Ladies, Listen Up Because This Go Get It Guide Is For You

By , Alicia Capetillo, Editor-in-Chief
Every month The Go Get It Guide is your destination for motivation, musings on random goals and probably pop culture references. It's a space where we'll sort through the PR pitches and news, then share our honest thoughts on what's happening in the health and fitness world, what's on the horizon and just what we think of that video the internet obsessed over last week. Check in each month to Spark, Sweat, Smile, Savor and Shop with us!

Sweat: Hulk Arms and Abs of Steel


For decades women have feared the dreaded "Hulk arms" and muscular thighs, steering clear of the weight room for fear that they would build up unattractive, masculine muscle. And so they (and I) gravitated toward exercises that felt tailored specifically for women—Zumba, Pilates, yoga, water aerobics—convinced that these were the ones that would give them the slim, "toned" and defined look that they so desired. For years I only printed out workouts or watched exercise videos featuring women with titles that included words like "toning" and "lean muscle." If the woman in the video looked like a ballet dancer or ex-Victoria's Secret model, I wanted what she was selling.
 
But I was wrong, and so are a lot of other women. A few weeks ago, I talked a friend into doing a 12-week training program focused on resistance training. After picking up running and dropping nearly 40 pounds, she was determined to continue working on her body and improving her health but had hit a bit of a plateau. While her endurance was on point, she wasn't noticing changes in her body anymore and asked, "What more can I do when I'm already doing all this running?" "Strength. Training," was my only answer; resistance was her only response. After throwing out facts and relatable anecdotes and flexing maybe a little bit, I was finally able to convince her to add some weight to her cardio-fueled routine. By the end of this post, I hope I've convinced any non-believers, too.
 
No matter your ultimate goals, some degree of resistance training is beneficial for every person. I repeat, every person. Not only has it been shown to raise the resting metabolic rate by seven percent in just 10 weeks in previously untrained adults, but, according to the American Council on Exercise, regular resistance training can also help to ensure you do not lose muscle as you age, improve overall body composition, increase low-back health and improve the ability of older adults to function in daily activities. Plus, muscle in the body requires more energy, meaning you burn more calories at rest when you build up your muscle. With all those amazing benefits, why should the guys have all the fun?
 
Lucky for all of us, there's been a resurgence of women proudly infiltrating the weight room and grabbing those heavy weights. My aforementioned friend echoed the sentiments of so many women about her fear of strength training, but by the end of the 12-week program, she was lifting heavier dumbbells, perfecting her form and really noticing small changes in her overall body composition. While I had to talk her into picking up her first 20-pound weight, she ended up being surprised at how strong her body really was, and that revelation right there is why I solemnly believe that every woman should challenge herself to hit the barbell rack or get to know the dumbbell station sooner rather than later.
 
One of the most common myths in the gym is that grabbing that set of heavy dumbbells will ultimately lead to unattractive and/or bulky muscles, which is enough to keep anyone who loves their short skirts and tank tops far away from the weight rack. It's a myth that has kept women out of the weight room and up onto the treadmill. It's a myth that is perpetuated by Internet trolls like this guy who called out the muscles displayed by U.S. Olympic gold medalist gymnasts as unattractive rather than, um, I don't know, seriously impressive.  
 
But it's simply that—a myth. Check out Instagram fitness influencers like Kelsey Wells, Morit Summers, Alex Silver-Fagan or Estelle Archer and you'll quickly see that muscle doesn't have to mean manly. For most women, adding resistance training to their routine will actually make them appear more slender, due to the fact that muscle is more dense than fat. In fact, very few women possess the genetic makeup to even allow them to achieve visible muscular hypertrophy, or an increase in muscle mass. Once you can get beyond that concept that's been drilled into our heads for so many years, you'll quickly find that picking up and putting down heavy things could be the thing that actually helps you fall in love with your body, biceps and all.
 
For those not bothered by the concept of building muscle, it's a fear of looking like a rookie or simple ignorance that keeps them from stepping foot in the weight room. Intimidation is not easy to overcome—especially if your gym weight room is inhabited by giant men blasting Metallica at full volume while they grunt their way through their 300-pound back squats—but it is worth it. For me, I simply didn't know what to do once I got in there. The few times I ventured into the weight area, I'd grab a pair of 10-pound dumbbells, rep out a few bicep curls and then walk around aimlessly, pretending I was contemplating my next move before rushing back to the more familiar cardio machine territory. It took signing up for (and becoming obsessed) Orangetheory Fitness before I finally started to understand how to use dumbbells, Bosu balls, TRX straps and more to work the various muscles of the body. Once I had that base knowledge, I was able to do my own research online and on Instagram to find new moves to add variety to my own routine. And don't think you can't do this at home, either—there are plenty of ways to add resistance training to your life without setting foot in a gym. It's all about learning how to utilize your bodyweight and small pieces of equipment (dumbbells, resistance bands, mini bands, etc.) in the right ways.
 
If it's a fear of the unknown that is holding you back, talk to a trainer at the gym to see if they will walk you through a beginner resistance training routine to get you started. Or, consider signing up for a resistance training-focused group class to get comfortable with lifting weights in a communal environment before hitting the weight room on your own. I loved doing the 12-week program because it forced me to get out of my comfort zone and allowed me to gradually increase my repetitions slowly without feeling like I had to keep up with anyone but myself. Though, please note that if you do decide to strength train at home, form is key. Injuries can happen easily once weight is added, so be sure that you fully understand how to perform the exercise and be careful to listen to your body if it's exhibiting signs of pain.
 
If you had asked me five years ago if I ever thought I'd be here writing about my love affair with weights, I'd have had you carted off to the insane asylum. And, yet, here I am, steadily working toward the day I can add another weight plate to my deadlift, barbell back squat or biceps curl. Strength training has given me confidence in the muscular shape of my body and a confidence in how I carry myself, both in the gym and out in the real world. Start small with weights that challenge you but don't disrupt your form before increasing weight and I promise that within a few weeks, you too will be amazed by the strength inside your mind and your body.
 

Spark: The Season of Giving

 
Sports figures often get a bad rap, but this story about recently crowned World Series Champion Boston Red Sox Manager Alex Cora brings us back to what it's all about—making people smile and using your influence to make a difference. When signing his contract, Cora wasn't most concerned with how many zeroes he could add to his paycheck, but rather with how much good he could do with his opportunity on the big stage.
 
According to NESN, the only thing on Cora's mind during his contract negotiation was his home—Puerto Rico. Recently devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria and in need of basic necessities, Cora knew the island needed help. When it came time to negotiate, he asked the Red Sox for a plane full of supplies to deliver to the people and was able to help 300 families in his hometown. Cue the happy tears.
 
As we head into November and the season of giving, let's remember to stay focused on the meaning of the season—gratitude, generosity and good vibes. Commit yourself to finding a volunteer organization that could use your help, not just this month, but at least a few times throughout the year. Reconnect with friends with whom you've lost touch. Help out someone less fortunate without expecting anything in return. The feeling you'll get deep down in your soul is enough to carry you through any tough workout, hard day at the office or bad week. In a world full of bad news, channel Cora and do something good.
 
Share your stories of strength training or giving back below!

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Comments

SUSANBEAMON 11/11/2018
I used to lift weights. Arthritis makes it very difficult any more, but it was fun when I did it. Report
RAPUNZEL53 11/10/2018
Thanks. Report
DWROBERGE 11/9/2018
another great article Report
GABY1948 11/8/2018
Great! Report
KHALIA2 11/8/2018
My understanding is that we all need weight training to keep from losing muscle. Report
DMEYER4 11/8/2018
thanks Report
MIYAMO 11/7/2018
Great article. Report
SLIVERBULLET 11/7/2018
great article Report
BIKE4HEALTH 11/7/2018
thanks...helpful Report
SHOAPIE 11/7/2018
Yes Report
TOMATOCAFEGAL 11/6/2018
Wow. Responses all over the spectrum!! Report
EO4WELLNESS 11/6/2018
Thanks Report
AJB121299 11/6/2018
nice Report
TODORA999 11/6/2018
I used to be one of those women that though resistance training (weight lifting) would make me bulk up. I started attending a group weight training class in August of this year and have been going regularly twice per week. In 3 months, it's made a significant impact on my physique. I am someone who has always worked out, but my body stayed the same...until I incorporated resistance training. I definitely look leaner overall. If I had known this, I would have started sooner! It's less overall work for better results faster. P.S. I also do yoga 1x/week and maybe something else cardio related. Report
PICKIE98 11/6/2018
When you pay my membership, you can have a say, otherwise, zip it! Report
97MONTY 11/6/2018
Thanks Report
CECTARR 11/6/2018
I am 65 and when I started I had to go to an all male gym in my 20's and be stared at. Don't be afraid. Be strong and keep moving. I can't lift as much as I used to but I can keep moving Report
TAPESTRIES 11/6/2018
Anyone who wants to start using weights or resistance training, and belongs to a gym - sign up for a few sessions with a personal trainer to learn how to use proper forms.

If you don't belong go a gym - and don't want to join one (or can't afford to) - check out exercise videos made by professional trainers. There are hundreds of them. You can find some on Youtube, there are streaming services, you can get DVDs at your local library.

You can buy inexpensive resistance bands and hand weights just about anywhere.

Sorry, but I'm not going to get an fitness advice from an Instagram celebrity.

Resistance/weight training is nothing new, and nothing to be afraid of. I'm over 60 years old and incorporated resistance training into my workouts 40 years ago. Report
DEBVNE 11/6/2018
The overall intent of the article is good, recognizing that strength training significantly impacts how our bodies move, function, and even look. I’m in the camp that says muscle definition is proof positive of work that has been done. My advice for anyone interested in adding strength training to their regimen is focus on body weight work. No equipment necessary, you can do it anywhere. I’ve been a cardio queen for years now, it’s been the addition of strength work that’s forever changed my body composition. Strong is hot, start small and literally build from there. Report
JUNETTA2002 11/6/2018
Thanks for sharing. Report
NEPTUNE1939 11/6/2018
ty Report
ROBBIEY 11/6/2018
very good article Report
AZMOMXTWO 11/6/2018
thank you Report
DINGHY2 11/6/2018
Great article, very motivating! Thank you. Report
AMYRCMK 11/6/2018
Thank you Report
AUNA_VISTA 11/5/2018
"I'd have had you carted off to the insane asylum" is really insensitive for those members who have struggled with mental health issues. Plus, I think it's bogus to assume that women don't want to build up their muscles to be healthy. Your friend is the minority, rather than the rule. Also, every woman can build up visible muscle, and will be proud when she does! Saying otherwise is perpetuating a myth. This has to be one of the very worst articles that I have ever read here on SparkPeople, and I am surprised that the writer is Editor-in-Chief! I guess I need to start reading more legitimate articles elsewhere. This one contains too many fallacies. Report
RHOOK20047 11/4/2018
Interesting... Report
JAYJAY357 11/4/2018
Definitely something to think about! Report
KHALIA2 11/4/2018
Very good info! Report
LOSER05 11/4/2018
Great Report
ZRIE014 11/4/2018
great Report
JUNETTA2002 11/3/2018
Thanks for sharing. Report
NEPTUNE1939 11/3/2018
Great exercise Report
CHERIRIDDELL 11/3/2018
Great Report
RHOOK20047 11/2/2018
Good article. Report
NANCYPAT1 11/2/2018
Awesome information! Report
USMAWIFE 11/2/2018
great information Report
KHALIA2 11/2/2018
Great article! Report
JIACOLO 11/2/2018
Very informative! Thanks for reminding me of the importance of strength training. Report
ROBBIEY 11/2/2018
very good information Report
JANIEWWJD 11/2/2018
Thank you for sharing!!! Report
MOONDRAGON29 11/2/2018
Great article. Report
KATHYJO56 11/2/2018
Great article Report
ZRIE014 11/2/2018
my wife like it Report