Feared by the myth that I would get muscly and look like a man I always shy-ed away from using weights. Girls, do not be fooled into thinking lifting weights will make you big, we do not have enough testosterone in our bodies to grow big muscles like men. Around this time last year, I not only virtually gave up running, but gave it up and replaced it with weight training (shock horror!) I was oblivious of the toll pounding the pavements was having on my slight frame. Consistent long distance running can lead to stress fractures, shin splint, knee problems and loads more. On the flipside, it is a great cardiovascular exercise to burn fat. After trying out some dumbbell exercises and various assisted weight machines in the gym – I was hooked! Assisted pull ups were my favourite to begin with (I was keen to strengthen and tone my upper body). My PT gave me a plan which helped me focus on a different body part each different day of the week. This is a rough example;
- Back – pull ups, deadlifts, bench reverse, dumbbell pullover
- Arms – shoulder press, tricep dips, tricep extns, tricep pulleys
- Legs – squats, lunges, leg extns, hip abductor, hip thrusts
Building a little extra muscle can actually reduce the risk of injury. Strong muscles, tendons and ligaments are much more capable of withstanding stress, and the improved flexibility gained by strength training also reduces the likelihood of pulled muscles and back pain. Weight training is an excellent way of combating several symptoms we all face as we get a little older. Resistance exercise can reduce bone deterioration and build bone mass, preventing osteoporosis. Research has shown that regular resistance training can increase your Basal Metabolic Rate by up to 15% (meaning you still burn fat when you are resting VS cardiovascular exercise where you ONLY burn calories when you are exercising).
I used to think I looked good but I much prefer the way I look now; toned, strong and shapely. The first picture was taken in Topshop when I was buying those shorts and its visible that my upper body has got wider, my waist still seems small and my legs look less fatty and more toned (and I still havent worn those shorts!)
Running was an all time hobby – it gave me an opportunity to think introspectively but also gave me time to clear my head, heart and lungs and listen to my feet hitting the ground, my breathing, my music and check my watch constantly to see if I am closer to finishing (i miss checking my garmin). It’s great if you love it and are happy with it but if you aren’t happy – don’t be afraid to stop and revise your training plan. It might be the best decision you’ll ever make. I have my best friend to thank for coming into my life and teaching me so much about training and eating.
Eating is also equally as important if you are doing resistance work regularly. As you will be burning calories when you are exercising but also when you are resting too, you will inevitably feel more hungry. My appetite has increased but its all about grazing little and often. Try and aim for protein in every meal, and if your looking to lose a little weight, cut down your carb intake. If you’re working out most days, you will need a good amount of carbs pre-workout and post-workout, to give you ‘energy’ before you exercise and to replace the ‘energy’ you used during your workout. This is generally the rule with any type of exercise. Its a tricky balance to get it right but also to maintain, especially when you’re at work (in meetings, etc). I find preparing food in advance helps a great deal – so you don’t get stuck running to the nearest shop to buy whatever you fancy. Some may call me obsessive, I call it disciplined. If you get into a routine, it becomes habit. Lots of people say they dont have time and while I dont have any commitments (kids or husband) I dont see why ‘time’ should an be issue. Eating healthily doesnt take much time at all. If you are unsure about what changes to make to your diet, do some research (theres loads on the net), talk to people and make sure your changes are incremental. It will seem easier, more doable and you are more likely to stick to it, rather than completely changing everything you eat. I recently introduced eggs at breakfast, I have them everyday and they take five minutes to poach.
A food day in the life of me;
- Breakfast – 2x choc chip weetabix with 2x poached eggs
- Mid morning – 1x banana + handful of almonds and cranberries (on rest days, ill have a protein shake)
- Lunch – chicken salad or tuna salad
- Mid afternoon – bagel with(out) nutella
- Dinner – chicken/ lamb/ fish/ with veg , halloumi + peppers and hummous
- Post gym – protein milkshake
- Before bed – total greek yogurt
We had body composition tests taken on the weekend courtesy of Virgin Active gym.
This was very exciting for me as I’ve never had one done before (Rajiv has). I knew I weighed around 55k but I had no idea my muscle mass was just under half of my body weight! I thought my body fat would be lower than 16% but pleased nonetheless with that result. We both have ‘D’ shaped bodies with ideal muscle mass and low body fat (creating a ‘D’ shaped letter on the bar graphs), although Rajiv’s muscle mass goes off the picture!!!
Have you had a body fat test done recently? Or are you thinking about changing your training/ eating? I would recommend doing all three, you’ll be surprised how far the human body can push itself.