I’m so glad you’re here and interested in weight lifting. Maybe even for the first time. Someone asked me recently why do I lift like I do? My simple answer, “because I like it.”
I don’t have a fancy answer other than I like how it makes me feel and I simply like doing it. The results and the way I feel are rewarding and only make me want to do it that much more.
But I haven’t always felt that way. The thought of lifting weights or doing any sort of physical activity was actually pretty intimidating and I genuinely never thought I ever would, much less ever could. While I may have only thought about it and secretly looked through ‘fit’ magazines more than I ever actually worked at being fit, I never thought I would one day be fit.
So how did it happen? Again. Another simple answer: I just started.
I started out with cardio and walking first, slowly building my endurance where I could actually walk the 100 yards up my driveway without completely being out of breath. And after a few months of that, I picked up a set of five pound dumbbells and with no rhyme or reason and certainly no plan, I just started.
My philosophy then was to start from the top and work my way to the bottom. And that’s literally what I did. I started with a few exercises for my upper body working my way down to finishing up with squats for my lower body. This “routine” took about 20 minutes usually while I was running my bath water before bedtime.
And that’s how I got hooked. The addiction didn’t happen overnight though. Of course, I probably flexed in the mirror just days after starting anxiously anticipating some magic muscles to appear, but as you can guess, there were no magic muscles. But I kept going. I found that I enjoyed the endorphins and the feeling of accomplishment more than I wanted the aesthetic.
But it wasn’t long, I did start to see more and more fruits of my weight lifting labor and the more and more I kept going.
My private 15 minute weight lifting session in my bedroom moved to the living room then to outside where I’d have more room. I found myself reading more and searching for more workouts and I began learning how to lift specifically for each muscle group. My love for it continued to grow where I then found myself not only looking for actual workout plans, but I found myself looking for a certification program. I wanted all the knowledge I could get about lifting and about the profession of personal training.
I later signed on with NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine), purchased their certification program, and began studying anywhere I could – at my kitchen table or while riding in the car. You name it. For two solid months I was ‘back in school’ and preparing for my final exam. I had six months to finish the course, but I finished it in two and just last week (September 30th) celebrated my fourth year of being a certified personal trainer.
Why am I telling you all this? Because I wasn’t in my 20s. I wasn’t a young, college kid living on my own enjoying college life and being…well a 20-something year old, but I was over 40. With a husband. With two kids. With two dogs and a cat. And responsibilities.
I didn’t start exercising or especially lifting weights until I was over 40. And as cliche’ as it sounds, if I can do it, anybody can do it.
“Stay focused, go after your dreams and keep moving forward”. ~ LL Cool J
If you’re considering lifting and over 40, I want to share three essentials to weight training specifically for you, a woman over 40. You certainly can do it. You certainly need to do it. But realistically, we’re not in our 20s anymore, so we just have to approach it a bit differently.
There are three essentials for weight training for women over 40.
1. Start Slow
Seriously. Don’t try to rush it and focus on form first. I like to start with bodyweight exercises first (yes, that’s still considered resistance training) then progress to adding weights. Using your bodyweight only also gives you time to perfect your form first and make sure you’re doing each exercise correctly.
How do I know how much weight I should use?
If you are a beginner, you may find that using water bottles, soup cans or 1/2 gallon milk jugs may be sufficient for you. This could also be equivalent to using a set of 3-pound dumbbells.
When you are doing each exercise, you want to have some difficulty reaching your last repetition but still maintaining the correct form. If on your last rep, you’re wavering on your form and posture, your weights may be too heavy. If you are still having an easy time on the last rep and feel you could do lots more, then your weights may not be heavy enough.
2. Warm Up Before and Stretch After
This is a must and just as important that you not rush your warm up. Before beginning any workout, warming up your joints and muscles with a dynamic warmup is essential in lessening your risk of injury.
A dynamic warm up is not just simple stretching. In other words it’s not this. —————->
Your warm up should be movement. Literally, taking each joint through a complete range of motion, several times. And for my dynamic warm up? I go back to how I first started a few years ago: I start at the top and work my way to the bottom.
Dynamic moves may include jumping jacks, arm circles, windmills, leg swings (front to back, side to side), hip circles and so on.
Save your stretching and lengthening those tight muscles for after your workout.
Ahhh, rest. Rest is important at any age, but it’s absolutely necessary for us older gals. Probably the number one way to improve, whether it be running, cardio or weight training, is to rest. Weight training is a continuous cycle of stress and recovery, stress and recovery. During training, you sustain micro-tears in your muscles. With proper rest days, the body repairs itself and gets stronger during recovery phase. Thus, it can withstand higher levels of physical stress, therefore sustaining growth and increased strength.
As we age, muscle fibers also decrease in number and shrink in size resulting in slower muscle growth and recovery after a workout….making rest days even more necessary.
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Do I still workout if I’m sore?
If you’re new to exercising then you are naturally going to experience muscle soreness. Even if you’ve been exercising for sometime, changing up your routine or increasing the intensity will also leave your muscles screaming mad at you. There are two types of soreness — the soreness you’ll feel the same day or even the next day after exercising and also a delayed soreness called DOMS or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. While both are normal, your muscles still need time to recuperate and repair.
With any muscle soreness, our tendency is to not move. This may also not be the best thing to do and could only prolong the duration of your sore muscles. So forgo your weight training for the day and instead do some light cardio or walking.
I hope this helps friends and you are encouraged to start adding weight training to your exercise routine.