If that doesn’t move you, how about..
“Skinny is the new weak.” “You can make excuses or make it happen.”
“Your struggles create strength.” “Your body is a work in progress.”
“Does this dress make my butt look weak?”
My first SINS post was so popular and I received so much great feedback, I thought it was worth revisiting the matter of building muscle for the vast majority of women who are still dodging dumbbells and turning to less effective forms of training to get lean and fit. While I was on vacation recently, I introduced some of my family members to Crossfit. At first, they didn’t buy into the short, high-intensity exercise and they still thought that long-distance running was a better workout for losing weight. They didn’t get how doing 15 to 20-minute workouts with pull-ups, burpees, snatches, power cleans and other standard Crossfit W.O.D. elements could lead to a leaner physique compared to the calories they could burn on a run.
If you aren’t familiar with Crossfit, it’s a type of training that takes elements of weightlifting, gymnastics, plyometrics and lots of functional exercises using your body weight as resistance. No two workouts are alike, so as an ADD-type athlete who gets easily bored, CF is perfect for me. But what I’m an evangelist for is women doing resistance exercise of any kind.
Your leanness is primarily diet-driven (which I can’t seem to get some people to understand) and running lots of miles does burn calories but most women just eat more and make up for the calories burned during endurance exercise. But building muscle can inherently make your engine, or metabolic rate, slightly higher and help offset the natural decline in metabolic rate that occurs every year after age 20 or so. Most of us don’t wake up 20 pounds heavier, we gain a pound a year in adulthood until we have to go to a 20 year high school reunion and realize our 18-year-old body is long gone.
If you think you’ll get HUGE from lifting you’re wrong. Most women just don’t build muscle mass that way. You may get some nice definitions but chances are, you won’t bulk up.
After eight months of CrossFit, I can report that I haven’t split the seams on any of my dress shirts and the only thing “ripped” on my body is an old M.S.U. T-shirt. However, my legs are more defined, my triceps have a few divots where there used to be more, em, mushy bits and my abs have never been so strong…even though there’s still a bumper cushion over them. (It helps for burpees!)
Bulking up from resistance training is just not the reality for 99.9% of women. In fact, I think the faster way to sizing-up your wardrobe comes from NOT doing strength workouts and keeping fit. I know for me, without exercise, I’d gain 1-2 pounds per year like most Americans my age.
I have no desire to be stick-thin (it equals weak to me), but I want to maintain a healthy weight for the rest of my life and that gets harder and harder every year. All of us have to find ways to reduce calories or burn more as we age to keep our bodies in energy balance (the point where calories in equal calories out).
Losses in muscle mass is one of many contributing factors for why our metabolic rates decline as we get older. It’s the main reason why I’ve taken such a big commitment to strength training.
Small Accomplishments, Big Payoffs
So, what have I gained in six months of CrossFit?
I check my body weight only on occasion just to see my percent body fat. My weight is about the same (+ or – 3 pounds on any given day), but my body fat is down about 2 percentage points.
However, I’m most proud of some of my skill and performance accomplishments, including:
Doing an entire WOD without any resistance bands to assist my pull-ups
Mastering the 20-inch box jump box (It took a while and I had to overcome the mental barriers)
Doing up to 25 consecutive double-unders
These are small CF accomplishments for many, but for me, they’re big, and the emotional payoffs are even greater. Being stronger boosts my self-confidence. I feel taller (even though I’m not); I have a little swagger when I walk (until I trip on something); and I stick up for myself more than ever (not that I ever took @$#% from anyone). It makes it worth all the sweat, swearing and muscle soreness.
Finding strength is empowering. Try it!