I've been a cardio addict since my parents bought a treadmill back when I was fifteen years old. At first, I started out with running five days a week. Then running was mixed with thrice-weekly HIIT sessions. Eventually, HIIT graduated to 90-minute boxing sessions, four days a week.
There was no doubt about it, I was hooked. Nothing quite got my heart pumping, my endorphins running, and made me feel accomplished like a sweat-induced cardio session. Or so I thought.
After I moved cross-country last year, I had an urge to switch up my exercise routine to match my new life. My emotional state no longer synced up with the intensity of my former workouts. The thrill of running and vigorous plyometrics lost its allure. Cardio no longer fit with who I had become. I was bored and exhausted. I wanted -- no, needed -- a challenge. Most of all I wanted to feel stronger than I had in a long time.
The obvious solution? Weight training.
I had minimal experience with weight training. I knew of its benefits -- how it increases strength, and how it improves your ability to perform activities of daily living as well as helps improve bone density among other things -- but I had always shied away from it. The bulky men reeking of testosterone in the weight room didn't help matters but my resistance to resistance training really came down to confidence. I doubted my ability to lift heavy. I didn't believe in my power.
Which is why the #GetYourStrongOn movement was inspiring to me. More than from a physical standpoint, I knew that weightlifting was something I needed in my life. It was something I needed to say that I tried for me.
I made a commitment to attend a weightlifting class at my local gym once a week. My first morning in class was intimidating. There were barbells and hand weights and terms like "warmup weight". Where was I? I felt very much out of my element. But I surrendered to the process of being a newbie and checked my ego at the door. I started with a warmup weight of 10 pounds and a maximum squat weight of 15 pounds. It was a start.
After the first class, my body felt like jelly. I was sore. My arms shook. I couldn't sit with wincing. I hurt everywhere. But I also felt, however small, stronger than I had in a long time, and that felt really good. Good enough for me to keep going.
As the weeks progressed, I found myself looking forward to my weight training class. I took it slow and listened to my body, but I also made sure to challenge myself to do that extra set or to finish out that last rep.
After a month my warmup weight increased to 15 pounds, and before I knew it my maximum squat weight was 25 pounds. I even added an extra day to my routine, making sure to ensure a solid rest day between classes. I even started drinking protein shakes and started to become aware of how much protein I was consuming to ensure my new muscles would heal and grow. Who was I?
Someone who, much to her own surprise, got a kick out of weightlifting. And, as it turned out, my body was also getting a kick out of it -- a kick in my metabolism, that is.
Since weight training is more effective than cardio for building lean muscle, and because muscle burns more calories at rest, your metabolism may increase, which means you're killing calories long after your resistance workout is complete.
Although I was already pretty lean before commencing my weight training session I was surprised to notice that I was not only keeping my shape but getting leaner without doing much cardio at all. In fact, now my workout routine included two weight training classes, five days of yoga, and two days of barre -- I squeezed in running or HIIT maybe once or twice a week.
I felt relieved that I didn't have to continue my cardio to maintain my shape. It felt actually really good that I could finally give up the pounding and intensity of something that had been robbing me of joy and not giving me much in return (except maybe a pretty strong cardiovascular system).
Whereas weight training was challenging me in new ways, both mentally and physically. My new lean and defined muscles were now my badges of honor for surviving a gruelling 60-minute lifting session. I felt an enormous sense of pride and accomplishment after my workout -- and every time I flexed.
It's been three months since I implemented weight training into my workout, and I don't see myself ever going back to an exercise regimen without it. I appreciate my muscles and strength more now than ever, and I love the idea that my body has become a fat-burning, muscle-growing machine. I now lift double what I started out with, and I can only go up from here.
I believe in my power now.
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