to your goals.
3. I want skinny legs.
First, being strong is much healthier than being skinny.
Strong also looks so much better than skinny. Let's face it, better look is the reason why most of the people go to the gym.
We are kind of back to the first point here – I don't want to get bulky. But the opposite of skinny doesn't have to be bulky. The opposite can be toned, lean legs (we're talking about legs now, but the same is true also for any other body part), and I believe is something most of u want.
It's also fun to see how the how the “perfect” woman body image has changed throughout the years. Strong seems to be the new skinny. I don't believe that we should be after anything “perfect”, but I'm glad that it's not 90's any more!
4. I want to lose 10 kg.
First of all, unless you are strongly overweight, I don't think you should focus on a number on the scale. It's just a number, without taking into account what your body consists of. Muscle is heavier that fat, so really fit people are heavier than those who have more body fat.
Second, there are so many other things to focus on – lifting heavier, running longer and faster, being more flexible, finally being able to do a pull up or a hand stand. These are the goals you should go for, and believe me, the rest of it comes as a bonus.
Third, hearing the sentence I want to lose 10 kg from someone who is far from being overweight and on a skinnier side already, makes me think of the why.
Why to lose 10 kilograms? She would end up looking terribly skinny and definitely unhealthy. And this would not be just aesthetic problem. It would possibly start to affect her hormone levels and menstrual cycle, immune system and definitely put her under a lot of mental pressure.
It's time for women to get rid of those weight lifting related stereotypes.
There's no reason to be afraid of weights, sweating or putting on little bit of weight. Chasing unrealistic and unhealthy goals will make you obsessive. They won't do any good for your body or your mind.
Get to the gym, work hard and lift heavy. This is where you get your results.