Could Strength Training Be For You?

Could strength training be for you?

Strength training can begin with something like Pilates or yoga, as your own body is the resistance you’re using in your workout for strength and control. You need nothing but your body and the motivation to give this a go. But when we think of strength training, we often think more of weights and dumbbells, and it’s that that I’m talking about today. 

If you’re anything like me, a mid-40s woman who had never done anything like this before, this one might seem daunting and you might not see any point to it. 

This is why I want to share my experiences with you today, as someone who had never done this before and honestly didn’t see it as something that was for me. This was for those younger people who go to the gym every day and look all tanned and shiny! Even when I did go to the gym regularly, I didn’t ever go near the weights, it was always the classes and cardio equipment I gravitated towards.

As I started reading up more to understand the impact of the hormone therapy I’m now on and the suppression of my hormones, I looked for ways to help my body through these changes. Strength training came up everywhere I looked and I became excited to try it. 

I’ve eased gently into this as I was post-op and then the radiotherapy I had means I have to continue to take care, but I’ve managed to build myself up and from this month I’ve felt able to do this regularly and steadily. 

It’s something that I feel I will be able to continue to do over the coming months and years and as it’s not a high impact workout, my joints are safe. In fact, as I’ll share in a moment, this is good for the joints. 

If you’re thinking, OK maybe I should give this a whirl, and you’re already a member of a gym, just start there. There may well be classes to take and there’ll certainly be all the equipment you need. 

If you’d rather workout at home like me, I’ve a few tips below to get you started. 

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What’s the benefit?

As we age, our muscle mass decreases, typically from around 30 years of age. This happens to everyone, but particularly women as our muscles take a hit as our oestrogen levels reduce. 

Along with improving our muscle mass, it strengthens our joints, another thing that our reducing hormone levels can affect. 

It also helps our cardiovascular health, our bones, reduces our risk of injury, improves our balance and boosts our mental health. 

Building muscle mass this way keeps our bodies toned and fit and an increased muscle mass boosts our metabolism as it starts to become more sluggish with age. 

What weights do I need?

This is a personal choice, but as a guide, for beginners you’ll want to start low and build up from there. 

I have started with this dumbbell tower and it works well for me at the moment.

They’re comfortable to hold, they start at a manageable weight along with having more challenging weights to move up to and the little tower keeps them neat and tidy. I then grab my yoga mat to workout on. 

As I was recovering from my surgery and radiotherapy, I went into this quite gently and carefully with the lightest dumbbells in this set. I now tend to use the middle set and for a few exercises I use the heaviest weight. I plan to add more weight as and when I feel ready for it.

How do I know what to do?

You can make up your own routines, but I like to follow along with a YouTube video as I find it more motivating and it means I needn’t keep count as they do it for me.

There are plenty of free YouTube channels to watch so you can get straight into this. There are hundreds of workouts to choose from and you’ll soon find the ones you enjoy. 

A few I like are:

I started with Juice and Toya and they have plenty of videos to choose from.

I follow along with Caroline Girvan regularly.

And Joe Wicks is chatty and motivating whilst he talks you through workouts. 

There are also loads of apps, blogs, TikToks and more to give you ideas. 

In fact, if you’re on TikTok, that’s a very underwhelming way to start this as there are plenty of people showing just a few basic reps to try to get you started. 

How much time does this take?

Some people will spend hours every week on this, but as with most things, start small and steady and take it from there.

Personally, I mix this up with walking and yoga, so I don’t do this daily. I usually do it 3 times a week, anywhere from 15-30 minutes depending on how much time I have that day and what else I’ve been doing that day. 

I can feel the difference from this and now that I’ve got into the habit of doing it every 2-3 days, I find myself looking forward to it.

For me, I like changing it up with the yoga on the other days as I love that too, and then I walk daily anyway. I do a few things so it’s not obvious which thing is making a difference where, however, I have noticed I’ve been able to increase the weights I can use which must mean I am building up.  

All of the TikToks about this assure you you’ll see a difference doing 3 sessions a week, so I’d say start there and after a few weeks, you should see some changes and start to feel stronger. 

Is it fun?

Well, this one’s all about perspective, isn’t it?

I think it is!

The appeal for me is that I can do it at home at a time that suits me, it doesn’t take a huge amount of my time up, the dumbbells don’t take up much space and it’s manageable for everyone. 

Beginners can do these moves, they’re not complicated, we can all do them. The variance comes in the weights we use, as you can build this up over time as your strength increases.

I’m not a big fan of doing the same thing for 20-30 minutes, so things like this are good for me. You’d typically do reps for 40 seconds, then rest for 20 seconds, before moving onto different reps for 40 seconds and so on. I like variety so this suits me perfectly, but equally if you don’t enjoy variety, you could simply rotate between just a few different lifts for your workout. 

Anything else I should know?

It’s worth thinking about your protein intake as you build your strength. As we age our protein needs increase as our muscles become less capable of using the protein effectively. 

Look into ways to do this with your nutrition and look into protein powders and supplements alongside your food if need be.

Age and current fitness level isn’t a factor with strength training. You start from where you’re at, whether that’s at 70 years of age, whether that’s at several stones overweight, whether you struggle to walk up a hill without getting breathless, it really doesn’t matter. It’s accessible. Your starting point is unique to you and you needn’t push harder than you can manage. 

Then I’d say that if this appeals to you, as with all new things, just start. No need to overthink this one, get some dumbbells or use some bottles of water/tins and get going. 

This one’s easy to start and you’re likely to feel the benefits quite quickly. 

If you want to track your progress, it might be worth measuring inches rather than just relying on the scales as you’ll probably see a difference there first. 

It’s not a complicated way to take care of your body and yet it’s a very effective way of doing so. 

Have fun!

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