I had forgotten the feel of iron in my hands. The rough grooves against my skin; the feeling of strength coursing through my body– through quads, biceps, triceps and more. It’s not that I had stopped working out with weights, just that I had become complacent with working out with lighter weights. Long work hours made it difficult to actually hit the gym on weekdays, and so I opted to work out at home. But the complacency of the weekdays, translated into making excuses for not going to the gym on weekends too. One excuse followed another: A winter storm was forecast. The streets were still packed with snow. It was too cold. I was too tired. It just became easier to also work out at home on weekends too.
Working out at home is a great option in many instances, especially during harsh winter weather, but in my case, even after spring came along and with it warmer days and more hours of sunlight, I still made the excuse to work out at home. After all, I figured, I was still working out, right? And I was still lifting weights? Right again? But unlike some lucky people, I don’t have a full gym in my home or even a semi-full gym.
I had to also face the truth that I wasn’t seeing any progress in my workouts. Not in my strength (which is essential to maintain as I get older!), my fitness level or even my physical development. I was stuck! It was time to get off my butt and go back to doing what I had always loved. Hitting the weights hard and heavy!
The Power of Strength (Training)
Studies consistently show that lifting weights not only helps older women keep muscle but also strengthens bones and even builds bone density. According to the Bone Health and Osteoporosis Center at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, women can lose up to 20% of their bone mass in the 5-7 years following menopause, making them more susceptible to osteoporosis. One in two women (and one in eight men) over the age of 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime.
I don’t want to be one of those statistics and I’m sure you don’t either! One of the best ways to maintain strong bones is by strength training. For us women who are now in our 40s, 50s, and beyond, it’s crucial that we stop shying away from the heavy weights. You’re not going to turn into Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson if you squat more than 40 pounds! In the past, when I have lifted heavy, I’ve gotten not only stronger, but leaner. And don’t tell me that you’re too old to start lifting. Lifting now will keep your muscles limber, your bones strong, meaning that there’s a better chance at maintaining your independence and vitality into your 80s. Isn’t that a goal worth striving for?
The Gym Community
A few weeks ago, on the first day I went back to the gym, I realized that besides the big weights, I also missed one other thing—the camaraderie of fellow gym-goers, people of different ages, races, ethnicities and fitness levels looking to improve their fitness and health. I noticed more women lifting heavy weights, giving each other encouragement, and also being encouraged by the men. The clanging of plates being added to the bars, of barbells and dumbbells being hoisted was music to my ears. I approached the squat rack and began warming up, excited and anxious to challenge myself, looking forward to increasing the weight on the bar in the weeks ahead. I took a deep breath. A big smile breaking out on my face. I felt in my element. Back home in the weight room once again.