Tag Archives: Weightlifting

What I Love About Weightlifting

Last Thursday I blogged about the parts of weighlifting that I hate.

Now it’s time to dig into all of the reasons why I love this form of exercise. Today’s post will be longer than the one that was published here last week because there are far more things I enjoy about bodybuilding than there are things I don’t.

If I had known how much I was going to enjoy it, I would have started doing it much sooner in life!

Growing Stronger

I know I’ve mention this several times before in previous posts, but it is incredible to see how much easier all kinds of tasks are when you’re physically capable of lifting heavier loads.

The first time I noticed I was growing stronger happened when my groceries began to feel lighter. Since I don’t own a car, I need to carry home everything I buy. There was a time a few years ago when I had to plan ahead for shopping trips that involved buying a few litres of milk, canned goods, and other items that weren’t light.

Often I would break this errand up into two trips to make it easier on me. If I had several heavy items on my list that had to be purchased immediately, sometimes I’d also need to pause and rest for a minute before picking up my load again.

I slowly became capable of bigger loads over longer distances, though, and now I rarely think about what I’m putting in my shopping cart as far as its weight goes. Unless I’m sick or injured, I can carry home just about any combination of ingredients I might need for my small household.

This spilled over into other ordinary parts of daily life, too, like bringing a bottle of detergent and a large hamper full of a few loads of dirty clothing and from the laundry room. I was always able to lift that stuff, but it definitely feels lighter than it used to.

Having More Energy

When I began working on this post this past weekend, I’d just arrived home from a long, brisk walk outdoors that lasted about an hour. The weather has finally grown cooler here in Toronto, and I was soaking up every bit of mild air I could before I jumped into writing.

There were many things I was hoping would happen when I first began lifting weights, but having more energy wasn’t one of them. In fact, I didn’t think about it much at all back then.

It wasn’t until I began to feel more energetic that I realized how much my life was changing for the better. I was never so tired that I thought something might be medically wrong with me. This was a mild symptom of my fairly inactive lifestyle back then that I didn’t really notice until it began to fade away.

It simply never occurred to me that I could get a burst of energy from exercising or that someday I wouldn’t be so sleepy every night before bed or after a long, brisk walk.

Sleeping Better

Speaking of sleep, it is much easier for me to lie down and get a good night’s rest when I’m in my regular routine of lifting weights.

Exercise in general does wonders for my ability to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep all night, but weightlifting in particular has had a positive impact on how I feel every night when I go to bed and every morning when I wake up again.

I have no idea why or how this works, but I notice a reduction in the quality of my sleep every time I have to temporarily take a break from lifting weights due to illness or injury. It always feels great to get back into my regular routine and then begin falling asleep quickly at night as a result of that.

Losing Inches

While weight loss was one of my original goals when I first began working out again, I didn’t realize how much my body would begin to change as a result of lifting weights in ways that had nothing to do with how much I weighed.

This is another one of those situations where I wish I’d snapped pictures, taken measurements, and otherwise kept a closer eye on where I started out and what I look like today.

I didn’t need those measurements to start noticing a difference in the way my clothing fit, though. Pants that had been a little tight in the past suddenly began to feel looser even during times when my weight itself wasn’t changing at all. The same thing happened to a few other articles of clothing as well.

A pound of muscle is much denser than a pound of fat. Over time even small changes in what percentage you have of each can lead to big changes in how you look and feel.

As my body fat percentage slowly began to drop, I started to look and feel better in clothing I’d owned for ages.

The interesting thing about this is how my goals have shifted over time. The fitter I become, the bigger my goals become for the future. I rarely think about how much I weigh anymore. There are far more interesting goals to pursue these days.

Reducing the Risks of Certain Diseases

I’m going to be honest with you here. This wasn’t something I thought a lot of about when I first began lifting weights. It’s a benefit that I only realized was happening after I’d gotten into the habit of including this form of exercise in my regular routine and began reading about the benefits of staying active in general.

With that being said, I do have relatives who were diagnosed with certain diseases that have been shown to happen less often among people who lift weights and otherwise exercise regularly. There are no guarantees in life, but I’m glad that I’m helping to reduce my risk of developing these diseases.

Nobody can choose what genetic risk factors they were born with, but you can control many other risk factors like diet, alcohol consumption, and exercise.

Seeing What My Body Is Capable Of

I was never one of those kids who excelled at or looked forward to gym class. The schools I attended focused very heavily on team sports for physical education. While that may have been motivating for students who enjoyed and were good at basketball, football, or volleyball, I sure wasn’t one of them.

One of the best parts of becoming an adult has been gaining the freedom to explore many different types of exercise and discovering what actually appeals to me. It has been especially interesting to see what my body is capable of as far as weightlifting goes.

I never would have imagined that I’d love lifting weights or that I’d become as strong as I have. There are so many goals I still want to accomplish, and I’m looking forward to seeing what I’ll be able to do next.

If you haven’t begun lifting weights yet, I can’t encourage you enough to give it a try. It is such a fantastic way to get into better shape and, as I hope this post has showed you, the benefits of it can affect so many different parts of your life.

What I Hate About Weightlifting

Today I’m going to be talking about the parts of weightlifting that I hate.

Every type of exercise has its downsides no matter how much you enjoy it overall. In no way is this essay meant to be a put-down or a rant. I’m writing it from the perspective who loves bodybuilding even when certain parts of it annoy or frustrate me for reasons that I’ll discuss below.

The purpose of today’s post is simply to honestly discuss the things I wish I could change about this form of exercise.

On Monday, October 2 I’ll be publishing a longer follow-up to this post that talks about all of the things I love about lifting weights. I hope you’ll read both posts once they’re available and think carefully about your favorite sport or workout routine.

If you  share your own lists of the things you love and hate about whatever kind of exercise you do on a regular basis and let me know about them, I will happily share links to those essays on a future Suggestion Saturday post.

The Gender Stereotypes

When I was a kid, I remember watching an interview on TV with a woman who was a bodybuilder. One of the first questions the host of this show asked her was about the fear that women have of becoming too muscular if they begin to lift weights regularly.

She laughed and talked about how difficult it was for women to create the kind of bodies you see in female bodybuilding competitions.

It wasn’t until I began lifting weights myself years later that I realize exactly how right she’d been about that. Regardless of whether or not you want to look like them, it’s not a body type that accidentally happens a few minutes after you lift a 5-pound weight.  The large, defined muscles you see on the women in those competitions require years of dedication that include a strict diet and strenuous exercise routine.

I still meet people who believe that “real” women aren’t supposed to be muscular and that lifting even light weights without changing your diet will result in these kinds of figures.

The sexism in the first part of that statement saddens me. There is no such thing as being a “real” woman, and even if there was this would have nothing to do with it. I’m also dismayed by the idea of pitting people against each other based on the size of their muscles.

The unrealistic expectations in the second part make me roll my eyes. If only it were that easy to build muscle!

The Callouses

Callouses were the last thing on my mind when I first began lifting, but now I have them on both hands. The weights I use have ridges etched into them to make it easier to hold onto them if your hands are sweaty.

Given that I’ve moved up to lifting 30 pounds at a time now, this is an important safety feature. I’d hate to think what would happen if a non-ridged set of weights were to slip out of someone’s sweaty hands. They could very easily break a bone or do other serious damage to anyone who got in their way!

With that being said, I still miss the smooth skin I used to have. Don’t laugh. This is definitely a minor issue in the scheme of things, but it bothers me to have callouses that I can’t get rid of no matter what I try.

The Lag Between Working Out and Seeing Results

Weightlifting doesn’t give me that same mood boost that going on a long walk does. When I first began bodybuilding, I felt nothing other than some muscle soreness after those workouts. These days it’s pretty rare for me to be sore, so I usually don’t have any particular feeling at all when I finish a set.

Building muscle and lowering your body fat percentage takes time. It’s such a gradual process that I don’t notice any differences from one day or week to the next. It’s only when I check my statistics, or need to buy new clothing, or get a comment from someone who hasn’t seen me in a while that I realize my body is slowly growing stronger and leaner.

The changes are still exciting over the long term, but I do still sometimes wish that it was as easy to see your muscle growth as it is to notice positive improvements in other types of exercise like jogging or dancing where people can do stuff like count how many miles they ran or which new dance moves they’ve mastered.

You Can Injure Yourself If You Don’t Do It Correctly

 This isn’t something I’d recommend to anyone who isn’t willing to put in the time to learn how to do it safely. One of the benefits of walking is that it’s pretty difficult to hurt yourself when you’re on a walk. There might be an occasional slip and fall in slippery conditions, but other than that a walk can be taken safely regardless of your posture, how you move your body, or how much attention you’re paying to your surroundings.

Weightlifting isn’t like that. By no means am I trying to scare people out of trying it, but it is a sport that needs to be taken seriously. The last thing you want to do is hurt yourself by lifting something that’s too heavy for your or by not using the right form.

On that note, I’ll sign off. Come back on Monday to find out what I love about this form of exercise.

How to Tell If You’re Getting Stronger

One of the things I found most frustrating about lifting weights in the beginning was how much time it took to notice any tangible results from my workouts.

My body didn’t look any more toned when I stood in front of a mirror and the weights felt just as heavy in new sessions as they had in the ones before it.

Looking back, there were several reasons for this:

  1. The workouts I did back then were shorter and less challenging than my current routine.
  2. I wasn’t doing them as regularly I as did now.
  3. I didn’t know how hard to push myself or when to move up to heavier weights.

By far the biggest reason why I was frustrated, though, is that these kinds of changes take time. Nobody goes to sleep one evening after lifting 2 pound weights and wakes up the next morning suddenly able to lift 20 or 200 pounds. Strengthening and building muscles requires longterm effort and dedication.

There are no quick fixes, but there can be telltale signs that you’re on the right track if you pay close attention to what you’re currently able to do and how those limits evolve over time.

For example, go take a look at this exercise video. It’s one I’ve been using for a while now, and I’ve been able to do every move in it successfully and with good form except for the one that begins 8 minutes and 50 seconds into the routine:

 

If I balanced my lower body on my knees, I could always lift my upper body up with one arm. That was never too difficult for me, and it’s been downright easy for a while now.

Despite giving it multiple valiant efforts, I was never able to do the advanced form of this exercise until a couple of days ago. I was so accustomed to not being strong enough to do this move that I was shocked into a short burst of quiet laughter when it suddenly worked. How in the heck did that happen, I wondered?

My form definitely still needs work, but I’m thrilled to finally have grown strong enough to do this move. My new goal is to do it for the entire amount of time and with the correct form from beginning to end. If I can do a wobbly version for two or three rounds now, I have high hopes that I’ll grow even stronger in the near future and soon make my goal. After that happens, I will look for a new, more challenging upper body routine and start the cycle over again.

I kept going in the beginning before I saw any real results because I knew that regularly lifting weights would do wonders for my muscle and bone health. Now that I’m seeing external changes that matched the internal ones I trusted were happening, I’m even more motivated to continue lifting and pushing myself to be better in the future.

Celebrate Every Success

I’m a firm believer in celebrating every success if you’re having trouble perfecting a specific move or need some encouragement as you grow stronger and fitter.

Not every goal needs to be related to a specific number like your weight, how many pounds you lift, or how many minutes you can workout in a session.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with keeping track of those things and celebrating when you reach numerical goals. I keep track of them for the sheer joy of seeing how they’ve changed over time.

With that being said, Sometimes success comes in quieter ways that are every bit as encouraging like:

  • Improving your form.
  • Suddenly noticing that the weights feel lighter.
  • Being able to do more repetitions of a move.
  • Finding difficult moves easy, and formerly impossible moves only difficult now.

Even very small changes can lead to huge results over the long haul. Every time you take note of something like this, know that you’re a little stronger than you were before and that it’s only a matter of time before you’ll notice even more exciting changes in what you’re capable of.

Honestly, most of the notes I’ve taken about my workouts have been mental ones. While I have begun spreading my general love of spreadsheets to include facts about my workout routine, this is really only necessary for those of us who are self-described Numbers or Excel nerds. Haha!

Mental notes honestly do work well if you pay attention to what you are and aren’t able to currently do and take notice when those limitations begin to change.

The important thing is to pay attention. If you put in the work and figure out a health and fitness routine that works best for you, you will almost certainly be rewarded in both big and small ways.

How to Find Your Lost Motivation to Exercise

Last month I came down with a summer cold.

(As an aside, don’t you wish we could all look as healthy as stock photo models do when they’re acting sick? Most of the reason why I’m sharing this particular photo with you is because of how much it amuses me).

My illness was minor even for a cold, but as I was recovering I noticed that my motivation to exercise was not returning like it normally does after I get sick.

I’d stopped blowing my nose and my cough was quickly fading away. Yet I still didn’t have the urge to even do something as simple as take a walk around the block to get back into the swing of things.

If this is something that happens to you as well, keep these tips and tricks in mind the next time your fitness routine is interrupted or you really don’t want to do your usual workout today.

Commit to Five Minutes

I thought this idea was ridiculous the first time I heard it, but it does work. Promise yourself that you only need to move your body for five minutes. If you’re still feeling apathetic or unmotivated at the end of that time span, stop and go do something else with your time without any guilt.

It’s been my experience that this usually doesn’t happen, though. Five minutes is just enough time to begin to enjoy whatever activity you normally do during a workout. Most of the time when I make this bet with myself, I end up doing my full workout anyways. Getting started was by far the most challenging part of the whole routine.

Remember Why You Started Exercising

You might have wanted to grow stronger, gain energy, become more flexible, improve your health, or lose weight. On a more personal level, I love the warm, happy feeling I get from all of the endorphins my body releases after a long, brisk walk. That one factor alone is responsible for at least half of the walks I go on. It feels so wonderful.

Everyone’s reasons for exercising is different, of course, so I can’t possibly list all of them in today’s post. Hopefully the list above gave you a good starting spot if I didn’t mention your favourite ones.

Sometimes it’s an excellent idea to revisit your reasons for exercising and think about how at least attempting to get through today’s workout will help you reach those goals.

Try Something New

Occasionally I lose my interest in working out because I’ve been doing the same thing for too long. A few years ago, I included free dance videos on Youtube in my workout routine. They worked beautifully for about a year, and then my interests shifted to include more weightlifting in my schedule instead.

This doesn’t mean that I’ll never try another dance video again. Dancing is something I’d like to return to one day, although I don’t have any plans to do so at the moment.

Yoga was another activity I tried earlier this year in an attempt to broaden my interests. It turned out to be something that I wasn’t as interested in as I originally thought, but I’m glad that I gave it a try and I am keeping it in mind for the future. I may very well find it better suited for my needs in a year or two.

Make a Smaller Goal

To be completely honest with you, my goal for the first two or three days after my cold faded away was to take walks. I didn’t worry about anything other than walking for about thirty minutes a day, and most of those sessions were broke into smaller segments.

Getting back into a lighter version of my usual routine was the key to returning to the way I normally live. I’m now back to lifting weights regularly, too, and I’m enjoying it as much as I normally do.

Track Your Progress

One of the biggest reasons why I love my smartwatch so much is that it keeps track of all kinds of exercise statistics for me. I get notifications when I reach specific goals and badges if I make enough of them throughout the week.

If you’re motivated by small rewards like these and don’t want to track your own statistics, definitely consider going digital.

With that being said, tracking can be done in many different ways. You could take notes about how many workouts you completed, miles you ran, or pounds you lifted in a Word/Pages document or with an old-fashioned pen and sheet of paper instead.

When Is It Time to Move Up to a Heavier Set of Weights?

I’ve been asking myself this question over the past week or two. Since I work out at home instead of going to the gym, I try to be very mindful of what equipment I buy and when I buy it. My tiny apartment can only store so many items at once!

The last set of weights I bought also turned out to be a little too heavy for me at first. I ended up switching between them and my previous set of weights for a week or two depending on which part of my body I was using and how my form was looking.

It’s been my hope that I’ll be able to avoid this next time by spending extra time with my current equipment as I wait to grow slightly stronger.

There are a few different signs I look for when I’m deciding when to move up to a heavier set of weights versus when I should stick with my current set of weights and focus on adjusting my form for the time being.

Let’s go through them one by one.

Sign #1: My Workouts Are Getting too Easy These Days.

While there are still a couple of moves in my routine that I find a little challenging, most of them are fairly easy these days.

I’m not breaking a sweat as quickly as I was when I first moved up to this set of weights. I’m also not needing or wanting to take the breaks I sometimes incorporated into the workout the last time I did it with a heavier set of weights.

My endurance has definitely increased since then, so I would agree that my workouts have become too easy.

Sign #2: It’s Been a While Since I Felt Sore the Day After a Workout.

No, I don’t believe this is the only or the best indication of a good routine, but it can be one sign that you’re pushing your body enough to become stronger without risking injury.

This might sound odd, but I actually like the feeling you get the day after a tough, new workout. Even if your muscles aren’t necessarily suffering from DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), you can often feel them contracting and relaxing in ways that might not have felt so obvious last week or last month. Certain movements remind you that you need to use your arms, abs, or legs for them even if you’re not generally consciously aware of that fact.

If you do have DOMS, some of those movements are slightly uncomfortable or harder to perform than normal. If you’re not, you still often pay attention to your body in ways that are easy to miss on an ordinary day.

It has been a while since I felt this way after lifting weights. I hope my next adjustment is easier, but I’m also curious to see what will happen this time  when I move up to heavier weights. Does a body eventually get so used to lifting progressively heavier stuff that it no longer feels as sore when it’s asked to do something slightly harder than it was doing last week?

Sign #3: When I Finish a Routine, I Still Have Plenty of Energy Left Over

This is by far the biggest sign that I need to move up to a heavier set of weights. It’s one thing to have a little bit of strength left after a workout, but I’m at the point now where I’m not feeling all that challenged. I could easily do some more reps with the weights or add in more pushups if I’m doing bodyweight exercises that day.

Based on my answers to these three points, it definitely seems to be time to get some new equipment.

How about you? What other signs do you look for when you’re decide if it’s time to use heavier weights?

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