By LISA RAMBO
Through the double wooden doors of Pewaukee-based West Wood Health and Fitness and beyond the aerobic studios and cardio machines is an intimidating, hardcore weight room. Seriousness can be sensed in the air. Across the black, rubberized floor and past a dozen or so masculine brutes is Diane Strauss, who has been a member for 14 years but is new to the weight room area. She places her dumbbells back on the rack.
“I can’t believe how my body tone has improved since I added lifting to my aerobic workout!” Strauss said.
Until recently, resistance training was considered a man’s endeavor. Women shied away from resistance training because they believed many of the negative fallacies and myths that were associated with it.
For example, resistance training was believed to result in a bulky, mannish figure. However, without a large amount of testosterone, a woman will see more toning than bulking.
“Women have about 15 to 20 times less testosterone than men. Since testosterone is essential for muscle-building, women cannot get as big as men,” said Bill Kraemer, author of “Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning.”
Another popular untruth was that one will become “fat” due to the need to eat more to “feed” the newfound muscle that results from resistance training.
“Muscle burns calories, and the more muscle you have in your body, the more calories you will need to sustain it and therefore the higher your metabolic rate will be,” according to Patrick Dale, a contributor to Ultra-FIT magazine.
One might argue that Dale’s statement actually says that one who resistance trains will need more calories, and thus, should eat more, right? Wrong. Dale explains that resistance training doesn’t give one the ability to eat whatever and whenever. The increased metabolism that results from resistance training should be paired with a balanced diet, which will cause the body to use its fat stores for energies, resulting in fat loss.
If you’re sold on the idea of incorporating resistance training into your lifestyle, you’ll want to know how to begin. First, get the blessing of your physician, especially if you have any preexisting conditions or limitations.
Then, to become familiar with proper form, exercise options, and equipment choices, enlist the help of a personal trainer, attend group fitness classes, or if funds are low, get sample programs from fitness magazines, such as Muscle and Fitness Hers, Shape, or Women’s Fitness, or check out DVDs from your local library.
“Good form and technique are extremely important to prevent injury and to get the desired results,” said Kathryn Remer, wellness coordinator at Waukesha County Technical College.
The more exercises and equipment that you become familiar with, the more varied your workouts can be. A wide variety of options will not only keep you interested and motivated, but will provide you with the tools to challenge your body for more striking results.
“Muscles ‘learn’ activities and movements,” Remer added. “If exercises do not challenge the muscle, then there is no gain.”
Variation of your training routine can be achieved in numerous ways: 1) alternating the equipment used; 2) changing the amount of resistance; 3) varying the number of repetitions; 4) completing exercises at different durations and pace; and 5) performing exercises in a different order.
Another important point is to practice moderation.
“Start slow. Do not become overzealous and try to do too much too soon,” cautioned Anne Barber, fitness coordinator at West Wood Health and Fitness. “Your body needs to slowly adapt to your new resistance training program. Your muscles may be sore in the beginning stages of your program but will lessen as your body and muscles adapt.”
A full-body workout should consist of no more than 8-10 exercises that work the major muscle groups, and each exercise should consist of 8-12 repetitions. Do not work the same muscle groups in consecutive days since building muscle requires recovery time.
“Workouts should be scheduled with one or two days off in between to allow your muscles to repair and rebuild,” Barber said.
This repair and rebuild phenomenon that happens within strengthens back and abdominal muscles, which helps alleviate postural abnormalities common to women because of their natural tendency towards excessive mobility and flexibility. Additionally, good posture improves overall appearance and helps alleviate back, neck, and joint pain, Dale explained.
Another impressive benefit as claimed by The American College of Sports Medicine is that resistance training slows bone loss and the onset of osteoporosis, a common condition in women.
The good news is that you can begin a resistance program right here at Mount Mary. Located in the Bloechl Recreation Center, the fitness center has equipment to help you tone and strengthen. Non-credit fitness classes are also regularly offered.