The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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December 6, 2012

5 reasons why all women should venture into the weight room

While weight lifting has never really been my strong suit, I certainly make an effort to fit it into my busy running schedule.

I may cut back a bit during marathon training, but I still make a point to do strength training of some kind, whether it be machines, free weights, resistance bands and/or yoga.

I believe that many women avoid the weight room either because they are not familiar with the machines or prefer to not be surrounded by bulky, grunting men. These reasons I can definitely understand. The atmosphere of the weight room can be intimidating for those not familiar with it and not very welcoming to women in general.

Avoiding the weight room because of a fear of bulking up is absolutely ridiculous. I suppose there are some women who might actually encounter this problem, but they are few and far between. Lifting a few free weights is not going to turn you into a body builder. For the most part the only way you could really bulk up would be if you really wanted to, and even then would be tough. Women aren't built to put on muscle the same way men do, so strength training will likely just make you toned and lean more than anything else.

Here are some reasons why I enter the male-dominated weight room and why you should too. Of course you can also do plenty of strength training at home too.

  1. Injury prevention. If you do a lot of cardio, you're probably putting some stress on your joints, especially if you're a runner. One of the best ways to strengthen and protect your muscles and joints is to lift weights. This is super important because injuries are not fun and can leave you completely sidelined from any exercise, or even worse, lead to serious long-term injuries.

  2. Get lean and toned. While cardio is great for accomplishing this, depending on what kind of exercise you do, you might not be working out all your muscles evenly. As a runner, I have very toned legs, but don't work my arms quite as much. The same thing applies to bikers. I like to do a lot of arm strength exercises to balance things out.

  3. Get faster and stronger at endurance sports and/or cardio exercise. When you have more strength, you're able to push yourself farther and faster. This also connects back to injury prevention. Most endurance athletes make strength training a priority and with good reason.

  4. Another opportunity to burn fat and calories. Need I say more?

  5. It's easy and you can do strength training anywhere. While I strongly encourage venturing into the weight room every now and then, there are plenty of exercises you can do at home. Resistance bands are very inexpensive and are sold at Walmart, Target and most sporting goods stores. Getting a set of free weights isn't a bad investment either. There are also plenty of body-weight exercises you can without any equipment, such as planks, squats and pushups. The internet is a great resource for finding strength routines.

So go ahead and show those body builders in the weight room what's up! Remember muscle takes up less space than fat, so the only thing you have to lose is fat and all you have to gain is confidence and strength.

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