Anglachel on weight-lifting
Resistance, Far From Futile
Everything I could read on older women’s health and the topic of bone density seemed pretty much in agreement that the key to strong bones was performing load bearing exercises and that weight lifting was the most effective way to do this. However, most weight lifting materials were aimed squarely at 20-something men looking to get ripped (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and, if they talked about lifting for women, it was mostly to reassure younger women that lifting won’t make them “bulky.” (And it won’t. So have fun!)
I found out about a program called Strong Women Stay Young, which sounded a little too slick and well-marketed, but which is aimed at older women. I checked out the book of the same name and found that it was quite good despite the Madison Avenue gloss. There was medical research done in a responsible way that didn’t make outrageous claims, there was some very solid information about what the lifting was intended to do, with a reassuring emphasis on safety. Finally, there was a set of simple, well explained and well illustrated resistance exercises that could be done with free weights or gym machines, at home or at a gym. It was very non-fitness in its presentation, which made it easier to understand.
So, I bought a set of hand weights and leg weights and began following the 12 week program. It was easy to do, easy to chart, and easy to increase difficulty as I became stronger. The initial 12 week program has you do the full set of upper and lower body exercises twice per week, with two sets of 8 repetitions. This provided a good entry into weight lifting, demystified the activity, and got me ready to take on more challenging lifting.
After I’d “outgrown” SWSY, I graduated to my next instruction guide, Weight Lifting for Dummies. Yes, I am unashamed to say that I used that book. It’s fun! It was written by two women, it’s oriented to ordinary people trying to get some reasonable lifting into their lives, and it has photos of people of a wide mix of age, race, sex and physical ability. They all look pretty healthy and none of them look like a gym rat. The book is organized around different exercises to do for your major muscle groups, and has good explanations of what effect this or that lift will have. It also puts safety first, emphasizes good form, and blows up a bunch of lifting myths.
Now, if I want to find out about new lifts I can do, or want to know more about dos and don’ts, I go online to Scooby’s Workshop, a treasure trove of common sense and helpful examples from ‘Scooby’, a 50-something engineer, body builder and fitness guy who really, honestly wants people to be healthy and feel good about themselves. He debunks myths, has videos to show good form, and rejects the fads and snake oil that plague the “fitness” industry. He has a fun blog he posts to on a fairly regular basis. He pays attention to the different workout goals, needs and challenges of older lifters, which is really nice.
Over the course of the last 3+ years, I’ve slowly but persistently increased my strength. I don’t always do it consistently, especially when work gets frantic, and so my muscles can lose some strength, but I know I can just back off the weight levels, and rebuild what went away. When I can, I lift free weights four times per week.
Ha ha, trying to cut the quote shorter, and I couldn't find anything I wanted to hack out.
Theoretically, weights would be good for me because I wouldn't have to travel anywhere, say to a gym. Although I'd have to buy the weights. What holds me back, or has held me back, is the repellent prospect of dudes getting ripped; the whole subculture strikes me as show-off-y and repellent. But the sources Anglachel is using seem much more reasonable. As long as I don't throw out my back!