The myths about resistance training for women do not ever seem to go away, and in Middle Eastern cultures, they tend to have negative connotations. The image that tends to come to my mind is that of a professional female bodybuilder with bulging biceps, and rippling veins crisscrossing an over-developed chest. Unfortunately, many of these women use anabolic steroids along with other ‘magic’ drugs in order to achieve that degree of muscularity. More unfortunately, is that this image is far too often the reason women don’t engage in appropriate and beneficial resistance training.
I must confess: once upon a time I did believe that weight training would rob me of the things that made me feminine, and indeed make me look “manly”. I was what the fitness industry calls a “cardio junky”–6 times a week I would climb onto the treadmill and for the next hour-and-a-half run myself ragged, burning out my muscles and dehydrating my body in the process. What happened next should come as no surprise. With such a high-intensity workout, and no muscle tone to support it, I ended up with a severely strained hip flexor (would wake up in the middle of the pain because of the burning session in my hip flexor). And the worst part was that I ignored it–a strained hip flexor graduated into hip flexor shortening (which is a fancy way of saying I limped all the time). A few months later, and as the pain steadily became more intense, and as a consequence of the hip flexor shortening, I began to experience lower back pain. I finally visited a physician, and was banned from any cardio workout. My life was over. I was told being 23 years old and experience that level of pain was too soon.
If there is a physiotherapist in Abu Dhabi worth mentioning, I probably saw them. Ultrasound, acupuncture, electrotherapy, massage–I did it all. To be fair, the doctors and therapists did help relieve some of the pain, but the real recovery work was something I had to do myself. It made sense: I broke my body, I should fix it. I was told I needed to engage in suitable resistance training in order to strengthen some of the weak muscles around my hips. So I started looking online for an appropriate weight lifting program for beginners. I ended up falling in love with “Jamie Eason’s Live Fit Trainer” (available at http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/jamie-eason-livefit-trainer.html) . It’s a 3 phase program spread over 12 weeks; once you sign up, you will receive your weekly training program along with tutorial videos. Overall, a great way to enter into the world of weightlifting.
That was all over a year ago, and since then, I have become fully immersed in resistance training and am living relatively pain-free. I am exploring and experimenting with new weight-lifting programs (I just completed Arnold Schwarzenegger’s), and also began incorporating other types of workouts into my fitness program (Pilates and yin yoga for example). It has been a fun journey and still continues to be; the feeling of raw strength that weight training awards you is something we should all experience. More importantly, we should consider that in engaging in resistance based training, we are breaking the myths about female weightlifting (Madonna arms aren’t such a bad thing after all).
For those readers who we have managed to capture the attention of, I would note a couple of points of caution:
- Form is first. I highly recommend you watch videos online, especially if you are new to lifting weights. You do not want to start the program by injuring yourself due to poor form. No matter what you do, DO NOT COMPROMISE FORM FOR SPEED
- Do not start lifting heavy; get comfortable with a light set of weights and gradually increase the weight as needed (I increased 10% every other week).
- If you feel more comfortable with expert supervision (and the budget allows it) consider hiring a personal trainer–Abu Dhabi has plenty to offer in this area.
Lastly, I must say that I still haven’t reached my ideal fitness goals, though I am well on my way, and in reality, achieving our goals is only the first step–maintaining our overall fitness is the hard part. Whether you are trying to cope with an injury, or trying to improve your overall wellbeing, it requires a complete and honest evaluation of your lifestyle. I sincerely hope that you let Sarah and I help you in beginning your journey to become Fit Nuts.