Tag Archives: Strength training

Women’s Rights

Be warned: this might turn into a rant.

Today was my last day working out in London while I was home to visit family. While the gym I was temporarily using does offer a women’s only area, I didn’t think twice about it before heading out to the gym floor. The main gym is hardly co-ed as it was filled with guys working out in small groups and walking around like they expected girls to ask for their autographs. If you aren’t looking at them then they will stare you down in the mirrors until you do. These guys just reinforce why women deserve a private area to wear their stretchy pants.

At my gym in Toronto, there is no option for a women’s only area. The ladies who don’t feel comfortable in front of the men are relegated to stick to the cardio machines, or let their attendance slowly drop off. Women brave enough to trek into the free weights risk the careful watch of creeping men or the ignorant looks from those who consider them flawless at their “gym ratting” ways. I do see the benefit of offering a separated option in a gym, but if it is done right.

The New Years resolution crowds must have got a head start on January because all of the benches were full, all of the cables were taken, and training partners were eager to step in. So I did a lap and ended up in the women’s area.

I have previously expressed my frustration at women working out differently than men (waving 2.5lb dumbbells at their reflection in the mirror) but as I entered the women’s section I realized that we are set up for it. This area was primarily cardio machines and I had to dig through a pile of mats to find the single Olympic barbell in the place (no joke). Even if you can scout out the barbell, there is no squat rack, and there were only 5 or 6 renegade plates from the co-ed section. The machines looked like they were plastic and I expected to see “Playskool” covered up somewhere. This room begs you to ride an elliptical from any of the endless aisles of cardio that dominate the space, and overlook the mess in the corner (attempted “free weight” section).

Let’s give women some cables and some benches, and some direction as to what would be most valuable to women in the gym. As much as I appreciated being alone with the free weights, it was ridiculous how many women were just doing steady state cardio. Hey, who knows, maybe they are training to become long distance elliptical riders in which case I support their training. In all fairness, maybe they are just doing a cardio day. I know from working in a gym that too many women neglect resistance training, and I am just trying to make a point here. Check out what I wrote earlier (not in a rant): Annie Get Your Guns.

Women are absolutely different than men and this does require some minor changes in training, however, this does not mean in any way that a woman is restricted from going heavier than 5lb dumbbells. Next time you see someone who has a body similar to your “goal self”, ask them how they got there. I would be shocked if anyone said “mindless hours of cardio!” I am not biased at all…. however I have science on my team.

The best advice I can give someone (over blog): get a trainer for a short period of time and learn all you can. Ask lots of questions and pay attention. Show up early, warm up on your own, and cool down on your own. Then follow their advice!!

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Squat a Lot

Back to the weights today!

It is a rainy day in Toronto and nothing cures the blues like squats. My bony post-surgery shoulder isn’t a big fan of the barbell but somehow the blasting dance music and the adrenaline of pushing weight rules that out.

I worked out today in the middle of the afternoon; that awkward lull when lunch is past, the trophy wives are done their parade, and the 9 to 5’ers aren’t out yet. This is my favourite part of my job. Actually, this is not part of my job. This is the time when the trainers come out to play. We almost all have breaks here so our overlapping workouts are a chance for us to hang out, but more importantly, show off. I weigh much less, and I am substantially not as strong (I am up against men let’s be serious), but trust me I promote my gains more than anyone. I let everyone know how much I was squatting as I moon walked through the gym floor, shouting out my stats, and giving them all the wink and the gun.

Today I did German volume training… which probably means I need to hang out females more often. 10 sets of 10 barbell squats, then walking lunges, hamstring curls, and knee extensions. Terrible facial expressions and weird sound effects included. By the time I finished, my excitement and shameless self promotion was reduced to bending over and panting with a  little bit of walking like a cowboy. It was all worth it though because today was another first! The first day I have added weight to a barbell squat in over a year. Not necessarily my best decision to combine it with so many reps but things were feeling good. If I am problem- free tomorrow then that means that it is time to squat! A lot!

This seems to be what happens to me when I work out with the guys. I forget about my limitations, and for the most part, that is a good thing.

K is three weeks out from a figure competition and more concerned with caloric intake than anyone I have ever met. I had never seen anyone use a calculator to decide if he could eat an almond or not, but he is 4% body fat so I will let it go. When we workout together I am the official Instagram photographer (you’re welcome ladies) but it is worth it because the high intensity is contagious. It was almost too good of a workout considering that it is 7pm and I can barely stay awake. As a bonus, seeing him practise his poses and giving himself seducing smiles in the mirror makes me laugh so hard that is the only ab workout I will ever need.

Depending on if I can walk tomorrow, I think this may have been leaps and bounds for my progress in the gym!

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Annie Get Your Guns

Okay, enough already. Women can lift (and they should). Strong is the new skinny, my friend.

Stop waving your 2.5lb dumbbells around and wondering why your flab is getting flabbier. Here is a completely scientific argument (okay it is based on science) listing why women are just as tough as men and have even more reasons to pump some iron. It is okay to sweat and it is okay to grunt, and most of all it is okay to try something new when your strategy isn’t working. I challenge you to avoid the treadmill for a few sessions and get out of your routine. Here are the best 10 reasons for women to lift:

1. Burn that flab! Bigger muscles burn more calories and the workout will boost your metabolism!
2. Get toned! You do not have the testosterone of a man, you will not get all jacked up. Trust me I have tried.
3. Help fight injuries! Learn proper form and strengthen your body to help protect joints.
4. Burn more calories! Research shows more calories burned post workout versus a cardio workout.
5. Get stronger! Build muscle for endurance, strength, or power.
6. Lose that belly fat! …. you know crunches don’t work so just stop.
7. Feel confident! This is a high that is legal, healthy, and free!
8. Fight osteoporosis! Particularly in post menopausal women, fight bone loss!
9. Get out of your comfort zone!  If you need to read why you should be lifting, you probably aren’t.
10. Get the body you really want.

I hope the exclamation marks got my point across.

If another woman tells me that they don’t lift heavy because they don’t want to get bulky then maybe I will have to start considering that all of these women know the secrets of bodybuilding. Until then, I will believe that strength training is largely misunderstood.

“The myth that women shouldn’t lift heavy is only perpetuated by women who fear work and men who fear women.” – Source Unknown

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