by Brooke Adamek
Here is the first of what we hope will many contributions to the work we do at WE Fit wellness. Meet Brooke Adamek, she comes to us from the University of Northwest Missouri State. She is a welcome addition to our team.
Getting this article started has just been the ultimate writer’s block challenge. But, of all of the things that interest me about fitness, weight lifting has got to be at the top of my list.
Sure, running is cool and cardio is great and all. But what about the other side of the physical activity spectrum? I see big meaty guys at the gym with their protein powder and Tupperware full of egg whites the size of my head. They’re off behind me grunting and lifting heavy dumbbells, while I go on the elliptical like some kind of stationary antelope with the rest of the women in the gym. I can’t help but wonder, should I be incorporating weight lifting into my weekly regime of channeling my inner antelope?
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), strength training refers to exercise that requires your muscles to exert a force against some form of resistance.
There are some misconceptions associated with weight training, especially for women. Some women worry that they would produce bulging muscles or that they would seriously injure themselves lifting weights.
Of course injury is a risk if you aren’t being smart and safe while doing any physical activity. However, it is very difficult for a woman to produce large muscles due to the fact that women generally have high levels of estrogen. Weightlifting can also improve one’s self esteem and provide an option for physical activity outside of cardio.
According to the American Heart Association, improvements can be made in muscle tone, strength and endurance and not necessarily in size when it comes to women lifting weights. As muscles become toned, the body begins to lose fat tissue and becomes more firm.
Robert Newman of the National Federation of the Blind Nebraska says, “Being blind and being fit truly are compatible characteristics, but fitness is even less common in the blind community today than it is in the general population.” Newman is totally blind and lifts on a regular basis. “Taking care of one’s health through activity and diet is appropriate for everyone at any age, but how do you get started?”
Newman has a few tips for incorporating weights. He suggests warming up by running on a trampoline that is about three feet in diameter. This $25 item that can be found in either sporting goods stores or fitness catalogues provides spring-action running, not only because it takes a lot of the joint stress out of running, but because it’s convenient to run on it all year round, no matter the weather.
For the lifting part of this workout, start with a barbell, a four-foot steel bar with cast-iron collars, which weighs twenty-five pounds. When adding weights you want to use enough weight so that the first set feels too light for you. The second set feels more challenging, and the third set is hard. In fact, at first you may not be able to finish the last set. When doing all three sets loses its challenge, you are ready to add more weight. You can decide when you are ready to stabilize the weight.
Newman suggests another kind of exercise as well: The final type of exercise is one he makes time to do every day. You can perform it while seated in a chair. “I do it when and wherever I can. It is simply many, many crunches of the buttocks, stomach, and side muscles.” This entire in-seat routine can be done anywhere; at home, at work or in the car. Newman says, “Never again will you just sit through a boring meeting, fighting off sleep.”
To exercise the side muscles, imagine lifting one hip to try to touch the shoulder on that side. To exercise the abdominals, contract the muscles necessary to lift your knees to your chest and then release them. The chief value of these five exercises is in the multiple contractions and releases, which build strength and control. The side benefit is that they remind you what it feels like to have these muscles tucked up tight, which is the way they should be whenever you are standing or sitting straight.
Of course, there are more benefits for lifting weights other than appearance. According to the February 2008 issue of Cell Metabolism, Boston University researchers demonstrated that type II muscle fibers, the kind you build when you lift weights, improve whole-body metabolism. The study concluded that type II muscle fibers can reduce body fat without changes to diet.
Lifting weights can also aide women with osteoporosis. As women age they naturally lose muscle and bone mass. This can be a concern for women, whose bones are smaller to begin with and can become dangerously weakened by age. Just as your muscles adapt to the stress of weightlifting by becoming bigger and stronger, your bones also adapt.
There are many more benefits for lifting weights and not just for women. Don’t let your fear of bulking up keep you from ‘Finding your Fit™.’
For more information on weightlifting blind, check out Robert’s post about weight lifting! https://nfb.org/images/nfb/publications/bm/bm07/bm0709/bm070907.htm