May 24, 2012|
I never used to be strong, muscle-wise. To be honest, I’m not really that strong now. But I’m definitely more muscular than I used to be, and I have to say that it’s the best thing I’ve ever done for my body.
Some people are naturally quite buff. I am not. Walking down a flight of stairs used to be a case of flapping one foot in front of the other and kind of hoping I didn’t fall over. I’d sit down on a chair by flinging myself into the seat, rather than engaging my legs and sitting down slowly. Replacing the water cooler at work was a case of standing around anxiously looking thirsty until someone took it upon themselves to change it for me as I couldn’t trust my back or arm muscles—in fact, I was so unaware of how my own body functioned that it didn’t occur to me that you were supposed to use your back muscles to lift stuff. The weird thing is, I never actually noticed how weak and floppy I was until I started doing some strength training.
I got into it completely by accident. I was actually meant to be going to yoga and I read the class times wrong. Anyway, I had my sneakers, so I figured, why not just stay for Body Pump? I loaded up my barbells (a mighty one kilo per side), found a space in the back of the class… and almost had a panic attack. I hated it. I hated the loud music (you perform a variety of exercises targeting your arms, chest, legs and back to a selection of tracks), the encouraging whoops and yells, and having to stop and adjust my weights as quickly as I could between sets. By the end of the class, my nerves were wrecked and my legs were shaking. The next day I was sore. Like, walking around like a wild-west cowboy and groaning every time I had to stand up—that kind of sore. But it was also a good kind of muscle pain, and it seemed like my body was waking up and saying, “Hello, nice to meet you. Ready to start using me now?”
The second time I went I hated it even more. The group class instructor, perhaps unaware of quite how many years of school sports-related psychological scarring I suffer from, flippantly remarked that I’d “never get bigger muscles working with those donuts,” while gesturing to my sad little weights. I was crushed. Crushed! I sniveled in the shower and resolved never to go back, with as many dramatic, gym bag-flinging histrionics as I could muster.
But I did go back. And you know what? Within a few weeks I swapped my one-kilo donuts for two-and-a-half kilo plates. And from there, I added a bit more on top of that. Now I’m using five kilos per side when I’m exercising my back muscles, and for squats I’m up to 17 kilos—this is six months after those two kilos nearly killed me. It doesn’t sound like much, and it’s nothing compared to a lot of people in the class. But coming from someone whose arms used to get tired holding a hair dryer, I have to say I’m pleased with myself. I’ve even started enjoying the music and I’ve stopped rolling my eyes at the class whoopers and yellers. (In fact, once or twice, I might have whooped a little myself).
Ladies (and gents too, but ladies especially as we often don’t think about strength), if you really want to see a difference in your body, lift some weights. If you find it boring like I do, then join a class. You’ll get toned arms and a hot butt, and you’ll feel like your body’s a well-oiled machine that does what you want, not a slightly hostile, prone-to-malfunctioning vessel with a mind of its own (although maybe that’s just me). Emancipate yourself from having to get the office he-man to change the water cooler for you. Get strong and build some muscles. I promise you won’t regret it.
Most gyms have a Body Pump program; if you’re not a gym member, than there’s no time like the present to sign up for a free trial and start lifting some weights.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow me on Twitter: @sarahefung