Why You Need to Strength Train

Muscle. I’m sure you’ve heard of it.  Do you think about it? Do you realize why it is so important?  Muscle is not just for bodybuilders and athletes.  It is for everyone.   It is vitally important for women.  Muscle is critical for our health, our functional strength, our ability to do day-to-day activities, and our body composition.

Why Should You Strength Train?

  • Improve / Maintain muscle strength
  • Improve / Maintain coordination
  • Improve / Maintain balance
    • These 3 things together help to prevent falls & related fractures
    • These 3 things together allow us to perform everyday activities
  • Strengthen our bone mass – bone density and strength
    • Decreased bone density = osteoporosis and fractures
  • Change our body composition to one that is leaner and less fat
    • Body composition (body fat – lean body mass %) Weighing less on the scale won’t necessarily get us a lower body fat %, in fact, we can have higher body fat & less lean body mass when we simply aim to lose weight.

Body fat is what we need to keep our eye on; reducing fat so that we have more fat-free mass no matter what we weigh.  Fat and weight loss often coincide, but they are different.   Our body weight is a reflection of our relationship with gravity and our weight includes our bones, organs, muscle, blood, fat and water.  Our bodies are more than 60% water.  Our body weight varies throughout the day and it varies day by day and week by week; 2 variables are water and stored glycogen. When you weigh yourself you are getting all that information.  If your bones are stronger due to a resistance training program then they are stronger and heavier.  We want and need that kind of weight.

Let’s talk muscle.  Typically, when we talk about Muscle, we are referring to skeletal muscle.  There are 3 types of Muscle – Skeletal, Smooth and Cardiac.  Skeletal muscle is a series of muscle that moves the skeleton.  The nervous system is the control center for movement production, and the skeletal system provides the structural framework for our bodies. To complete a cycle of movement production, the body must have a device that the nervous system can command to move the skeletal system and that is the muscular system.  Muscles generate internal tension which manipulates the bones of our body to produce movements.  Muscles are the movers and stabilizers of our bodies.   Tendons are the structures that attach muscles to bone and provide the anchor from which the muscle can exert force and control the bone and joint.  Ligaments connect bone to bone, provide stability and input to the nervous system.  Muscle, just like Bone, is living tissue.  Muscle needs calories and stimulation via exercise to maintain and grow.  The stronger and fitter our muscles are the Better we are.

Progressive strength training takes us out of our comfort zone and builds our foundation of strength, brick-upon-brick. Working in a way that stimulates and continually challenges our muscles is what strength (resistance) training is. True strength training isn’t aerobic exercise with weights.  Strength training is using resistance that keeps our muscles under tension, and challenged. Our bodies adapt, so our training shouldn’t stay the same. There are many tools to use for strength training: Bodyweight properly utilized, resistance bands, barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbags, etc.  There are techniques and tools that are utilized in periodized training such as Supersets, Complexes, and Circuits. For the beginner, focus on learning basic compound exercises with good form and building a foundation of stability and strength to build upon.

We all should be builders of our bodies. We only have one so shouldn’t we build it to be as strong, healthy & functional as possible?   To have stability, balance and mobility- we need our muscles.  To do everyday activities with independence and reduced risk of injury – we need our muscles.  To have the body composition we want – we need our muscles.   Don’t have fear of morphing into a rippled muscle bound “bodybuilder” if that isn’t what you want. Trust me – that doesn’t happen easily or casually.   Becoming a builder of your body = Smart.

When it comes to fighting obesity which is about having less fat – we need our muscle.  Muscles need calories; Muscles shape and define our bodies; Muscles move our bodies and keep us balanced and coordinated.   Be aware that many weight loss plans are detrimental to our muscles, our bones, our metabolism and our health.  If we take care of our muscles we can become fat-burning machines as a normal course of business; we will have stronger bones; we will have a good framework for our bodies that will improve our functional strength, balance and coordination.  And yes –look pretty darn FABulous.

Maintain a nutritious diet that keeps you thriving, don’t lead a sedentary lifestyle and have strength training in your life – Do it for the Health of It.

Stay Healthy. Be STRONG. Get After It.

I’m Not Eating a Cheesecake

Here I am again – with a cup of coffee starting my day. As I wrote yesterday, it has been a while since I’ve wanted that soothing cup to start my day. I woke up again with heavy thoughts. The 1st and 2nd Amendments to the US Constitution are indeed heavy subjects. We are living in frightening, unsettling times right now. Since I was a young child, I’ve used food as my drug of choice. I didn’t realize it then, but I now understand that I’ve struggled with emotional eating for most of my life. In recent years, I’ve gotten it under control primarily through awareness and mindfulness. We can’t fix anything unless we are aware or as “they” say: you can’t fix what you don’t know is broken. Typically my reaction to the stress and emotion of uncertainty I’ve been experiencing this year would be to eat a cheesecake. An entire cheesecake. I’m not doing that now. Instead, I’m feeling healthier, than I have for quite a while.

You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken. You have to be aware of what is broken before you can start the process of fixing it.

I’m aware that eating a cheesecake would have been my go-to response, and I’m equally aware that I have no real desire to do that. Instead, I’m drinking a cup of coffee and eating a protein chip cookie and will soon head to the gym to ride a stationary bike and do some strength training. The feeling of being healthier and lighter in body and spirit feels so much better than drugging myself with cheesecake. Maybe exercise is my new drug. I think it may be. I’m aware of that and I roll that thought around in my mind to see how it feels. It feels OK. It feels good, but I’m also very much aware of my need to keep myself balanced. Too much of a good thing is still too much. March – June I let myself get out of balance, I did too much. I was vaguely aware of it at the time, but it felt so good I kept doing it. Walking outdoors in the fresh air which is so meditative to me. Walking 5 – 9 miles a day, every day, up hills, down hills on pavement that wasn’t forgiving to my feet, and my always in a state of sprain right knee. Our bodies are ultimately in control and mind said: NOPE! That’s enough. After a week of barely being able to walk down my hallway, I have myself in better balance with my exercise. I exercise for the health of it because I can. I don’t take it for granted. I exercise my ability to improve my body, mind and spirit. Exercise truly is medicine. Dosage. It’s all in the dosage.

Two books that I recommend to my coaching clients are: “When you Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull up a Chair” by Geneen Roth and “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think” by Brian Wansink, Ph.D. I highly recommend that you give them a read. Awareness is power.

Stay HEALTHY. Be STRONG. Get AFTER It!

Starting the Day with Coffee

It’s been a few weeks since I started my day with a single, delicious cup of coffee. It has been too hot and I’ve just not had the taste for it. Today, I felt a tug toward my tea kettle to boil up some water for a cup of coffee – I’m a fan of the pour-over method. I woke up at 4 AM in a pensive, restless mood. So many thoughts in my head and a cup of coffee felt soothing to me. Here I am, sipping and typing.

Life has felt so strange lately hasn’t it? Oh, you know, life is always kind of strange. I’ve always found that real life is indeed stranger than fiction. This year though! I go to bed every night and wake up every morning feeling that I’m walking through something that I need to get through, that I stepped through one more day, but what will today bring? I miss waking up energetic and ready to conquer tasks, accomplish some things toward my ever growing list of things to do, and to perhaps in some small way make a difference in the world, in someone’s life. But lately … I don’t seem to be able to get anything done except the very basic tasks to get through the day, the week. The world seems bleak, unstable, without much joy to be glimpsed or even hold out hope for. Each day has more bad news and more uncertainty. Things that you had trust in, things you thought “it can’t happen here”, are happening and you feel powerless to stop it. It messes with a person’s OOMPH. And yet, you do hold on to hope that love will prevail over hate and that there are more good people than bad and if we all pull together we can indeed change the world. At least I do. It’s the faith I hold on to in the midst of the sometimes overwhelming feelings of anger, resentment, despair and impatience that boil up within me.

Something that I’ve found that helps my mental health and my physical energy is exercise. I’ve always known that to be true, but this year, I’ve really come to understand how true it is. I get it. In fact, I got it too much. There is a balance. There is always a balance, there must always be balance, we need balance. How do we find balance in an unsteady world? Oh … I wish I had THE answer, but I think the best we can do is find the answer that fits for us. The answer that fits for us without judgment. Who is judging you ask? We judge ourselves. I know I do. I’m guilty of telling myself: It’s not good enough! You should be doing more! Can you relate?

Kindness. It has to start at home, with yourself. If we can find our way to being kind to ourselves, we can be in a better place to spread kindness to others. We cannot control the behavior or the attitude of others, but we can control ours – can’t we? How can we show kindness to ourselves?

Give ourselves permission to just “Be”. To be enough, to be OK with just sitting with our thoughts, our cup of tea, our book, or to take a nap with our dogs without “accomplishing” anything today.

  • Take some time for yourself. Do something that gives you joy each day. Read a book, lie in a hammock and watch the birds or look at the stars, draw, knit, listen to an audiobook, take a bath with rose petals. Whatever! Be kind to yourself by giving yourself some “me” time each day. It’s OK to give yourself some time just to “Be”.
  • Acknowledge your achievements. Give yourself recognition for what you bring to the table and what you have accomplished. We are not perfect and if you are a perfectionist like I am, I’m betting you don’t give yourself the credit and acknowledgement that you may grant to others.
  • Forgive yourself. Have you messed up? Have you done something that you are not proud of? Have you not done something that you think you should have? Quit beating yourself up about it. Forgive yourself. ONWARD!
  • Take care of yourself. We cannot begin to take care of others if we don’t take care of ourselves. Don’t just survive, thrive! Prioritize getting good sleep, eating nutritious foods, exercising every day. Exercise is truly medicine for the body, mind & spirit. Put on your favorite lipstick and fix your hair if those things make you feel good – just for you! Find a way to alleviate the stress in your life. If something or someone is bringing you a load of anxiety and negativity – take a hard look at kicking that to the curb. You are totally worth it!
  • Be compassionate. Show yourself compassion. We are often more critical of ourselves than we are of others and we beat ourselves up. Compassion is a sympathetic awareness of distress combined with a desire to alleviate it. How can we show ourselves more compassion? How about starting here? https://positivepsychology.com/self-compassion-5-steps/

STAY Healthy. Be STRONG. Get AFTER It!