By Meredith Nelson for The Island Connection
Now that the 2021 Cooper River Bridge Run is behind us, chances are you’re either motivated to keep training and set higher goals, or you may feel the urge to take a break from running altogether. Oh wait – you say you didn’t run the race? But would like to improve your fitness and maybe lose a little weight as well? Enter resistance training. Whether you are looking to incorporate something new into your current regimen, or just starting out, this is one aspect of your fitness that should not be avoided.
As we age, we lose our muscle mass at a scary rate of 5-10% per decade. Even those who are healthy, fit, and active, will lose muscle mass unless they do something about it. Resistance training has many benefits – including of course increasing or maintaining muscle mass, improved strength, and better posture. A well-designed weight-training session results in more calories being burned even after the exercise session is completed than a cardiovascular training session. Routine activities carried out daily suddenly become easier and less taxing. Muscle strength can also improve the integrity of joints such as your knees, hips, ankles, and shoulders, and can alleviate mysterious back pain. You may think that strength training increases muscle mass to the point of “bulking up.” Unless you are planning to spend hours every day in the gym, are planning to incorporate supplements intended to increase mass, or have an unusually high amount of testosterone, this couldn’t be farther from the truth! The misconception comes from the fact that some people, once they begin to strength train, fail to continue their cardiovascular activity (which is necessary for fat-burning), or they do not pay attention to their caloric intake. Unless you burn more calories than you take in, your body will hold onto the layers of fat that cover up the muscle underneath. As the muscle mass increases, the layer of fat on top doesn’t go away and the appearance is one of “bulking up.” The secret is to find a balance of cardiovascular activity and strength training, and watch your caloric intake carefully. So where to begin when adding a strength training program into your fitness routine? You should perform at least one exercise for each major body part two or three times a week. If you do two sets (a “set” is usually 10- 15 repetitions of one exercise) of an exercise for your chest, back, arms, legs, and abdominals, you will have covered a good basic full-body weight training routine. The amount of weight should be heavy enough to be challenging, yet manageable, within those 10-15 repetitions. However, external resistance in the form of weights or bands isn’t even necessary – an effective workout can be completed using bodyweight alone (as discovered by many gym-goers who stayed away from the gym due to the pandemic). It is a good idea to meet with a personal trainer or gym staff member to demonstrate proper form for the exercises you will be doing, as that is crucial to get the maximum benefits and to avoid injury. As always, please be sure to discuss your intentions to begin strength training with your physician prior to beginning a new exercise program. So get started today – after four to six weeks of a consistent program, you’ll probably begin to notice some changes. If you’re at a loss for ideas, I’ve included a simple bodyweight-only workout that almost anyone can do!
Meredith Nelson is the owner of PrimeTime Fitness, LLC, and has been in the fitness industry since 1992. She can help you achieve your fitness and nutrition goals either in person or online. Nelson can be reached at email@example.com.