In the past few months or so, I have lost a considerable amount of weight. I will go into more details about the whole experience in another post, but in this I wanted to talk about the training I’ve been doing specifically in the last few months – weightlifting – and its effects.
I’m a pretty lazy person, as anyone who knows me can testify. My ideal day consists of lying in bed all day, reading and eating. So when it comes to exercise, I am both inconsistent and incredibly reluctant.
For a very long time, even at the beginning of this most recent bout of weight loss, I tried to lose weight by doing cardiovascular exercises. I spent time on the ellipticals, treadmill, exercise bike. I bought an actual bike and tried cycling, I ventured my jiggly body onto the race track and tried running, I bought a squash racquet and tried to learn that sport. LISS, HIIT, Tabata, Aerobics, I tried it all.
None of it worked for me for very long. The first eight kilograms (out of the 32 I had as a goal) came off fairly easily. But after that I found I was spending hour after hour in boring, persistent motion on machines and in gyms, sweating my butt off and losing nothing. I hit a plateau and stayed on it for an agonizing month.
Most of all, I hated the exercise itself. I didn’t want to go to the gym, repeat the same boring motions, face the same boring landscape/machinery/court. I was sick of the sweat and the exhaustion and the jiggling fat, mountains of fat that just wouldn’t go away.
It was then that a friend recommended the weight lifting program Strong Lifts. I was already using light dumbells for basic exercises, on and off, but I was afraid to touch the barbells, scared of doing something wrong and hurting my back or knees. There were no women at my gym who lifted, whom I could ask for guidance, and while I watched (jealously) the men lifting heavy, I was too shy to ask for help. Still, reading about Strong Lifts, and learning about the three basic powerlifting exercises spurred me to try them myself. I asked the trainer at my gym to teach me correct form, and finally, hesitatingly, I started.
At first, nothing happened. I slowly upped the weights (I didn’t follow strong lifts exactly, I did extra exercises and I trained a lot more frequently than the prescribed 3x a week). In the beginning, I even gained weight. I would go home, in pain, my muscles screaming blue murder, and my brain crying with frustration because I wasn’t losing weight.
Then, slowly, it started. In leaps and jumps, I lost another two kgs, four, six, eight, ten, all in the past three months. And I’m still losing.
More amazingly, however, my body started shaping up in a way I couldn’t have imagined, for all I frequented body-building websites for women and admired their musculature. Pfft, me, look like that? And yet, that’s exactly what started happening. I still have a lot of excess fat, but the muscles underneath are coming through and it is amazing to see the transformation. I look fitter and better than I did in previous years when I weighed much less.
As time passes, and I get better and better at it, I realised I’ve fallen in love with weightlifting, and I feel passionately about it, the way I never did for any other exercise. And consequently, what frustrates me is that there aren’t more women out there who are doing it too. I get that there are different strokes for different folks, but from what I see, the overwhelming majority of women, both due to lack of access and lack of knowledge, simply don’t consider weight lifting an exercise option, especially in pakistan. And yet they should. It is without question one of the best ways to torch fat, and to keep it off for longer.
So for women who are on the fence, I present my list of reasons why I love weightlifting (and why you should do it too).
1) Best for lazy bums like me: Remember what I said about hours and hours in the gym? With weightlifting, I only have to spend half an hour pumping iron, 45 minutes tops. If I’m really looking to cut the fat, I can do an extra fifteen minutes of light cardio. And that’s it, really. No more hours and hours slaving away for minimal effect. In addition to taking less time, I can work out less times a week while reaping the same benefit. Strong Lifts, for example, recommends working out only thrice a week, and other programs recommend the same, 3-5x a week, only. Because I’m packing on muscles, I don’t need to worry about missing a day and gaining back the pounds, plus I actually need those rest days to recover muscle function. Yes, there’s more intensity, and a lot more soreness. But overall, there’s much less work, and yet I’m still losing weight.
2) Strength: with weight training, I know every day makes me stronger. So while I’m losing weight and outwardly conforming to society’s ideals, inside I am comforted because I know I’m becoming one lean muscle machine, capable of holding my own, surviving pain and potentially kicking ass, should the need arise. The high that gives me is a-mazing, almost comparable to the high I get from lifting big-ass plates with ease, doing deep squats and high overhead presses with grace and power. Knowing my body is capable of that and more is fantastic.
3)Achievement friendly: I’m a very achievement-oriented person. I like having goals. With cardio, there was only so much I could do before I hit a wall. Burn 400 calories? 500? 600? 700? Then you hit a limit, which your body simply can’t go beyond. For me, weight lifting provides lots of achievements that I can achieve on a per-workout basis. Every pound I add to the barbells, every extra rep I can achieve at a higher weight, is a success I can chalk up and that keeps me motivated to move on, move further. Because I’m still only a novice at best, there’s LOTS of room for improvement, and even when I hit my best there’s tons of variations on the basic exercises to try out. In practical terms, this means that I am literally excited to hit the gym every day, see how much I can lift today, see if I can go one step further. Nothing – literally no other exercise – has provided me with this level of achievement and motivation.
4)Fantastic figure: there’s a pervasive, evil myth that lifting weights will make you look bulky, which is probably the main reason why women abstain. This has been disproved time and time again. Yes, if you don’t diet, in the beginning the muscle gain + existing fat will make you look bulkier. But you’ll never become Arnold Schwarzenegger if you’re a lass, you just don’t have the testosterone. For me, taking a healthy diet with weight lifting has given me a figure I could never believe possible – my thighs and butt, always my chubbiest parts, have toned to the point where I can wear jeans that are four years old, and the other parts of my body have similarly shaped up. And its only getting better from here on out.
5) Overall fitness: I’m not big on fitness. I started this regime to lose weight and look better, and this remains my primary goal. But weight lifting has helped me overall as well. I feel so much stronger. I have better cardiovascular health (I can run more now, without getting as breathless, though I will never be a runner). Most of all, my strength (and consequently my health) has become a priority. I won’t overeat on carbs because I need room in my diet for the proteins my muscles need, for the proteins that will make me able to lift more next time. I wake up in the morning thinking of the exercises I will do today, I literally can’t wait to hit the gym. I don’t overtrain, and I try to get the right amount of sleep, because if I abuse my body I won’t be able to build the strength I’m aiming for. So my overall fitness has improved because of weight training.
Again, different strokes for different folks, but considering the benefits (less time, better results, so much strength) I really, honestly believe there need to be more women in the gym lifting weights. If this blog post convinces even a few more to try lifting then I will consider it a success.
Regardless, see you in the gym tomorrow! And see you guys soon ❤