In the summer of 2017, I agreed to do six weeks of personal training as a weightlifting introduction to an article.
I’ve always been trying different things as a lifestyle journalist, but it was mostly fleeting interests in content.
Strength training, however, was different. When I agreed to write this article, I had no idea it would spark a passion that would become a lifestyle.
I never had barbells when I started, and although I loved dancing and netball as a teenager, I didn’t consider myself a “fit person.” Occasionally I would subject myself to a boring task on the cardio machine.
But five years later, discovering strength training has changed not only my body, but my whole life. Fitness is now my major as a journalist, I have a healthy relationship with food, and I’m also stronger, fitter and leaner.
“Resistance training is key to nearly every training goal,” personal trainer Luke Worthington previously told Insider.
I’ve been lifting weights constantly for five years and it makes me feel strong, and instead of seeing exercise as a punishment, I’m excited to go to the gym.
I learned valuable lessons along the way that would have helped me when I started, including this exercise alone won’t make you lose a significant amount of fat, and there is no such thing as “toning”.
1. Overestimating exercise for fat loss
Despite working out more than ever, I haven’t lost weight for nearly two years in my fitness journey. She actually gained weight, and while some had muscle, he was also fat. I was simply eating (and drinking) a lot.
I didn’t lose fat until I taught myself to eat calories and cut back on overeating. Strength training and eating a high protein diet helped me maintain muscle, too.
After losing body fat and dropping 35 pounds, people mistakenly assumed I was getting fit. But I was really strong (I could lift a killer weight of 255 lbs), I didn’t fit the image most people associate with someone who works out.
Personal trainer Graeme Tomlinson previously told Insider that formal exercise only makes up 5-10% of the calories the average person burns in a day. This is why I train to get stronger, fitter and empower myself, not to burn calories – if I want to lose fat, I aim for a calorie deficit in my diet.
2. Lifting weights doesn’t make you bulky
Contrary to a common misconception, lifting weights does not automatically make a woman “bulky.” Building muscle is actually a difficult and slow process, especially if you don’t eat in excess of calories.
“If you’re doing it three times a week, the muscle gain won’t be noticeable to most people,” personal trainer Sarah Carr previously told Insider.
Weightlifters’ physique is the result of hard training and personalized nutrition, Carr said, and genes play a role, too.
Five years later, I love the muscles I have and I’m still bulkier.
3. Toning is a myth
Lifting heavy weights can help create the “symmetric” fitness that many women aspire to. But it’s a myth that muscles can contract – they only grow or contract.
Personal trainer Pete Gerasimo previously told Insider that a “toned” appearance basically means having some muscle mass, and low enough fat to see.
The way to achieve this is to build muscle through resistance training and lose fat through a slight calorie deficit.
4. Consistency trumps perfection
Not every workout will be great. Some days my training seems harder than others. Sometimes I don’t want to go to the gym at all. But 90% of the time I go, I show up and do something.
Knowing I wouldn’t always feel motivated to train, and would sometimes have to push myself to go to the gym, was key for me to stay consistent and achieve my fitness goals. I don’t beat myself up if I have a light workout sometimes either.
Not only does overtraining help me reach my goals faster and sometimes take an extra day off, but I’ve made progress – and made fitness a part of my lifestyle – by acknowledging that consistency is more important than perfection.
5. Changing your training is fine, but the basics always work
Every time I change my training style (like from a bodybuilding program to a CrossFit-style exercise plan), my body adapts.
This often results in delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which is mistakenly thought of as a sign of effective exercise. So I don’t change my training every month looking for DOMS.
My workouts will always include basic movements such as the squat, the hinge (the deadlift), the push (the bench press), the pull (the pull), the lunge, and the load.
The basics are basics for a reason, Worthington said, and to progress you need to train them consistently, applying progressive overload.
6. Anyone can become a “fitness person”
I used to think ‘People with Fitness’ were born this way, and if I’m not one, there’s no hope.
The past five years have shown me that this is not true.
Finding a way to move that I actively enjoy has changed everything for me. Not everyone will like weightlifting, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a right type of exercise for you. You may not have found it yet.
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