Whilst it’s really important to embrace our bodies and not be influenced by unrealistic beauty standards (and I believe we’re all beautiful in our unique way), it’s also important to be healthy and capable.
I ‘love my body’ by challenging it, giving it loads of protein, fats and vitamins and noting its progress. I also consume a load of fucking cake and wine, so it’s a necessity that I go to the gym (and I’ve got a LOT of progress to make!).
Lots of people have made a commitment to improving their fitness and/or their physique this year. Over the next two posts, I want to highlight the things that you’ll discover about yourself and your body when you begin strength training.
There are a few things that I initially found really distressing when I started to lift, only to realise that these were actually really brilliant changes taking place. Here are the first six!
1) Life is pain now
If you’ve started a weight training programme where you’re continuously targeting one muscle group after another in rotation (as you should if you want optimum gains), you need to accept that at least one part of your body will be experiencing a dull ache.
This will be less severe over time, and the chances are, you’ll start to enjoy the pain in a creepy and masochistic way, because you’ll know you’ve worked hard and you’re strengthening your mind-muscle connection, and becoming more in-sync with yourself.
You can mitigate some of this pain by ensuring you’re getting at least seven hours of sleep each night and are adequately nourishing yourself with the right foods, namely protein. If you don’t know how much protein you need, this calculator is really helpful.
2) Standing tall
About four weeks after starting a consistent regime, you may find that your posture is much better. To weight train safely and effectively, you need great form, and most lifts will require a strong, straight back. There are hundreds of videos of how to use correct form, but even then, it takes practive.
Eventually, muscle memory will kick in, because you’re used to training your muscles, you’ll continue contracting them throughout the day to stand nice and tall (which will make your bum look juicier and boobs perkier even if you’re not shifting heavy weights).
3) You’re actually really gross, sorry.
Yeah, sorry. Strength training carves out sexy, strong, curvy bodies . . . but it also makes us pretty gross. You’ll sweat even after you’ve showered post-gym because your body will continue to burn fat an hour after lifting weights (which is actually pretty cool). Changing your diet to accommodate significantly more protein will do anti-social things to your tummy. The least said about that the better, but it only takes a couple of weeks for your body to get used to it!
You’ll start developing little calluses on your hands from the weights, and on your elbows and knees too if you do a lot of floor work. These can be worn down with a pumice stone, but I actually think they’re cute!
4) . . . And yet, you feel like getting freaky!
There are three ways that this works:
- Stress is considered to be the strongest factor in diminished libido. Exercise reduces stress levels.
- You’ve got a stronger and more defined body, so you’ll want to show it off and get busy!
- Exercising, and strength training in particular, increases your levels of testosterone. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean your boobs will shrink and you’ll develop a beard, ladies. Higher levels of testosterone lead to a greater sex drive.
5) “Here’s looking at you, kid”
This sucks major ass, but it’s something you’re going to have to learn to care less about if you want to be successful: people stare at you in the gym, and I think that this is particularly relevant to women.
Often, this isn’t a negative thing. People are interested in what other people are doing to achieve their goals, and may be nervous about trying something new and want to watch to see how it’s done.
Also, some people’s motivations for getting an eyeful are slightly less noble (and this can be jarring), or some people may feel intimidated by you and want to see you fail.
As the great Devin Townsend (genius behind Strapping Young Lad, Zimmer’s Hole and Devin Townsend Project) says: “Exercise is like eating or masturbating in that I enjoy it and need to do it, yet don’t want to be seen or talked to during it.”
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, because this is about you. Put your earphones in, avoid eye contact if it makes you uncomfortable and do what you’re there to do.
It’s likely that you’ll be surprised by how capable you are of moving pretty heavy things. It’s so good for your self-esteem to be able to achieve goals, and this part of what makes strength training so appealing – good results are tangible in clear numbers.
You’ll feel strong and successful and this will positively impact every other part of your life. For me, feeling like I could achieve what I set my mind to meant me moving across the country for a job I love, find the man of my dreams and have the courage to say when something isn’t making me happy or allowing me to be productive.
I hope that this has been useful for someone curious about considering strength training in 2018. I’m really looking forward to sharing Part Two with you all!
Love and strength,