So I've promised to tell you how I got started with weight lifting and why I’ll never go back.
We’ve all been there. You’re at the gym mindlessly bouncing away on the elliptical, looking longingly over at the free weights section. The “boy” section. The area with the big, scary mirrors where everyone admires their huge, bulging biceps that you don’t have.
Calm down. It’s going to be okay.
You think people are going to pay way more attention to you than they actually are—don’t flatter yourself. HA just kidding… but seriously. Unless you’re doing some super awkward move that doesn’t exist, no one is going to think, “that girl doesn’t belong over here”.
Get Started with a Program
When I first started strength training years ago, I eased into it very slowly. I started out just using the assisted weight machines and did a random combination of machines on any given day. And I didn’t challenge myself. There was no structure whatsoever to my routine. The more I learned in my exercise phys/kinesiology classes in college, the more adventurous I wanted to be in the weight room.
My future sister in law told me about Jamie Eason’s LiveFit Trainer program on BodyBuilding.com. If you don’t know who Jamie Eason is, she’s an adorable personal trainer and fitness model. I like to pretend I’m her just because we both have short, blonde hair. She’s only 5x as ripped as me.
Anyway, she has weight lifting programs for people just like us—it includes Phases 1, 2 and 3. The program splits up your workouts so you focus on specific muscle groups each day. For example, chest/triceps exercises Monday, legs on Tuesday, shoulders/abs on Wednesday. You get the idea. As you progress through the phases, the workouts get more difficult and begin to add in more strength training days ad cardio.
Check out this link to browse through the phases and see what I’m talking about.
This program helped me get started because it added some structure to my lifting routine, and gave me more ideas on exercises to do to target certain muscles. The website even provides example videos of how to do the workouts if you’re unsure. Jamie provides a lot of great workout advice and motivation, as well as some diet advice.
I’m not going to say I fully support the nutrition piece. She recommends eating five to six meals a day, which works great for some people, but not for others. It all depends on the individual and his/her goals; you would really need to plan what you’re going to have at each “meal” if you’re going to eat that frequently.
She provides sample food lists, which for the most part include whole, fresh foods, so that’s all good. However, I don’t really agree with her sample meal plans, as some of the meals include just a serving of lean protein and some protein bars, or lean meat and rice cakes. I think eating three well-balanced meals and a few healthy snacks throughout the day is a better way to get all the nutrients you need. THAT’S JUST ME.
So back to lifting. Once you feel confident with the weights and the workouts, you can get more adventurous and start to plan out your own if you want. I always do approximately half cardio and half strength training in my 60-75-minute long workouts. If you look at the website, you might notice that Jamie recommends focusing on JUST lifting at the beginning of her program. I believe it’s beneficial to incorporate both strength and cardio, even if you are just beginning strength training. You can alternate days at first, and slowly begin doing both each time you workout.
Tone Without Bulking Up
If you think lifting weights will make you bulky, think again. It will not make you look like a “body builder” unless that’s what you’re trying to do. Lifting just tones up your muscles and gives you a leaner look that I’m 99 percent positive you’ll be happier with. Ever since I started lifting I look and feel stronger and I have a lot more confidence in my body.
I don’t follow Jamie’s plan anymore, but for me, it was a great way to get started. I like splitting up the muscle groups into different days, because it allows me to really focus on one area of my body at a time. It’s not as beneficial to do a few sets on five random weight machines every day and call it good. [However, if that’s your comfort zone, that is perfectly fine!!]
Strength training is good for your body either way and will help you build muscles – but I challenge you to try something like Jamie’s program and see what you think. I think you’ll see more of the results you’re looking for if you focus on one or two muscle groups at a time, and then give that area of your body a few days to rest until the next time you train it. Letting your muscles recover is an extremely important part of the training process!
Now I love lifting, and I do it [almost] everyday. But when you’re first starting, do it three to two days a week to ease yourself into it. Take a rest day or two in between. Once you feel comfortable, step it up. Add some more weight or extra reps. I like to do three sets of 10 or four sets of eight, but this varies depending on the move and how much weight I’m using.
I’m lucky because I have several men in my life who have been there to help me learn to lift properly. My uncle is a personal trainer, and my brother and boyfriend both love to workout as much as I do. They’ve all helped me learn proper technique for certain lifts and have taught me a ton of new exercises. It’s nice to have someone show you the ropes first so you can practice with them until you feel comfortable on your own.
Once you have the moves down you can confidently march into that weight room and pick up the free weights like you’ve always wanted to do. Soon you’ll love it—especially when you start seeing some definition! Hey, maybe you’ll be the one flexing at yourself in the mirror soon. Just kidding—try not to do that…
I’ve gotten in a bit of a workout rut, so I’m thinking about working some more HIIT/circuit training kinda stuff into my routine. I’ll keep you posted…. 🙂
Follow Shanna Hutcheson @wellnessforthewin