2 – More exercise requires more calories. I don’t count calories and I honestly think people should stop obsessing over them all together! It seems the word “Calorie” has become a vulgar term, when in actuality, it is a simple unit of measurement to determine much energy is stored in food. As you begin a new routine, you will need to give your body quality calories from natural food sources. What happens if you don’t eat enough calories? The most immediate signs of calorie-deficiency are irritability, mood swings, inability to concentrate, dizziness, lethargy/lack of energy, headaches, and obsessive thoughts about food. If you continue to deprive your body of calories over a few weeks, you will eventually notice bloating, weight gain, and fat gain as your body assumes you are in a state of starvation. Your body is set up with a survival mechanism to store fat and water in the event of starvation so that it can use those stored calories when the food runs out. In the event of a true starvation emergency, your body will begin to break down muscle tissue for sustenance. So if you want to see fat loss and muscle gain with your exercise routine, stop depriving your body of food.
3 – Weight lifting isn’t going to make you “manly”. This myth is my least favorite conversation to hear among females. “I don’t lift weights because I don’t want to get big, manly muscles.” First: your female body creates estrogen, so you aren’t going to become manly unless you start using steroids and estrogen-blockers. Second: It’s time to stop focusing on looks and start focusing on abilities and accomplishments. Do you want to be able to climb stairs on your own until you’re 95 years old? Build those muscles NOW. Third: If you want to lose that belly fat, the chunky thighs, and jiggly arms, you need to lifts weights. Cardio exercise alone will likely not accomplish your weight-loss or fat-loss goals. Finally: the way you lift weights is going to dictate how “big” your muscles get. Lifting lower weight at high reps aids in muscle hypertrophy (muscle growth) moreso than lifting heavy weight at low reps. What does that mean? Ditch the 10-lb weight that you can lift 20 times and go for the 30-lb weight that you can lift 6 times.
4 – Sometimes weight rooms can be scary. There are often more men than women in a weight room, so I totally understand how it can make you feel out of place. Men seem to congregate in weight rooms so they can take off their shirts and sweat and grunt together. After years of working out in co-ed gyms, I have discovered a few secrets. There are a lot of people who have no idea what they’re doing. An experienced eye can tell a new-comer by their flawed form or weight-lifting technique or how they confusingly dawdle about the room. You’re not alone; everyone is the newbie at some point. The big, hairy men that intimidate you are also intimidated by you! Why do you think men work out? To build a physique that will attract a suitable partner! Males have self-esteem and body issues just as often as females do, so go easy on them. Still scared to go alone? You will be much better off if you have an experienced friend or coach go with you until you become more comfortable. It’s important that you feel welcomed by your weight-lifting environment so you are more likely to keep a routine.
5 – Some fitness centers offer weight-training classes. If you are wary of navigating a weight room by yourself, go check out some classes first. You can be an anonymous face in a group of other first-timers, and you can arrive early or stay later to ask specific questions from the instructor. Another good option is to hire a personal trainer to help you learn the ropes. A personal trainer will be able to help you form healthy and realistic goals, then they will build your workouts for you and lead you through the exercise so you can practice safe techniques. If you have specific questions, you can ask them without fear of being ridiculed.
6 – Practice good form. It really doesn’t matter how many repetitions you can complete if you’re doing them all wrong. More than likely, bad form leads to injury which leads to bad form. A seemingly minor injury can snowball into a chronic or long-term problem quicker than you think. Start practicing safe weight-lifting techniques from the beginning and you will be much better off.
7 – Set attainable goals and carry a workout log. Any time you hit the gym, have a notebook with you. The first page should be your goals; short-term goals can be completed in 1-6 months and long-term goals can be completed in 6 months or longer. You should always state a goal, even if it’s “to maintain” a current ability. Write down every workout you do and ensure that all of your workouts lead back to your goal. Adding a section for notes is helpful as thoughts pop in and out of your head during workouts. Jot down if you liked an exercise, if you created a new goal, or if you just had something to keep in mind for the next workout.
8 – Practice active recovery and soft-tissue work. You will probably notice that you become sore the day after a workout. Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) occurs as your muscle tissue builds up lactic acid during a workout, inflaming the muscle fibers and causing sore muscles a few hours post-workout. To help reduce the soreness and stiffness associated with DOMS, get into the habit of practicing soft-tissue work by stretching and foam-rolling after your workout. The peak time to foam-roll your muscles is 2-3 hours after you work out to eliminate the most lactic acid from your muscle tissue. The next day when you feel sore from DOMS, practice active recovery and get moving to help the body filter the lactic acid out of your muscles. Active recovery can be as simple as taking a walk or as intense as a hearty yoga session.
9 – Don’t obsess over the scale. Muscle is extremely dense tissue, and as such, it weighs more than fat. A healthy musculature might weigh more, but it is also more aesthetically pleasing, in my opinion! Don’t weigh yourself every day out of an obsession over the number on the scale – in fact – just throw your scale out. Mental stress releases a hormone called cortisol, and cortisol increases body fat. The stressful mentality that is created by constantly checking on weight is counter-intuitive to working out, is it not? Stop looking at yourself as a number. Your worth is not defined by what you weigh. Instead of checking your weight, go take a walk. Talk to a good friend. Get out of the house and out of your own head.
10 – Have fun with it. You will be more likely to continue a routine that you genuinely enjoy, so have fun with your weight-lifting! Take a friend, try out some new classes, or create a challenging goal to strive for through exercise. It’s perfectly okay to like a certain exercise more than another. If you love squats, but hate lunges, then do more squats. No matter what you do, be safe, have fun, and enjoy yourself.