When it comes to women’s fitness, strength training is becoming more and more accepted as a necessity. Clients tell me their doctors are actually prescribing it as part of a healthy lifestyle. To this I say yay! However, weight training comes with trepidation for many, especially women who are new to this form of exercise. Sure they may be avid gym-goers, but the mystery and fear surrounding weights can oftentimes delay folks in getting started. Even those with experience have reservations due to their age, low mojo status or lack of programming knowledge.
For the DIY-ers out there the internet is loaded with workout plans, but without specific guidance around form and injury prevention they’re sketchy at best. I’m here to give you that guidance if you’re ready to get started lifting responsibly. My advice to avoid injury with your workouts is straightforward, but not always intuitive. Let’s take a walk through them so you can feel good about getting stronger!
- Start simple. The fitness industry thrives on shiny new things. New equipment, new protocols and new programs can get complicated quick and may be tough to perform correctly. Pick one workout plan and perfect the exercises in that plan before adding any other moves. I don’t care if it’s boring. Get 3 sets of 20 repetitions perfected before you consider progressing or moving on to another exercise.
- Take it easy. In our success-based society we want to master stuff. LOTS of stuff. And FAST. It’s really easy to over do it on a workout. Many times you don’t even feel the damage you’re doing while you’re doing it. That comes several hours or even a day later. Begin with 1 or 2 sets of an exercise and work your way up to 20 repetitions. THEN you can progress to additional volume as you’re ready. This is especially true if you’re out of shape or returning from an illness or injury.
- Go light. If you’re new to an exercise begin with bodyweight, or the lightest weight possible on a machine. Don’t go #beastmode right out of the gate. Take your time and groove the pattern until if feels easy, and you feel confident doing it.
- Plan ahead. If your workout program doesn’t come with instructions customized specifically for you, Google the exercises before you actually do them. Study them and try them out BEFORE your gym workout. Take a few notes to remind yourself of proper form, or even keep a workout journal. Trying new things in front of others for the first time can feel goofy and unsettling. This can then result in rushing through, cheating form or other coping strategies. Get that confidence in your movements before you go prime time in public.
- Get focused. Hone in on the muscle being worked for each exercise as you’re performing it. If you don’t know which muscle that is, you’re missing the whole point. See #4 above. It’s super important to tune your mind in with your movements. Otherwise you may use the wrong muscle, or fall into old patterns of compensation as you move through the exercise.
Eat and sleep. As 2 pillars of holistic health we intellectually know this, but the foundation of our culture is to fundamentally ignore this. The pace of our western lifestyle makes it hard, but HEAR ME NOW. Showing up for workouts bleary-eyed and undernourished will bite you in those glutes you’re thrusting to build. Feeling janky and weak leads to distraction, fatigue and ultimate injury. Get your food and rest in order before your workouts. Period.
- Stay consistent. Doing one workout for a while, then skipping out on it ruins your ability to progress. Lifting the same weight time after time can cause you to get frustrated and push too hard too fast. Do your workouts often enough to see progress. Building strength takes lots and lots of practice.
- Hire a professional. I’m all for self-teaching. That was my approach to my own fitness back in 2011 when I got serious about weight lifting. I used a number of books and articles as my guide and learned a great deal during the process. However, I did end up suffering a few injuries due to lack of knowledge and experience. Having a coach or trainer alongside you can offer a perspective you’ll never have on your own. Plus, you may unwittingly sabotage your progress with your own biases and lack of drive or motivation. A personal trainer’s job is to push you and correct or optimize movements. Customization of a workout plan for your needs and ability is a smart way to go
The cool part about starting a weight training program is that anyone can do it, and at any age. It is never EVER too late. The key is to take your time, focus on the task at hand and stay consistent. You’ll get there without fear, and most importantly without crutches.