I have been strength training for over 20 years and it has been instrumental in building my strength, power and mental fitness to perform various activities over the years, such as triathlons, 200km bike rides, 10km runs, half marathons and the big one – marathon!
Strength training, in my late 40’s, keeps me strong, fit and healthy to keep participating in running and cycling events and just to maintain overall health and fitness for the fabulous life that I have.
Why should you do strength training?
Strength training is a key component for overall health and fitness for all of us.
Our muscles are something that we depend on for everything that we do every single day of our lives. They work when we sit, stand, bend, walk, run, climb stairs and so on. Our muscle mass will naturally diminish with age, so if we don’t make a conscious effort to train our muscles, they will weaken and weakened muscles will compromise our ability to do those activities.
We all know that aerobic exercise benefits the cardiovascular system for a healthy heart, but strength training will enhance those wonderful years for a fuller better life to help keep you fit, active and self-reliant for the long term. It may even add years to our lives!
What are the benefits of strength training?
There are a number of benefits from strength training and here are what I think are some of the important reasons why you should start:
- Strength training strengthens the muscles that will lead to stronger bones and can help minimise the risk of fractures due to osteoporosis.
- You are able to control your weight because as you gain muscle, your body will begin to burn calories more efficiently which is the best way to reduce and control weight.
- As you get stronger, your stamina will improve and you won’t fatigue as easily. It is also valuable for regaining and maintaining muscle power and improving mobility, agility, endurance and balance, which can help maintain your independence when you get older.
- Strength training can help manage chronic conditions by reducing the signs and symptoms of many chronic conditions, including back pain, arthritis, obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
Where do I start?
Doctor or health professional approval. The first thing to do if you have any health issues is to seek your doctor or health professional’s approval to begin a strength training program.
Strength training can be done at home or in the gym. There are different forms that you can choose:
- Using your body weight – this can be done anywhere with little or no equipment. You can do pushups, pull-ups, abdominal crunches, lunges and leg squats to name a few.
- Resistance bands – resistance bands are lightweight and provide resistance when stretched. These are great if you travel a lot, as you can take them with you.
- Free weights – the most common training tools are barbells and dumbbells.
- Weight machines – if you are a member of fitness centre, you will see various resistance machines available. These can also be purchased for your own to use at home.
Choose your weight or resistance. The weight should be heavy enough to tire your muscles after about 12 repetitions. Once you can easily do more repetitions of a certain exercise, you can gradually increase the weight or resistance (on the 12th repetition you should just barely be able to finish the motion).
Recovery. Rest one full day between exercising each specific muscle group to give your muscles time to recover.
Listen to your body. You will feel mild muscle soreness after training a muscle, but if you experience sharp pain or sore or swollen joints, this could be a sign that you have overdone it.
When will I see results?
A common question is, when will I see results? Well, you don’t need to spend hours a day lifting weights to benefit from strength training, that’s for sure. Two to three sessions lasting 20 to 30 minutes should be enough for most people. Your body will start to adapt to the stress of weight training immediately after a session, however, this does not mean you’ll visibly see results right away.
Results from strength training will depend on your body type, fitness level and age. You may see results six to eights weeks after starting to train, but for some it may take a while longer. You will, however, see results to your strength and stamina quite quickly. So don’t be discouraged because you don’t see results overnight, keep going and it will pay off!
Once strength training has become part of your healthy life you can continue to see results by varying your workouts and continuing to increase weight so you are constantly challenged. Do strength training regularly and the results will continue.
(Image credit: http://www.chicagonow.com)