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Weighing in on the weights thing

5 Jan

One of the biggest pluses of 2014 has been that it was the year I discovered and enjoyed weight training. The obvious benefits of higher strength and increased muscle mass aside, it has totally changed my body. And possibly changed me considerably too. Outside and inside.

For a hardcore lover of all things cardio, my previous experience with weight training has been in the weights room of a gym, where the routine was interspersed with cardio on any given day, dividing the upper and lower body, and frankly that was insufferable. The sheer drudgery of lifting weights all alone, while my beefed up trainer would painfully spot me, dragging the suffering along, didn’t get me very far. It did help me tone up (which was the goal back then) but with it I also lost interest in weights itself. I was never made to see the benefits of it, anatomically.

It is only last year that I discovered the biological working of how fat turns to muscle mass and what it does for my body, learned to appreciate strength over thinness, and have completely stopped getting on the weighing scale. I used to be the sort that would jump around and get my heart racing for 35-40 minutes, lift a few weights for 15-20 minutes and call it a day. And that probably works for some people. But the thing about fitness is to find your sweep spot, what works for you, and I found mine in a combination of high intensity cardio three times a week, supplemented by two hours a week spent just lifting weights, focusing on muscle groups across the entire body.

What it’s done for me on the outside is this:
Shred flab faster than I ever have. The results are visible, and they came quicker than I’ve ever experienced in my life.
Toned those areas that I’ve always thought were prone to fat deposits that refuse to budge. For me, its been my arms, hips and thighs and the remarkable changes I’ve seen have been accelerated only due to the weight training.
Boosted my metabolism back to where it used to be. I wake up hungry, yet energetic and my hunger cycles are regulated with my stomach ringing like an alarm clock every 4-5 hours.
Upped my resistance by leaps and bounds, to the point where I can proudly say I only fell prey to the flu twice this year (as opposed to at least once every 2-3 months), and I sailed through 2014 without a single tummy issue.

But those are the obvious things to look out for. If you’re weight training and you don’t feel like your metabolism is soaring, your immunity isn’t as solid as it used to be and you’re not feeling toned even after 6 months to a year of pumping iron, you’re probably not doing it right.

The beauty of weight training, and why I got so addicted to it though, is what it has done for me on the inside.

1) I feel super strong. Sometimes even stronger than I actually am. And that feels really fabulous. When you stop fearing the possibility of turning into a bodybuilder with disproportionately bulky muscles popping up in unwieldy places (because that won’t happen even if you try! Here’s why.), you realise what weight training actually does is make you stronger. For real.

You’ll suddenly realise it when you have silently gone up from lifting 20 pounds to 25 pounds one day, without feeling a thing.

I realised it one fine day when I no longer called the hugsband down to help me carry my month’s worth of groceries up the stairs.

I realised it when my gas cylinder needed to be carried home and I happily and very easily lifted the heavier side.

I realised it when VC comes home after a cycle ride, calls for help to assist carrying the cycle up the staircase and after weeks of sharing the load, I pulled it off all alone.

I realised it when I take down boxes from the loft, when I open impossible-to-open jars, when I lift suitcases that others rush to help me with.

I realised I stopped asking for help, because in most situations you realise you’re damn well capable of taking care of yourself.

(and you read stuff like this and actually relate to it and chuckle like someone in-the-know)

2) When you feel stronger, you begin to believe you are stronger. And it shows on the outside. Lifting weights has boosted my confidence as much as it has my metabolism. That in turn has made me more positive, to an extent more social and outgoing too. I feel that extra puff of confidence in carrying myself of in situations I’d previously have been awkward about.

3) Weight training has turned my idea of fitness up on its head, pulled it out of the box where most of us aspire to be a perfect size, dedicated by a number. The number of times I’ve looked at my hips and wished they were narrower, or at my tummy and wished it was flatter have been far fewer this year. And yet, I’ve voluntarily pulled out clothes I had tucked away inside my cupboard, pretty sure I’d never wear them again. Sure, I feel fabulous when I find that a forgotten, old skirt now fits me, or when a much-loved pair of pants is suddenly slipping off my hips; but those moments are pleasant surprises that I come upon rather than go after and seek obsessively. The number on the scale no longer dictates my work outs. I’m more motivated by doing an extra set of push ups or upping the weight on my dumbells every few weeks. And when I go in to check my body fat percentage, to see that it has plummeted, I go out and eat an extra cupcake.

4) Weight training has given me small bursts of winning every so often. It’s a win when I lift a higher weight. It’s a win every time I do an extra set. It’s a win when I can do the tricep hover. It’s a win when I can do spider-man-push-ups. I’ve also realised that winning in the gym so often has a tremendous effect on the intensity of the endorphin release. It gives me the surge of energy that I can harness and slowly release through the day. It’s given me happier times, the courage to take on challenges and basically not say no to almost anything.

5) This has put the focus of fitness back where it should be — on building endurance and strength, rather than getting slim. This has had an enormous consequence on my food habits. Whether it is unconsciously cutting down eating out, barely reaching out for packaged/processed foods in the supermarket, or eating freely knowing that there is going to be a workout in 24 hours that will bust a lot of those calories out of my system — I’ve come a long, long way from where I was last year.

6) Every time I look in the mirror and the beginnings of the thought “oh, still some way to go” begin to creep into my head, I’m quicker to remind myself that I can do many things in the gym today, that I absolutely couldn’t even imagine doing 12 months ago. I’ve learned to see the things about my body that make me, me and I have accepted that that no matter how lean and toned I get, they will remain.

I think I’ve put some of of the healthy in my body image. And this has extended out to my attitude to women around me too. I’ve consciously cut down commenting on the way people look and how they carry themselves off physically. I’m trying everyday to respect my body for what it does for me on a daily basis.

It’s ironic that women often fear that lifting weights will make them look less feminine and probably turn them bulky and manly, because personally, lifting weights has in many ways shaped the very idea of femininity for me.  Whether its a new found confidence, the ability to slowly wear clothes I was afraid to, made me talk freely, to do more, grab opportunities, stretch myself.

Loved

I don’t see “problems areas” or “flaws” anymore, just reasons to push out another set of squats or perfect that chest-press. More importantly, I’ve begun to look at my body lovingly, rather than constantly being harsh and criticising it.

I’ve learned to love myself the way I am, because my body has cooperated with me, stood by me and done so much more than I imagined was possible. Isn’t that a gorgeous discovery to make?

I’ve learned that weights don’t make you bulky. They make you beautiful.

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36 Responses to “Weighing in on the weights thing”

  1. Bikramjit January 5, 2015 at 7:40 pm #

    I think many people have these myths surrounding weight training. . My mom would not let me join gym when I was in my teen saying it Will restrict my growth..

    Glad of reading all the good you have experienced by weight training. . All the best
    And wishing you and family a very happy new year. ..

    • hAAthi January 6, 2015 at 11:16 am #

      I dont think that is a myth — bones are known to get denser as you lift weights, so maybe lifting them too early (before your bones have grown fully) could hamper their growth?
      Happy new year to you too!

    • hAAthi January 6, 2015 at 11:36 am #

      There may be some truth to that I think.. Im not sure thought. Weight training increases bone density, so maybe dense bones dont grow as much?? Im not entirely sure.. this could be drivel :-/
      Happy new year to you too!

  2. Nishnu January 5, 2015 at 9:18 pm #

    When I started working out with a trainer in 2012 I used to question his choice of workout all the time because I did maybe 10-12 minutes of cardio and mostly anything involved weights that got heavier and heavier over time. I realized later what a difference it made.

    I have started adding 2-3 weight training classes to my schedule.The only thing about weight training and running for me is that I find I don’t get hooked easily. There’s this feeling of intense anger that rips through me when I am in a weight training workout and that always keeps me from really being excited to go back.

    • hAAthi January 6, 2015 at 11:35 am #

      Im also not good with self motivation in a gym scenes. I need motivation from a group, a challenge, a little healthy competition and Body Pump does that for me. If youre keen to try it out, find a class near you its a superbly structured and systematic work out. I dont realise how 1 hour passes by, its a good standalone workout, rather than doing a little weights and cardio for every session.

  3. celestialrays January 6, 2015 at 12:15 am #

    This post could not have been written at a better time. Thank you, really. I am seriously considering strengthening myself and i am in two minds about weight training. This post is why i still read my favourite blogs despite not writing a lot.

    • hAAthi January 6, 2015 at 11:33 am #

      Definitely give it a shot. Nothing builds strength like weights do. And especially for someone like you, recovering from an injury — i remember you mentioning one leg has less muscle mass than the other.

      In my enthusiasm and rush to express my lowe for weight triaining (also brought on by an enrodphin rush) I forgot to mention that I do a group class called Body Pump which is what has motivated me. Im not good with solo working out. I highly recommend body pump if you can find it near you :)

      • celestialrays January 7, 2015 at 1:50 pm #

        Ok, so I went ahead and booked a guest pass at a gym near work because some of my colleagues are going there. If I like the gym, I will join and my friend said she’ll guide me with weights. Yayy :-)

        Thank you once more.

        • hAAthi January 8, 2015 at 9:24 am #

          Thats all you need :) Go, you!

  4. Bubblegum January 6, 2015 at 11:23 am #

    Wow. I am getting inspired but I guess I am still not in the state where I can run for an hour constantly :'( Weight lifting is a dream too far.

    • hAAthi January 6, 2015 at 11:27 am #

      No those two running and lifting weights are boosted by entirely different things. Running for an hour requires more stamina and endurance, lifting weights requires strength. Gaining strength drives stamina and endurance. And nobody starts lifting heavy weights, you begin low and work your way up. So you could begin and see how it impacts your stamina.

      • Bubblegum January 6, 2015 at 2:52 pm #

        Ohh. I guess clubbing both is a better deal. I have experienced a back fire thing in the growth of fat cells due to dieting. For a foodie, dieting is so painful!!!

        • hAAthi January 6, 2015 at 2:54 pm #
          • Bubblegum January 6, 2015 at 3:55 pm #

            :) :) That is really something. Thanks for sharing! The 6 meals a day concept is also worth second thoughts now, it seems.

            • Bubblegum January 7, 2015 at 3:01 pm #

              Hey I could not find the Body pump class, do you think it is even 50% similar to circuit training? Jillian type?

              • hAAthi January 8, 2015 at 9:23 am #

                oh no no, theyre entirely different. jillian michaels form of circuit training is HIIT, which combines high intensity with body strength exercises. Body Pump is strictly a weights program. You can achieve the same by doing weights in a gym too, if you have a trainer design a program for you.

                • Bubblegum January 12, 2015 at 11:07 pm #

                  Dude, Gym is the place I hate. I feel heavily suffocated for some reasons. I am scared of faces staring :'( I know it is purely psychological.

  5. simple girl January 6, 2015 at 11:48 am #

    wow!!.. This fitness story is so cool…… :)
    I do not have any idea about weight training.. May be some day I would have the opportunity to explore it ….

  6. madetomisfit January 6, 2015 at 3:18 pm #

    Wow! I am inspired to get back to weights. I was in two minds about stopping weights all together. I don’t go to the gym but keep doing dynamic strength workouts. I had thought of stopping because it did nothing to my strength, I am still a major weakling and have no arm and wrist strength. These workouts helped me shed weight but no upping of strength. Plus the left side of my body is weaker, something that I inherited from my mum. I observed that doing dynamic strength workouts was aggravating the pain and numbness in my left side. But that’s probably because of jerky movements. Plus I must be doing smething wrong. But I am inspired to not give up on weights entirely now. :) May be will bring it down to 1-2 times a week instead.

    • hAAthi January 8, 2015 at 9:30 am #

      Well “major weakling” maybe a little harsh :) Im sure youre stronger than before you began. Youre not going to turn into superman in 2-3 months, probably not even 6 or 12 months, but you will notice a change, even if its small. And the one side stronger/less bulky than the other is normal, I think. I can use my right arm better, but in general my left side seems to be more agile and adapts to movement much mroe easily. You must get professional help if youre experimenting with weights, that will probably put you on a program and you will see results.

      • madetomisfit January 8, 2015 at 11:33 am #

        I wish it was the normal one side stronger/less bulky that the other. Unfortunately, I have a problem with weaker nerves for which I am on medication. I really love doing weights, but probably should do it under professional guidance, like you said. I’m sure it’ll be a lot better that way I will check out the body pump classes though. Sure sounds fun and useful for gaining strength. :)

        • hAAthi January 9, 2015 at 1:07 pm #

          Oh, like that.. Then even more reaosn you need professional guidance with weights. Theres a lot you can do wrong, so dont take that chance. The consequnces range from injury to being demotivated for the wrong reasons.. go to a good gym for starters.

          • madetomisfit January 9, 2015 at 1:15 pm #

            Righto! That’s the plan, because I do so much wish to have strong arms and wrists…biggest motivation is not having to turn to the husband or anyone else to request them to open bottles and jars.

            • hAAthi January 9, 2015 at 1:17 pm #

              Hahaha, have to admit, lifting stuff is the best feeling. That said, my back is still weak, I still cant do leg-lifts lying down effortlessly. My arm strength was horrible, but its slowly getting better. The back strength is the worst so I suspect it will take the longest to imrove. I think even when doing weights you cant rush it, and some zones are easier to strengthen than others.. Good luck though, I hope you find the right fit for your needs. Im pretty sure it will help you.

              • madetomisfit January 9, 2015 at 1:23 pm #

                I’m especially inspired by you carrying stuff single handedly up a staircase. It’s such a cool feeling when you can do that, and better still when you do it even without realizing it or planning. I had gotten better with it actually. But about 6 weeks back I sprained my ankle pretty badly, and unfortunately the one of the side of my body which is already weak. That’s probbaly why I got injured in the first place. I couldnt walk for two weeks and fell behind with weights. In fact, I started running again only 2 days back. It still hurts, but I power through. Each day is a bit better

                • hAAthi January 9, 2015 at 1:26 pm #

                  Ouch, that doesnt sound good. But go you for persevering. Because thats really all you need, I feel like the willingness to keep at it, without waiting for immediate results and getting demotivated by that is really half the battle won. I do feel liberated by that because we live on the first floor, without a lift. You will get there. Trust me.

                  • madetomisfit January 9, 2015 at 1:31 pm #

                    Yeah, that’s the plan. I am going to start with light weights again, but wont give up. :) :) Thanks for encouraging me. :)

  7. SA January 6, 2015 at 4:11 pm #

    This one hit home for various reasons..
    I blogged about it here:

    http://www.achapterintime.com/2014/08/getting-comfortable-with-uncomfortable.html

    Really happy after reading your post…
    People live in a bubble of misconceptions with their own definition of perfection when it comes women..

    Loved this post and glad to see a fellow lifter here!

    • hAAthi January 8, 2015 at 9:27 am #

      Sometimes I feel our definition of what is right for OTHERS overrides everything. I find it crazy that we have so much time and bandwidth to spend commenting on other peoples’ looks, what they ought to eat, how much the ought to exercise etc.. that most of it is fueled by unreal expectations and notions of perfection only makes it that much worse.
      Checking out your post now :D

      • SA January 9, 2015 at 3:16 pm #

        Absolutely correct!

  8. egeedee January 7, 2015 at 6:09 am #

    Thankfully, I have a job which is like a bloody crossfit class and I get to do it for free!! There’s no way in hell I would lift weights after a day of work but I totally feel you on the stronger part. Ever since I started working, weight is nothing for me. I like that. And if people call me skin and bones, I tell them I got muscle, baby!

    • hAAthi January 8, 2015 at 9:25 am #

      Yes! Im constantly battling people telling me to “stop already, youre so skinny!” and its so tiring because 1) im NOT skinny. 2) its GOOD to be strong!

  9. Kavs January 7, 2015 at 9:06 am #

    What an inspiring post R! I have always wanted to be strong. Heartiest congratulations to you – you deserve all the fruit of your hard work :)

  10. Jesu January 13, 2015 at 7:01 pm #

    Hey, just read this.. Was swimming almost everyday last few years. Was doing about 20 full lengths in 45 minutes, but after I hit that mark, no matter how much technique corrections I made, there was no further improvements.. and the shoulder muscles were beginning to ache. So, its been weight strengthening for me too from Dec.. First time ever. Plan to go back to the pool only after the muscles are sorted.. connect with what you say here..

    • hAAthi January 13, 2015 at 7:29 pm #

      Weights are just what you need to crack that plateau. In fact im oretty sure you will see very measurable differences if you supplement the two. Weights twice a week and swim three or four days a week. Check with your trainer.

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