If you’re a regular reader of our blog (thank you), you will have seen a few posts recently about what CrossFit is and how it can help you. If you’re a new reader (welcome!!), hopefully you’ve had a bit of a wander around the site and looked at some of the other blog topics we’ve posted.
Last week we talked about how CrossFit can help you to build strength. Since then, a few people have commented that they are interested in CrossFit but don’t want to lift weights. Without a doubt, the most common comment from women is generally some variation of “I don’t want to get bulky.”
Let’s be clear about one thing: everyone should be doing weight training. Men and women.
Unless you’re taking steroids it’s unlikely that weight training will make women look like men. Biologically and physiologically we are extremely different. Men naturally have higher levels testosterone and more muscle mass than women. Men often want to increase the size of their muscles. They do this by adding extra weight to their training programs and eating a diet intended to support muscle growth. For women, combining cardio and strength training will actually help you to look leaner and will visually elongate your body as you get stronger. Muscles burn fat. The stronger your muscles are, the more fat they will burn. And, the more fat we burn the leaner we become.
In other words: strong bodies make everyday life easier. Whether it’s carrying our kids, shopping, or laundry baskets, or whatever it is that we get up to in our daily lives; increased muscle strength makes it easier to move. Do you grunt when you bend down to tie your shoe laces? Do you push, pull, drag, or grip anything at all during the day? Strength training helps with all of this. Stronger muscles mean more protection around your joints, which translates to less aches, pains, and strains. It means that we can keep up with our kids, our dogs, our partners, and our jobs. Increased strength leads to increased movement, which leads to increased incidental fat loss and a better quality of life.
Strength training improves bone density. What does this mean? It means that as we get older we are less prone to breaking our bones from minor falls or bumps. Building and maintaining lean muscle improves our motor performance which decreases our risk of injury by enhancing the strength of connective tissues, muscles, and tendons. Working on overall muscle strength and improving your balance is important, particularly as we age. Even putting our impending old age in the ‘that-won’t-happen-to-me’ box – being strong has short term benefits, too.
To be perfectly honest, I had similar misconceptions about lifting weights. I wanted to lose weight. I wanted to be slimmer. When I started CrossFit I could barely manage a 5kg dumbbell shoulder press (and I’d try to sneak the 4kg dumbbells). Now, I’m doing a 10kg shoulder press and I want to go heavier. My shoulders look better than they’ve looked in over a decade and my body feels strong. I can walk my dog up a hill without having to slow down or struggle to get my legs moving on the incline. Make no mistake: strong feels good. Strong feels fun. Strong feels healthy. I challenge you to give it a go. If you hate it, stop. But I bet you’ll love how you feel and will wonder why you ever avoided lifting weights in the first place.