By now, most women have heard that lifting weights is the key to kicking one’s metabolism into high gear. By now, most women have been told strong is sexy and that they need to lift weights to get the definition they are looking for. And yet the weight room at the gym remains a male-dominated space. Heavy metal rock jock music dominants the stereo and so does the vague smell of men’s deodorant (on a good day).
Ladies, we need to take over the weight room. Not just to make it smell better, but because of all of the benefits a sound lifting program has for our bodies and our minds should outweigh the fears that prevent us from going in.
Fear #1: I don’t know what I’m doing.
Get on the internet (like you are now!) and start downloading routines, watch a YouTube video on form, and download an app or two that provides routines right there on your phone. Let your phone become your little portable personal trainer and then pony up with your weights right next to the mirror so you can watch your own form. Start with a short and manageable routine of some basic moves and work your way up. You didn’t start in the advanced yoga class, did you? No. Treat weight lifting the same way. Start with the basics and remember, pain is NOT gain when it comes to weight lifting. Muscle soreness the next day is ok, but back pain or straining to lift a weight is unsafe.
This is when saving for a personal trainer session or two might be worth your time and your confidence. A trainer can easily draw up a safe routine for a weight lifting beginner and then teach it to you, while informing you of form tips, in 1-3 sessions (about $60-$150 total).
You’ve started a lifting routine! Hurrah! Welcome to a faster metabolism and less boredom than always being on the dread-mill when at the gym. Begin to track your progress by taking your measurements each month; with lifting, your body should begin to sleek out, even if your weight does not change (see Fear #3 below).
Fear #2: All of these dudes are staring at me. It’s uncomfortable.
If you belong to a gym where the men act like it’s a meat market, I empathize with you. It’s uncomfortable and inappropriate. However, you have a few options:
You could switch gyms (pending any contract fees). If you do, tell your current gym why you are switching. Try a women’s only gym or club and see if that works better for you.
Bring a friend to the weight room with you. Find your other gym rat pal, guy or girl, and have him or her become your weight room buddy. Power is in numbers to be clear to the audience around you that you are there to workout and you already have someone to talk to, thank you very much. Better yet- bring your significant other if you have one.
Put on your headphones and stay focused. A woman who is hardcore in the gym is intimidating to guys. If you don’t make eye contact and focus on your form and your tunes, you won’t attract attention. If you have a skeeze ball who can’t seem to get this through his head, tell a gym manager or a floor attendant. It’s possible that this member is a repeat offender and let the staff take care of it, as they should.
Set up a home lifting gym. A dumbbell weight tree is a great option for a home gym. There are also adjustable weights that can stow nicely in a closet or corner when not being used. Just ensure that your form is correct or seek a personal trainer who makes house calls prior to starting your routine.
Take a weight lifting class. Group exercise classes tend to be female-dominant at many gyms. With an instructor present and mirrors abound, gym social seekers have no opportunity to get into your space, while you also get your form supervised and a great routine. Win-win!
Aside from the metabolic gains, building your confidence both inside and outside of the gym is important. Beginning a weight routine and focusing in on it, with or without a friend, will build up your confidence so that you can stand up not just to the creepster at the gym, but also in your career and your life!
Fear #3: I’ll bulk up/ gain weight/ get bigger.
Simply put, this is untrue UNLESS you want to bulk up, which is a very different kind of lifting. Muscle definition is sexy and chic; you can be strong while having a sleek look. Women who want this look tend to do well with smaller weights but more reps/ sets on each exercise. However, many women report that using heavier weights such as 10-20 lb dumbbells or above changed their bodies in a way that 2-5 lb hand weights simply could not. You will need to find what works for you, both in terms of what is safe for you, what you have time for, and what kind of results you want. If you are a beginner, start with light weights (3-5 lbs) and build up some muscle and knowledge before moving to heavier weights. It is noteworthy that muscle weighs more than fat, but has a much higher density and is smaller per pound. Use measurements and clothing sizes over the scale if you are already at a healthy weight. If you need to lose weight, you will do so more rapidly as muscle builds up! Bonus!
The general rule for weight lifting is that, by the end of a set, you should feel exerted. By the end of three sets of a particular exercise, you should feel like you cannot do anymore. When I started lifting more seriously I was fine with 5 lb handweights. Now, a year or so later, I am using 10-20 lb dumbbells and am still seeing results in the right direction for toning and smoothing.
As stated in the previous 2 benefits, you will boost your metabolism and confidence. I now take pride in how much I can lift and how focused I am while I am at the gym. Better yet, after overcoming this 3rd fear, you will see results in the measurements of your frame. A smaller waist, firmer thighs, and sleeker arms are just a few consistent lifting sessions away!
So that’s all there is to it, ladies. Get into the gym and take over the weight room to build confidence and muscle definition, while boosting your metabolism.