Since the first time I ran a mile without stopping 15 years ago, running has been my exercise of choice. I don't always enjoy the run itself, but I love the way I feel afterward: Sweaty, exhilarated and a couple hundred calories lighter. Regardless of the chaos lurking in the other corners of life, I can always count on that hour of solitude and stress relief, when I can plug in my headphones and zone out.|
But recently, as I rounded my 39th birthday and headed toward the big 4-0, I started noticing some changes. Random pains flared up more often—traveling from knee to ankle and back again—and they hung around longer than they used to. I started wondering what I would do if I couldn't run anymore. At the same time, things started
I'd always assumed that
So a couple months ago, I finally took the plunge and signed up for bi-weekly sessions with a personal trainer at my local gym. I was a little nervous and very uncertain, but excited at the prospect of taking my fitness to another level. Below are some of the biggest surprises I've encountered so far in my journey.
Surprise #1 - Weights get your heart pumping.
Okay, I'll admit it: From my smug perch on the treadmill, I've always secretly assumed that weight lifters were sort of just puttering around the gym, talking to their bodybuilder buddies while occasionally doing a set of bench presses before taking another chatty break. No way were their heart rates anywhere close to mine, I thought. And then I did my first set of squats with a 60-pound barbell, my heart pounding like a jackhammer in my chest, and realized I'd been flat out wrong. Lifting heavy weights doesn't just work the muscles—it also sneaks in some background cardio. Oh, and there's sweat for days.
Surprise #2 - No one laughed at me.
This was my worst-case scenario: I would venture away from the treadmill and onto the sacred weight floor, where all of those buff
Surprise #3 - I was stronger than I realized.
I'd never lifted anything heavier than 12-pound dumbbells in my boot camp classes, so when my trainer told me to do lunges while holding 20-pound weights, I was skeptical—but I did it. And when he put 45 pounds on the hamstring machine, I was skeptical—but I did that, too. And when he suggested that I do
Surprise #4 - I felt stronger right away.
Maybe it's a mental thing, but as early as the day after my first training session, I felt marginally stronger—and that feeling of strength increased every time. After years of using those little pink dumbbells in boot camp classes, there was something decidedly empowering about lifting heavy (or heavier) weights. Suddenly, I was focused less about how my body looked and more
Surprise #5 - I feel more, not less, feminine.
Many women worry that lifting weights will cause them to become bulky and masculine, but I've found the opposite to be true. As my muscles have become a bit more defined and visible, I actually feel more feminine, especially when wearing tanks and shorts in summer.
Surprise #6 - My daughters think I'm tough as nails.
I never really considered what my family would think about my foray into weight lifting, so I was pleasantly surprised by the interest my three girls took. When I came home from my first session, they took turns squeezing my biceps and exclaiming over "Mom's guns" (no matter that they looked and felt exactly the same as they had that morning). Simply stated, they thought it was cool that Mommy was lifting weights to get stronger—and that was pretty cool in itself.
Surprise #7 – Lifting has improved my moods.
This isn't a scientific observation, but I've noticed a definite boost in my moods since I started lifting. I figured it could be a perk of some of the other benefits, like feeling stronger and leaner, or that it had something to do with the