7 reasons why women need to hit the weights

 Photo Credit:  Scott Webb via Unsplash (And no, folks, this is not me.)

Photo Credit:  Scott Webb via Unsplash (And no, folks, this is not me.)

I know – this post is a tad bit different.  When I initially started this blog, I wanted to focus on helping women become better versions of themselves (read my first post ever here >>> All About the Benjamins). While this has mostly centered on personal finance and career advice, I wanted to branch out this week and talk to you about something that is completely unrelated, but I’m still very passionate about because it has helped me become a better me.

I used to be a self-proclaimed cardio queen.  I played soccer in college as an outside midfielder, which basically means that for 90 minutes (ok, let’s say 60 – my body couldn’t handle a full 90), I was in constant run mode.  Jog, sprint, jog, sprint.  That was my world during a game, which was fitting because it was also one of my greatest strengths – I was a damn good runner.  Once my soccer days came to a close, cardio was my main form of exercise.  Yes, I still lifted a bit, but for the most part, I was on the treadmill.  I’d run at least 4 miles 5 times a week, and I even ended up completing 2 half-marathons right after college (before realizing how much I hated half-marathons and officially retired from running one ever again).

Then 4 years ago, I started dating someone who was REALLY into lifting, and like all new couples trying to find common ground, I started to take on this habit of his.  And you know what?  I fell in love with it.  Not lifting itself per say, but the results that came with it.  I was always skinny (thank you, metabolism) but now I was toned. I had people commenting on my arms and my butt, and you know what?  It kind of got addicting, in the best sense of the term.

 Leg Day.  Which is normally followed by "Almost Fall Down the Stairs Because I Can't Feel My Legs" Day.

Leg Day.  Which is normally followed by "Almost Fall Down the Stairs Because I Can't Feel My Legs" Day.

Now, I didn’t fully give up cardio nor do I completely ignore it in my current exercise routine.  However, I’d definitely say I flipped from a 70% cardio/30% lifting routine to a 70% lifting/30% cardio one.  I’ve been on this for about 4 years now, and I’m so in love with the results that I want to get you on board as well.  Thus, here are the 7 reasons why I lift – and why all you ladies should, too.

1.   Burns More Calories

Let’s make this simple: If you are a cardio queen, you are only burning calories while you are actually on the treadmill/elliptical/stationary bike.  If you lift, you are burning calories not only while you’re doing squats, but also while watching Netflix that evening, cooking breakfast the next morning, out to lunch with your friend that afternoon…you get the picture.  Why?  Because muscle burns calories, and the more lean muscle you have, the more calories you will burn (even when you’re not at the gym). 

I’ve listed this first on the list for a reason.  Just like I love making money without doing extra work (hello, rental income), I love if I can get my body to work for me even when I’m not in the midst of a leg workout.  If I miss a few days lifting, I don’t go into panic mode because I know my body is still sustaining me.  I can go on vacation and not worry.  If I’m flooded with work and can’t make it to the gym, I don’t worry. Back in the day, however, if I missed a few days of cardio, I had to really watch what I was eating so as to not quickly put on the pounds or make up for it by running 6 miles for 2 weeks straight.  That freedom alone is worth it to me, and one of the greatest benefits of adding weight-lifting to my exercise routine.  Now I can have my cake and eat it, too.

2.   You Look Better Naked (and Clothed)

This may be personal preference (or maybe not), but I really feel that “strong” is the new “skinny.”  Look at all of the #fitspo posts on Instagram – they are the women with abs or toned arms or a butt I would kill for.  I’m not saying you have to go to that extreme (even I don’t want a 6-pack), but having a little definition in your body makes your butt look better in jeans, your calves look AMAZING in heels, and allows you to finally rock a tank top (yes, no more arm jiggle).  I’m almost 30, and I feel like I’ve never looked better, and I want every woman, no matter what age, to have the confidence that comes with feeling.

Also, don’t think that lifting automatically means that you will start to look manly. You have to ingest A LOT of protein and lift pretty heavily to get close to looking unfeminine, which I know is the fear of most women. I felt the same way. However, like I said, I’ve been at it for 4 years, and not once have I ever looked in the mirror and thought it was getting to be too much. 

3.   Strengthens Your Bones

This one kind of threw me for a loop when I first heard it (how the hell does lifting help your bones?), but it’s true.  As women hit menopause, their bodies no longer secrete estrogen, which causes a loss in bone mass.  And when you have lower bone mass, your bones aren’t as strong, which could eventually lead to osteoporosis.  Scary, I know.  But you know what combats this?  Yep, you guessed it – strength training.

I know this issue seems like a long way away for most of you reading this, but the earlier you start lifting, the better.  You give your bones time to not only build up strength, but maintain that strength through all the changes we women go through as we age.  As someone with relatives who have to deal with the effects of this disease, this is one benefit you don’t want to downplay.

4.   You’ll Live Longer

According to a 2014 study conducted at UCLA, the more muscle mass you have, the less likely you are to die prematurely. This doesn’t mean you need to go all Arnold Schwarzenegger and get jacked up, but keeping yourself toned will potentially mean more time to enjoy that retirement life you’ve been saving so vigorously for (wink, wink).  And who doesn’t want a few more years to travel the globe showing off your fit 90 year-old self?

5.   Your Heart will Thank You

Heart disease is the #1 killer in women.  This means that out of those 10 girls you just had over for a dinner party, 3 will die because of a heart-related disease.  And that’s tragic.

It’s time to lower those numbers, and one way to do it is through strength training.  By implementing this into your workout routine, you are less likely to have some of the major heart disease risk factors, such as a large waist circumference, high blood pressure, and high glucose levels.  We have to protect our hearts anyway we can, and knocking out some lunges while you’re watching “Chelsea Handler Does Technology” on Netflix is a great way to do it. 

6.    It’s Great on Your Wallet

Know what’s more costly than a gym membership or a set of in-home weights?  Diabetes.  Heart Disease.  Osteoporosis. Cholesterol medication.  Hospital bills for a heart attack or stroke.  Should I go on?

I get that a $30 monthly gym membership seems like a lot to some, and if you don’t fully utilize it, then yes, it may be.  However, if you take advantage of what the gym has to offer, the benefits definitely outweigh the costs.  $30 a month seems highly worth it to me if it means that I stay out of the doctor’s office all year (or later in life).  In reality, that’s the cost of a dinner and drinks one night a month at a restaurant.  Can you give up one evening to secure your health? 

If that $30 is still too costly, you can still implement some great strength training in the comfort of your own home.  Invest in a few free weights, resistance bands, or a P90X-type workout program and you’ll still see some great results. 

7.   The Results Are Intoxicating

I got addicted to lifting pretty fast.  As a long-time runner, I was used to seeing my body as it was – thin but nothing to get excited about.  When I started lifting, however…well, it turned me into a certified gym rat.  Why?  The results were actually noticeable.  I could see the change, and so could others.  I had strangers commenting on my arms while I was serving them beer at a summer church fest, my friends commenting on how great my butt looked in my new jeans, others who wanted to steal my abs.  It was a great feeling, and once you have it, you don’t want to give it up.

On top of that, my confidence soared.  I finally felt strong and powerful physically, which made me feel the same mentally.  I found that now that I was comfortable with the outer portion of myself, I was the same with the inner, too, which leaked into other areas of my life as well.  I felt more apt to speak up at work, chase dreams that I had put off for too long, and take control of the direction of my life.  It’s amazing how one small change, from the treadmill to the weight room, can have that affect, but it did.  And it could for you, too.

 Fun fact:  I made my roommate go to the gym with me at 8am on a Saturday morning in order to take this picture.  Sorry, Lizzie.

Fun fact:  I made my roommate go to the gym with me at 8am on a Saturday morning in order to take this picture.  Sorry, Lizzie.

Getting started isn’t as hard as you think.  I know that trying something new, especially in front of all of the meatheads at the gym, can be a little intimidating.  But to be honest, most of those meatheads are really nice and willing to help anyone who is trying to get into lifting.  For anyone ready to dip their toes in the weight-lifting water, here are my tips:

  • Don’t go balls to the wall.  The best way to get started is to ease into it. 

  • Start by dedicating two days per week to weight training:  One for upper body (arms/back/chest) and one for legs.

  • Work your ab routine in on cardio days.  That way you’re still strength training your core but won’t wear your legs out for your treadmill session.

  • Give yourself rest days.  If you’re doing it right, you should feel at least somewhat sore the next day (and potentially the day after that, too), so make sure you’re giving your body enough time to recover.

  • Focus on form more than higher weight.  I cannot stress on this enough – if you do the exercise wrong, you won’t get the full benefits and will essentially be wasting your time.  Do your research on how to correctly do each exercise and ask a trainer at the gym if you’re still unsure.  If doing it right means using a lower weight, so be it.  Give yourself a month, and you’ll be moving on to higher ones anyways.

  • Pinterest is a treasure trove of workout regimens.  Search there to configure a workout or start with my suggestions below.

Upper Body Workout

Lower Body Workout

There you have it, ladies – my 7 reasons why lifting should be an integral part of your life (hello, healthy heart & cute bod) and how to get started doing it.  Remember, you have nothing to lose (except weight) and everything to gain (like confidence).  If you have questions, feel free to email me or comment below. Happy lifting!

Tell me your exercise story: Are you an avid lifter or do you stick to cardio?