As I approach my mid-50s, I have regrets. First, why did I ignore my mom when she said the sun would give me wrinkles, and secondly why did I ignore the experts when they talked about building lifelong strength for women. I’m hopeful, that for the latter at least, it’s one of those ‘better late than never’ realizations. I’ve been noticing my strength diminishing and if I stay on the current trajectory, in 20 years, I’ll be relying on others to do all the heavy lifting (quite literally). Fiercely independent, this would be the kiss of death to me.
No, I don’t want to be “swole”, but I do want to be able to carry my own groceries and lift my grandkids up, and that requires muscle. I recently had the chance to chat with Alyssa Ages, a fitness expert and author on What She Said and it’s sent me down a rabbit hole of learning on this topic.
So, here’s what we’re diving into: the real deal about weightlifting for women. It’s not about getting jacked or prepping for bodybuilding contests. It’s about empowering ourselves with the strength we need to lead vibrant, independent lives at any age. Alyssa Ages, through her wisdom and experience, helped bust those myths and understand why lifting weights is a game-changer for women. Let’s explore this journey together and discover how strength training is more than just a fitness goal – it’s a key to a robust, empowered future.
Debunking the Myth of Bulking Up
One of the biggest myths that Alyssa Ages helped me unpack is the whole idea that weightlifting makes women bulky. Let’s set the record straight: this is a myth that needs to be kicked to the curb. Alyssa explained it brilliantly during our chat. The whole ‘bulking up’ scare has more to do with societal expectations than reality. The truth is, getting bulky like a bodybuilder requires a very specific and intense regimen – both in lifting and diet. It’s not something that happens just by picking up weights a few times a week.
For most of us, lifting weights leads to a toned, strong physique – not the hulk-like transformation some fear. It’s about building muscle that supports our bodies, not overwhelming it. And let’s face it, there’s something deeply empowering about feeling strong. It changes how you carry yourself, how you face challenges. It’s not about taking up less space – it’s about being strong and present in the space you occupy.
The Importance of Muscle and Bone Health
Now, let’s talk about why building muscle is so crucial, especially as we age. Alyssa pointed out something that really hit home for me. As women, particularly as we navigate through menopause, we face the loss of bone density and muscle mass – hello, sarcopenia. This isn’t just about looking fit; it’s about protecting ourselves from falls, fractures, and losing our independence as we get older.
Strength training is the superhero here. It’s the only way to build and maintain bone density and muscle strength. And the best part? It’s never too late to start. Whether you’re lifting light dumbbells, using resistance bands, or doing bodyweight exercises, the key is to start and keep at it. It’s about making your health a priority and giving your body the strength it deserves.
Beyond Physical Strength: Mental and Emotional Benefits
But there’s more to lifting weights than just physical benefits. Alyssa shared some powerful insights about the mental and emotional perks. Lifting isn’t just about what your body can do; it’s about what your mind believes you can do. Alyssa talked about how strength training helped her heal from personal trauma. It’s about rebuilding trust in your body, discovering your inner strength, and literally feeling powerful.
The mental health benefits are huge too. Studies show that lifting can help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. It’s not just about endorphins; it’s about accomplishing goals, setting personal records, and pushing past your perceived limits. For me, it’s a journey of self-discovery and curiousity; I want to see how much I can control my health. Every time I lift a little heavier, I’m not just training my muscles; I’m teaching my mind that I am capable, strong, and unstoppable.
Integrating Strength Training with Cardio
Now, I know what some of you might be thinking: “But I love my cardio!” I’m kidding. No one says that except maybe Alyssa, a self-confessed former cardio junkie. Cardio is fantastic for cardiovascular health though, but it’s not enough on its own. Strength training complements it perfectly, giving your heart and muscles the full workout they deserve.
You don’t have to spend hours in the gym to achieve this balance. It’s about being smart with your routine. Even incorporating strength training a couple of days a week can make a significant difference. And it doesn’t have to be complicated – simple bodyweight exercises, resistance bands, or light dumbbells can do the trick. The key is consistency and listening to your body. It’s about finding what works for you and sticking with it.
Nutritional Considerations for Strength Training
When it comes to building strength, what you fuel your body with is just as important as your training routine. Nutrition plays a crucial role in muscle building and recovery. It’s not about hopping on the latest diet trend; it’s about finding what nourishes and works for your body. Alyssa suggests aiming for a gram of protein per pound of body weight, more if you’re looking to significantly build muscle. And remember, this isn’t just for meat-eaters; plant-based diets can also be rich in protein.
It’s also about balance – getting enough carbs for energy and fats for recovery. The key is to listen to your body and provide it with the right kind of fuel. I’m still very much on a learning curve with this, as I’m finding it difficult to get 120g of protein a day, but I understand it’s importance. When nutrition aligns with training, Alyssa assures us that’s when you really start to see and feel the results.
Empowerment Through Lifting: A Personal Journey
In her book, Alyssa talks about the life-changing power of strength. Lifting is more than a physical activity; it’s a journey of empowerment. When you lift that weight, heavier than you thought possible, there’s a moment of realization – you’re stronger than you thought. It’s not just about the physical strength; it’s about shattering the mental barriers we often set for ourselves.
Alyssa’s journey, like many of ours, is about finding joy and strength in what was once intimidating. It’s about changing the narrative from ‘I can’t’ to ‘I can, and I will.’ So, I encourage you – next time you’re at the gym or even at home, pick up that heavier weight. Push yourself a little more. Embrace the challenge. You might just surprise yourself with what you’re capable of.
Lifting More Than Just Weights: Elevating Our Lives
Building lifelong strength for women is more than a fitness goal; it’s a commitment to ourselves. It’s about staying strong, independent, and capable, no matter our age. Through debunking myths, understanding the importance of muscle and bone health, recognizing the mental and emotional benefits, balancing strength with cardio, and focusing on nutrition, we’re not just preparing for now; we’re training for life.
I hope this journey into the world of weightlifting has inspired you as much as it has me. Remember, it’s never too late to start, and the benefits extend far beyond the physical. So, let’s lift, grow, and empower ourselves, one weight at a time.