What transforms your health, gives you confidence and makes you feel feminine?
By Kel Fox
I’ve had a few dalliances with gyms. Mostly I would join to accompany a friend, go for a few weeks until we got bored or busy or both and then bail out. I think the longest stint was six months, and for the last month or so it was one of us dragging our feet and the other urging us to go, until finally we met at the door of the gym after a long week, looked at each other and simultaneously said “coffee and cake?”. And that was the end of that.
I wasn’t too worried. I had a pretty physical job, involving a lot of lifting and stairs and running around (if you want to get paid to exercise, get a job backstage in a theatre). But eventually I left my job to go and study, which is possibly the most sedentary activity in the world, and although I was still reasonably fit, I knew I wasn’t as strong as I had been. I had liked being one of the women in theatre production and catching apprehensive men off-guard with my physical strength. Take that assumption, boy, and put it back in the nineteenth century, while I lift this heavy box for you.
Back to the gym. In previous workouts, I’d spend a tedious thirty minutes on a treadmill, and then thirty minutes on a pre-set circuit of light cable-weight machines. It was boring. And it was easy. It was better than not doing any exercise, but I wasn’t challenged on any level, least of all physically. So when my partner expressed an interest in getting back into a gym routine last year, I put aside my preconceptions (gym is boring) and past experiences (gym is really boring) and went along.
I had no idea what I’d been missing.
Fun may be the wrong word, but working out with heavy weight is hard, challenging, interesting and rewarding. With the right technique, weightlifting doesn’t just test physical strength, but also mental strength. Whether or not you believe you can lift something matters more than how strong your muscles are. Whether or not you can focus on getting the technique right – and it takes LASER focus – makes or breaks a set. It challenges you to feel confident, because if you’re down on yourself, it’s remarkable how much you lose in strength and stamina. Working out is not just about building physical muscle, but also testing your mettle on every level. Can you achieve something you never imagined? Can you pull yourself out of your bad-day mood and lift yourself up? The answer, of course, is yes. And if you can do that, the process of having to focus on nothing but your determination and technique and physical movement pushes out all the other life worries and frees your mind for a little while, which is refreshing. Add the endorphins and rush of the workout and you usually come away feeling pretty great.
If all that just sounds like hard, horrible work, and some days the feel-good hormones don’t flow so it is just hard and horrible, there are other reasons to do it. Heavy lifting is great for stimulating metabolism and burning fat. For women especially, it is important for building and maintaining bone density as we age. Exercising promotes good hormone regulation and can help with PMS, if the PMS isn’t severe enough to stop you going. Discipline is important, and all that focus and maintaining self-belief is not just good for lifting, but empowering in every aspect of life.
Lifting heavy is not just for men, and not just for strong young things either – older adults can experience two- to three-fold strength gains after just a few months of correct training, with no prior experience. There are many stories of women coming to weight training in their 50s and 60s and turning their health around, with some of them even going on to competitive powerlifting well into their 70s.
For me, lifting heavy has made me feel like a strong woman again, and with that comes a sense of capability. It has made me realise that there are no limits. I am more comfortable in my body. But maybe I’m weird, so I took to the internet to see how other women feel about heavy workouts, and here’s what some of them say about weightlifting, and some of these women are in their late 40s or even late 70s:
• It earns you a body you never thought you’d have
• It gives you confidence
• It gives you a feeling of control
• It transforms your health
• It makes you feel feminine
• It makes you love your body
• If ever there was an anti-aging pill, this is it
I picked these statements because they’re not about losing weight, getting your pre-baby body back or looking leaner, although they are all factors. These statements are broader. And in a world where we are seeing more and more media concerning or exploiting body image issues, we need more women who love their bodies. It’s not about being lean or muscular. Sure, I am those things now, and I do feel strong, but the real benefit is realising that my body is highly capable and there are no limits to what I can do. I love my body now for that. It can help me do anything.
So if this sounds like something you’re interested in, woman up and get along to a gym. And if, six months down the track, you are going to bail out for coffee and cake, come to Swan Valley Café, where at least the cake is good for you and you can enjoy an antioxidant-packed matcha latte!
Swan Valley Café currently has two partner fitness organisations that can help you get started, and you get perks for being a customer of the café and either (or both!) of these great businesses:
Plus Fitness Ellenbrook
No Excuses Fitness