What best, after a post on the merits of meditation, than a post on the merits of the gym?
Mind... body... we've come full circle! Mens sana in corpore sano!
After all, the puzzle of fitness, health and well-being is not complete without some strength training. Lifting weights (or working with machines, or your own body weight) goes hand in hand with the other health/fitness/wellness inducing habits of yoga, meditation, clean nutrition, cardiovascular training and stretching/mobility work. Remove one from the equation, and you drastically lower the benefits for your health... mental and physical.
Strength training, unfortunately, too often is the poor stepchild of fitness in women. A combination of a general lack of confidence regarding strength work and a fear that it will make them bulk up scares many women away from the "weight section" at the gym, relegating them to the "cardio section".
Yet, strength work has so many benefits (including the fact that it protects your bones and joints... and liberates you from having to ask a guy whenever you need to lift something heavy!) that you should not hesitate a second before incorporating it to your schedule. As for the "bulking up phobia", it's unfounded: unless they take questionable "supplements" and/or work out 8 hours a day, women do not become huge from strength training. They become ripped, with "nice cuts". That's very different.
When you look at pictures of strong women, remember they are taking the pose that makes their muscles the most apparent (not to mention all the prep they go through before a show, to make everything pop out!) In the "normal" poses and postures of daily life, very few women look like the Incredible Hulk!
As for me, I genuinely enjoy strength work for its own sake. I have done a lot of it in the past year, having just completed twelve months of personal training at the gym. I already loved to work out there, but felt I needed a little help. Other than finally managing to run a half-marathon pain free and generally increasing both my strength and mobility, I have also witnessed changes for the better in the way I look.
My personal trainer (A), excited, told me it was time to take "after" pictures! So we did.
On that same week we took the pictures, a fellow blogger that I admire (she can bench press 160 lb), Marion at http://affectionforfitness.blogspot.ca/, promised to post some pictures of herself at the gym. A few other bloggers I know already do (for example, Jody at http://truth2beingfit.com/2013/03/26/thigh-gap-obsession---not-again.aspx) and I can say it's inspiring.
So I figured I could do it too, at least once...
Now, I have to admit I am not totally comfortable with posting gym/muscle pictures of myself. It feels vain. Show-off. Superficial. (Funny thing is that I don't feel that way when others post pictures of themselves at the gym! Guess we're always harsher on ourselves!)
It might have to do with the fact that some twenty years ago, a girl once told me I was a "body worshiper". The cult of the body was certainly not something I wanted to become central to my life - it sounded way too shallow - so from then on I was very careful with that topic.
Many years later, and after spending a total of about three years and a half either pregnant or nursing, my body was not what it had been, unfortunately. But surprise! I discovered that once you've been overweight, you're allowed to boast about your looks when they improve.
At some point, however, the improvement can stall. You can hit a frustrating plateau. This is why, after long deliberations, I finally decided to hire a personal trainer, A, in April of 2012. I was hoping she would help me 1) get rid of the recurring injuries that kept me from running a half-marathon 2) get rid of the couple of pounds I still had on thanks to the joys of maternity.
What I've gained during those 12 months was much more than nicer looks. I FEEL fantastic. My body is at my beck and call. Whatever I ask from it, it does it without a flinch. No more pain and aches, no more "out-of-breathness". I have energy, and not just physical. Mental, too. I feel like I can conquer the world.
The rest, my external appearance, is just the cherry on top.
This week I had my last session with A. I thought if there was ever a good time to post gym pictures of myself, it would be now! So here I am, proud to weigh exactly what I used to weigh before I had kids, probably stronger, and definitely in the best overall shape of my life - my recent half-marathon is proof!
(Please be indulgent on the facial expressions as it's hard to keep smiling naturally when holding weights/poses for a while!)
|Upper body - Front|
This one was taken at home as a joke
for those who told me I had big shoulders
in my "normal", relaxed pose!
|Upper body - Back|
Too much stamina makes a picture blurry!
You can't see the cuts in the quads all that well...
Should I dehydrate myself and try again?!?
|The whole package|
(What's with the pi**ed off face anyways?!?)
Just don't mess with that girl, okay?
Unless you want to know
what a kettlebell sandwich tastes like.
In any case, I'm ready to play in a Kill Bill sequel!
Let those pictures be my commitment to you, readers, that I will keep up the good work on my own, now that the personal training is over. (I feel like a little bird who's just been kicked out of the nest; I know I can fly, but I'm still afraid to fall!)
What physical accomplishments are you proud of, and what is your next goal?