Featured Contributor: Freeplay Magazine
That face that’s made upon opening the refrigerator and knowing something is past its due date: It’s a cringe. That face and those feelings are almost identical to seeing one of these article titles blast across my newsfeed:
“Strong is the New Skinny!”
“Get Sexy! 7 Strength Training Myths Every Woman MUST Know.”
“Lifehack Your Belly Fat by Lifting Weights!”
Let’s prey upon what mass media feels are underlying female insecurities, and… perpetuate them. Right.
Conceptually, I get it. Bone density isn’t sexy. No one really cares about boosting their immune system or improving posture until they’re sick or lying flat on the floor with a lumbar spine in complete spasm. Kicking cholesterol’s ass? Let’s worry about that when we’re senior citizens, right?
I’M WITH YOU. I have been a strength and conditioning coach for well over a decade, and I agree that this above-mentioned traditional medical journal reasoning feels like something “old people” should worry about. Misinformation is, however, on the opposite end of the spectrum from the overly practical angle – lifting weights creates bulk, it’s only for competitive athletes, it will create perpetual soreness, it can help you spot tone, etc. Simply stated, we are inundated with either confusing, untrue, or under compelling messaging.
I’d like to offer a completely different angle on these misguided headlines. I work almost exclusively with endurance athletes, and although I would never gloss over a decreased risk of diabetes, lowered blood pressure, or increased metabolism, I think that for the active, likely time-maximized female, we can do better with both education and promotion:
1) Feasibility: Strength training is a shortcut for people who like to “get it done.” Give me a thoughtful 15 minutes in the weight room, and I guarantee I can far exceed the neuromuscular adaptations of a one-hour run or ride.
2) Longevity: How does your body tell you that stability is poor and/or strength is insufficient? Loss of mobility, pain, and stress-related injuries. We all want to “play” later in life and honestly compete at a level that makes us feel amazing. Strength training is that solution.
3) Durability: There are two kinds of athletes – ones who are persistent and ones who are consistent. While I don’t want this article to be specifically directed at athletes, the fact is that if you are reading this, you are likely just that. Active people do not like starts and stops in their routine. That niggle that pops up every few weeks after a long run and requires a few days off? Feeling like “finishing strong” doesn’t happen that often any more? Chances are a loss of form and/or muscular tension is to blame. Strength training will not only help to maintain a higher level of performance during activity, but it also will help create consistency from day-to-day performances.
4) Adaptability: The most important benefit as an endurance athlete, someone who is regularly active, or for that weekend warrior to be able to anticipate the unexpected and respond to what might be otherwise "untrained" prior to activity or performance. Yes, strength training will help you crush that 3-legged footrace at your company picnic just as effectively as it will allow you to jump into that last minute Turkey Trot with your brother-in-law on Thanksgiving morning – better performance, greater endurance, and at a lessened risk of injury.
To sum it up? Strength training is about moving better, longer, and whenever you want in a manner that is both predictable and consistent. Start strength training, and I guarantee you will begin to know your body in ways that are both new and exciting. It IS a shortcut to fitness, completely complementary to existing training schedules, and incredibly impactful to our overall health and wellness for when we “get old.”
…whatever that is. For more thoughts in the strength training space and specifically for endurance athletes, please join the conversation at www.kateligler.com.