For a long time, I thought that the best and fastest way to lose weight was to do some serious cardio.
So I dutifully went to the gym, ran on the treadmill until I nearly destroyed my knee, cycled on the stationary bike while reading Cosmo magazine and worked out my anger issues by jumping around to cheesy music during aerobics.
I would feel great after my workouts, sleep better and generally enjoy the post work-out rush.
But I never lost any weight. Not a single kilo. Not even a few centimeters off my generous middle.
I would give up by the third week, start making excuses about why I could not go to the gym, experience crushing guilt because I had paid so much for the damn membership, then go back for another three week spurt of intensive exercise, all leading to nothing.
But after I got my diet sorted out and actually started losing weight, I started working out at home. With videos that I found on the internet because I knew, at the back of my mind, that I would never live up to my gym membership expectations.
Since I had really enjoyed doing yoga in India, that’s what I started with.
Here are 5 reasons why I love strength training (aka everything that isn’t cardio):
1. Fewer reasons not to do it
Some people enjoy the whole gym routine. Getting your bag, rushing from the office/school/home to catch your favorite class. Secretly competing with the guy next to you.
Me, not so much.
I find that there are too many built in excuses (too much traffic, I have that assignment due tomorrow, I’m going for a drink with my friends…) in this routine. Working out at home, on the other hand, is different.
Sometimes when I’m feeling really lazy I will do a ten minute power yoga session. Other days I will do 20 minutes of core work, or 35 minutes of weights. The point is, it’s easy to find little gaps of time to work out.
My favorite is as I wait for my dinner to get ready, or just before I take my evening shower.
Also, the fact that you begin to see improvements in your performance, flexibility and muscle tone almost immediately is a strong incentive to keep doing what you are doing.
2. Value for your time
To be honest, it is not very easy losing weight just by exercising alone. Especially if you are a woman. But strength training is different, because your body is very good at responding by packing on some muscle.
Mind you, I’m not talking about looking like a body builder here.
I’m talking about toned arms, that line that runs down your back, and an ass that has reclaimed its natural, perky as a peach shape.
Another benefit is that you can also ditch those firming creams meant to get rid of the ‘orange peel’ effect.
You will not get that by running on a treadmill. You could, from playing basketball. (But be honest, we aren’t in high school anymore.) Or, more realistically, just by doing 20 to 30 minutes a week of strength training two or three times a week.
Assuming, of course, that you are watching what you eat.
I’m using the word strength training here to include all the stuff that involves working your muscles by exhausting them, either with added weights or using your own body weight, which has lots of benefits.
And if you have a decent internet connection, you can find something out there that you will like and that will suit your level of fitness. (I’m still on that thing that came before fiber optic. Do you even remember what that feels like???? smh)
4. You won’t get rabidly hungry
If you ever played sports in high school, trained for a marathon or otherwise committed yourself to some serious exercise, you know that intense hunger is your body’s natural reaction to increased physical activity.
This is also one of the reasons why exercise alone will not really help you lose weight (unless you are a young male producing oceans of testosterone…and in that case go away, we hate you.)
Add that to the fact that we vastly overestimate how much we actually burn while working out, and feel entitled to a post-work out treat and you can see how this whole thing could rapidly become an exercise in futilty.
For example, eating a pack of ‘medium’ fries is enough to erase all the hard work you did during your 45 minute aerobics session)
However, by no stretch of imagination can I reward myself after a 10, 20 minute work out.
Especially if I barely broke into a sweat.
5. You become more aware of your body
This is especially true if you incorporate some yoga, Pilates or some other form of exercise that emphasizes on repetition and relaxing your body. When I do yoga, my posture naturally improves, the tension around my neck and shoulders disappears and I can literally feel that my muscles are stronger as I go about my daily activities.
I don’t know if that makes sense.
This awareness is also a powerful incentive to keep working out, and often, to push yourself further either by lengthening the duration, trying out something new, or increasing the amounts you do. Mostly without forcing yourself.
The bottom line is, working out is an important part of managing your overall health. Being consistent can be a challenge, especially if you seem to be doing it all for nothing.
That is why it is important to find something that you love doing, and that you can easily incorporate into your lifestyle. For me, that is lifting weights, walking a lot and doing some yoga.
What’s worked in the past?