I Finally Started Lifting Weights, and Here's What I Learned
For the past few months I’ve felt like an imposter. Way back in January, I wrote a post about why women should lift weights, but it’s taken me a full six months to start taking my own advice. I’ve finally jumped on the strength train, and the results have been interesting, but before getting into that, here’s how it all started…
I had been boxing at a gym in San Francisco for several months when I decided to take a class taught by the gym owner, Dave Park. Midway through an interminable set of long jumps across the gym floor, I started experiencing some knee pain. I told Dave about it. Did he say I should take it easy, modify the exercise? No, he said I needed to do more strength training. Now, obviously, sometimes you do need to listen to your body and back off, which I did that night, but the seed had been planted. I later learned from a friend who boxes at the same gym that Dave had struggled with knee issues himself after years of boxing, so I thought perhaps he was on to something.
Dave is a force of nature, and over the next several months, when I would show up at the boxing gym, he’d remind me of the need for more strength training in my life. (Lest anyone think this was a sales pitch, I pay a flat fee to take as many classes as I like.) Six months later, I’ve committed to two days of strength training a week, and here’s what I’ve learned.
DOMS is Real
My first full-on weight training session nearly immobilized me. Hello, DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). This is not surprising, since DOMS is usually the result of changing up your workout routine to recruit different muscles. According to Lauren Haythe, a yoga teacher and Certified Kinesis Myofascial Integration Practitioner, in an article on CNN Health:
wrote about DOMS in a previous post. His solution was a massage gun (which I am too cheap to purchase). However, counterintuitively, doing the same exercise again can also help with DOMS. I was skeptical about this at first, but after a second class in the same week, I found my soreness diminished rather than getting worse.
“Your body is making adaptations to better prepare your muscles to do that activity again.”
I’m SO Hungry
One of the more unpleasant side effects of my new strength training regime, is that I find myself extremely hungry after these sessions—not necessarily right after, but often the next day. Research is mixed on this topic. An article on VeryWellFit.com sums it up like this: “Some research suggests that strength training can lead to a significant increase in appetite. However, others have suggested no increase in caloric intake.”
For me, however, the hunger is very real and at levels I’ve only previously experienced after very long runs during marathon training. Interestingly, men and women may experience post-workout hunger differently. According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, while high-intensity exercise reduces energy intake in men, it may increase energy intake in women.
To avoid eating back all the calories I’ve burned and then some after a workout, I’ve been following some of the tips offered in this article from Shape, namely making sure I eat something soon after a tough workout and upping my protein intake to support all that new muscle I’m building.
I Guess Muscle Does Weigh More than Fat?
Another unpleasant side effect of strength training is that I’ve gained a few pounds. Some of this may just be the “summer spread” my sisters and I seem to experience. While many people gain weight over the holidays, we seem to gain it over the summer—chalk it up to some weird quirk of genetics, I suppose. However, between the boxing and added strength training, I’ve begun to see some nice definition in my arms and calves, so I’m hoping at least some of it is muscle.
While a pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat, duh, muscle is denser than fat, so it looks a bit leaner. What’s more, increasing muscle mass has a wealth of benefits, especially as we age. Here are just a few from health.com:
“Lean muscle mass can help manage blood sugar, keeping Type 2 diabetes at bay.
Muscle contributes to healthy aging, helping you maintain mobility and stay active.
Having more muscle increases your basal metabolic rate.
Two weeks into my dalliance with strength training, I’m determined to keep at it. Near the end of a two-hour Saturday strength/boxing session at the gym, I felt like I was moving in slow motion. Dave (who thankfully wasn’t teaching that day) caught my eye during the warmup. “I'm tired,” I blurted out. “Yes, but you’re getting stronger,” he said, with a smile.
Yes, I am, Dave. Yes, I am.