Why You Should Add Weights To Your Workouts
A few months ago I decided to change up my workout routine… it had been a long and difficult several months, life-wise, and though I did “keep up with my workouts” during that time, what that boiled down to most days was doing a 7-mile powerwalk in the morning and then literally nothing else. Not even stretching with any regularity. I would finish my walk, put my legs up the wall for a while to chill out, and then just get on with my day. Which, for me, usually means sitting at a computer for at least 5 hours.
Aches and pains began creeping in, and weakness too, but I also wasn’t sleeping that well, so I supposed that was “to be expected,” and it just kind of snowballed over the course of about 9 months. A very unbalanced workout routine coupled with poor sleep and a whole lot of emotional turmoil, slowly, I think quite literally, shrunk certain parts of me.
I was having lots of back and hip issues… the best way I can describe it is “fragility.” A lot of weakness, to be sure, but it was more than that… with certain movements, I really felt like if I pushed it much further I could injure myself. These are simple movements, like getting out of bed or bending down to pick something up. My body has never behaved like this. But then again, it is a fact that I’m getting older… and I would wonder sometimes “Is this what it’s like to age?”
Just Like Skipping Leg Day
Anyway, last July I decided it was time to reclaim whatever I had lost, and I knew the first step needed to be a more holistic approach to my workout routine. I was doing tons of cardio and no strength training to speak of. No HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training). Lots of Pilates. Some yoga. Power yoga, not the mellow kind. Never the mellow kind! There is no time! <eyeroll> No massages, no deep stretching. Unfortunately, this is pretty common. But what you’re looking at here is something akin to those funny memes about always skipping leg day. It produces a very imbalanced body, one that is not particularly functional. That’s exactly what I had going on.
So I added some HIIT workouts and some dumbells. I backed off the cardio. I made Sundays an actual rest day, for stretching and chilling and napping. My favorite online workouts right now are from Blogilates (https://www.youtube.com/@blogilates). She offers a ton of free content, a lot of it equipment-free. Her claim to fame is actually Pilates, POP Pilates specifically… I think she may have created it, but if not, she is a very influential Pilates instructor and POP Pilates is a huge part of her repertoire. She also does a version of HIIT, but she calls it PIIT: Pilates Intense Interval Training. It’s quite the ass-kicker.
These types of workouts have made me so much stronger. Over the last few months, I have dramatically improved my physical strength and endurance, and I know it’s because of a more well-rounded approach to exercise. Specifically, a lot of the thanks goes to the PIIT/HIIT bodyweight workouts and building muscle with weights.
“Too Open” Is Never A Good Thing
I have always been very flexible, and somewhat strong. Emphasis on very flexible… super open particularly through the hips and shoulders. I have always been more flexible than strong, for sure. Not long ago I was taking an online yoga class, and as we arrived at a lunge, which actually requires a good amount of both strength and flexibility, I realized that traditionally, for the last nearly 30 years, I haven’t made it a habit to balance that strength and flexibility… I don’t tend to “flex” in a lunge. Instead, I take a long stance, way too long for my legs, and I sink into the flexibility of my hips. I always have and have relied on that “somewhat strength” to carry the pose.
This was fine when I was younger, but as we get older, we lose muscle if we don’t use it, and I had done a lot not using it until this past summer. Lunges haven’t felt great for me in months. This particular lunge felt stronger than it has ever in my life, honestly, and I thought “Oh good, it’s coming back!”
At the same time, I had a memory come flooding back of a teacher in a yoga class forever ago saying it’s not the greatest thing to have extremely open hips. That there needs to be strength to balance it out. And I “got it” when she said it back then, but I didn’t really appreciate what she was saying like I do now.
It’s not always necessary to stretch as far as you can, in fact, it’s almost never necessary. In all your moves, there must be flexibility and strength. If you can’t find both things in what you’re doing, maybe that’s not the greatest place to be.
The Science Of Strength Training
These days I am feeling much stronger and better. That fragility I was feeling, whatever it was, is gone. I can exercise a lot more intensely than I could when I started this “workout makeover” 4 months ago, and the strength is starting to build on itself, which makes everything more empowering and fun, workout-wise and life-wise too.
Recently I heard a podcast from Mel Robbins with guest Dr. Gabrielle Lyon called The Science of Strength Training, and I sat there fascinated as she described the scientific processes behind what I believe I have been doing and what has been happening in my body over the past few months.
I want to share this with you because I wonder how many people are having the same “fragility” issues I was experiencing or some other weakness they would describe differently. If you’re in your 40s or even older, how well-rounded is your workout routine? I wonder if you might get as much out of this podcast as I did, and if you could use some of this information to empower, strengthen, and heal yourself. I hope you can, and I hope you do.
Peace and love to you, wherever this message finds you.