What Strength Training Gives Women Beyond Strength
It's a rare day that I have to espouse strength work and it's benefits to guys, but for females?
That's sometimes a different story.
I wanted to put together something to give you an insight into how Strength Training can improve your life, and I mean beyond the obvious fact that lifting things up and putting them down again makes you stronger.
So I asked a few of my clients with varying levels of experience, what they felt that strength training gives them beyond physical strength.
Here's what they said.
As a person who barely step foot in the gym before I met Paul, let alone held a proper weight, the first thing strength training has given me was the confidence to walk in to the scary section and actually put my all into lifting!
I used to worry about what the guys would think if I went over to their section!? Will I look a bit of a fool? Then I realised that we are in the 21st century and things have moved on a little bit. Well, mostly anyway.
Secondly it’s changed my perception of fitness in general. I always thought that to lose weight I had to run miles, row miles or swim miles. If I did weights I’d end up looking like the hulk!
Well all of this couldn’t have been further from the truth. I lost 4kg in 6 weeks whilst eating chocolate and crisps and only lifting weights! It also means that I don’t leave the gym with a dripping back and red ass face! I also find it so much more enjoyable than cardio so I don’t resent the thought of the gym every time I walk in there.
Lastly, it’s made me grow as a person.
I was always really fed up with the way I looked but the only thing I knew how to do was run and that never really changed anything.
I was losing the desire to even bother with fitness.
I started following Paul’s videos on social media and found myself really wanted to give strength training a go.
I’ve now lost 10kg in total and that’s something that’s given me the self confidence and drive to carry on.
When I get remarks like ‘you’ve done so well’, ‘you look so different to uni’ it makes all the hard work worth it.
I wasn’t the most confident of people and I’m still not today but I’m a lot better now and that's largely due to the training journey I’ve been through.
I can’t thank Paul enough for changing my outlook on strength training, it’s for everyone not just the experts (coming from the newbie).
I hate the word ‘cardio’.
It gives me the fear and makes me think of having to run on a treadmill for an hour or pound the streets making horrible grunting noises and hating every second. Also, I just can’t run.
I’ll happily go for an 8 mile walk in the countryside and not see it as cardio, but a run – no chance.
So when I started a strength training program with no mention of cardio I wasn’t sure what kind of results I would get. I just wanted to tone up, lose a bit of weight and have somewhere to go of an evening that was just for me – I have 2 kids.
And I can safely say a year later that I absolutely love it, it’s not a chore, I look forward to it, I’ve lost weight and I’m still not doing cardio. I win.
I'm also past all that crap like ‘women shouldn’t have muscles’ and ‘don’t become too manly’. Yeah ok, like that just happens!
My body has physically changed – I’ve really toned up!
I’m also more conscious of what my body is capable of and I love pushing to get that last rep in. I’ve even been told that I hold myself differently, as I used to slouch massively.
Even my skin has changed - I had terrible cellulite and little red pimples on my arms and legs which I’m sure was down to bad circulation – well, the pimples have cleared and the cellulite has almost gone!
I’m just happier – I have some time to myself, just to be me, and I think that is really important.
I sleep well and I’m more confident with both my personality and my appearance.
It's also been much easier to make healthy food choices, weirdly.
If I had to sum it all up; strength training is empowering.
Shells Ni Mhuirin
Weight-lifting for me: I first started using weights about a year ago. I mainly used kettlebells and light dumbbells, because it was easy enough to figure out what to do with them. I’d never dream of asking someone to show me how to use other things, as I’d be too embarrassed to ask. I would go into the gym, and throw any random couple of exercises together, and hope that that would do the job.
I used to be lethargic, and only ever made a half-arsed attempt at the gym. It used to be a chore for me to drag myself there 3 times a week.
But in the past couple of months, since I’ve started to really get into weight lifting, I’ve noticed huge changes in myself.
Of course, there are the usual changes – weight going down, inches being lost from all over my body. They’re the changes you expect when you go to the gym, after all.
However, I never expected to experience the change in attitude that you often hear people in the fitness industry speak about. Lifting weights has completely changed my attitude to exercise. I am physically much stronger than I was before, but I feel mentally much stronger too.
I’m lucky enough not to have suffered with any mental health problem too seriously, but I would’ve had quite a negative attitude to certain things, especially when it was exercise-related.
For example, I would always look at exercises like running, using a squat rack or going to the “big boys” end of the gym – and immediately think “Oh I’m too big/unfit, I can’t do that”, or “I’ll only make a fool of myself if I try that”, “I’ll be laughed at”, “they’ll all know I don’t belong there”, and so on so forth.
However, having a structured programme to follow, all of which involve the use of weights, has seen my confidence grow massively.
If I have to use a machine I’ve never used before, I march down to it, figure it out, hop on, and do my sets. I don’t think twice about it. I have no problem going up to a machine that someone is using, and asking them can I use it when they’re finished, or leaving my stuff by it. That is a new sort of confidence that I've never felt before, especially when it comes to exercise.
The other aspect that I’ve noticed is a massive change in my energy levels.
As I mentioned previously, I used to be very lethargic and would often fall asleep for a couple of hours after work. Generally I just felt very run down. But since I started lifting weights and getting physically stronger, I find I have so much more energy. I now get up at 5:30am to go to the gym, and it isn’t even a chore for me!
Before, I used to struggle to get to the gym 3 times a week because I hated it so much. Now, I go at least 4 times a week and often up to 6! If there was an evening when I’d be tired after work, I throw on my runners and go for a walk or jog to wake myself up again. This improvement in my energy has greatly improved my mood and my interaction with students & colleagues at work, essentially it's made me better at my job!
I give everything I have every day, instead of half-bothering with certain things.
And that for me is the greatest strength I’ve gotten from weight lifting.
For me it's more than just lifting the weight.
There's something about upping that weight little by little that leaves me saying God I actually did that!
I've found that my mood goes up and down depending on whether I've been to the gym or not, when I'm there 4 times a week I just want more and I find myself really wanting to get better and push harder.
It oddly helped me alot when a relationship ended. I didn't see that one coming.
Initially I found myself wanting to do sweet feck all, I was just staying in bed crying and feeling sorry for myself. I didn't eat much so I didn't feel like training or seeing anyone. But after that first week or two, I put the headphones on, turned the music up loudly and took myself to the gym. That first one was hard to do, but I found I was roughly at the same level I had been which made me smile and feel strangely better about myself.
And for that hour and half, I did something that was just about me, not about my feelings.
It's now been a few months since that relationship ended, and I'm delighted because I feel like I've got myself back.
And I swear that without the gym I can't help but think I'd be a very different person.
I think that when you feel happier in yourself you shine brighter, so I'm going to keep lifting those weights, keep pulling those odd strained faces in the gym and keep pushing myself to do the best I can do.
Firstly, I've found it really increases my mental stamina.
Every time I struggle with an exercise, I talk myself through it and say something along the lines of 'You've got this Lisa, just 5 more to go, you're doing great, almost there, well done.'
have to do this for every exercise and as a result I feel that it's really increased my mental resilience. Strength training is a literal challenge on every exercise. And so the same self pep talk I use to get me through weight lifting has helped me motivate myself when faced with other difficult situations in life. I know I can push through something difficult.
It's also increased my confidence. Yes that includes confidence in my looks but mostly confidence in my ability. When I train I prove to myself just how capable I am. With each new exercise, I outdo my previous record or improve on my technique and achieve a mini victory. That feels great. I walk out of the gym feeling like a winner every time I do it. Even on the days when the workout hasn't been as good as I would like, I feel like a winner because I beat the voice that was telling me not to go to the gym in the first place.
So strength training definitely strengthens your self esteem.
It also increases my focus. I set goals. I have a training and eating plan. I go to the gym. That all requires a high level of commitment and focus. And knowing that I can do that shows me that I can use my improved ability to focus on helping me achieve my other life goals too!
My Final Thoughts
Strength training should expand your life, in the way that all great things expand you, whether that's learning a new language, travelling or simply discovering what it means to be a good friend.
There is something that has been noted time and time again about the process of self improvement.
And that is that it carries over into parts of your life that you never imagined it would.
If you want to know more about this process and you think it could help improve your life, follow this link and you can learn more about what I do and whether it can help you.