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Free Weights | Going Into ‘Meathead Zone’

Anyone who has been to a traditional gym (not an all-ladies circuit facility or specialty training gym) has seen them. The meatheads.

I know it’s a terrible term, but for those of you who haven’t heard it, this is a term used for that beefy guy who pounds serious iron and muscles the size of mini mountains. I’ve talked to men who were intimidated to go into the free weights area (a.k.a. the meathead zone) because they were intimidates. And ladies? For a while, the greater majority would rather stick with the cardio equipment, group fitness classes and the circuit machines on the floor.

Ladies, these times they are a’ changin’!

Let’s first get the intimidation factor out of the way. First, I’d venture to say that men don’t care if you’re doing 10-pound bicep curls to their 100-pound bicep curls. As long as you’re not in the way of them staring at themselves in the mirror, you should be fine. You’re using different weights, so it’s not like you’re keeping them from their work. Second, who cares what they think? (And for the single ladies, they may think that you lifting iron is totally hot!)

I’ll admit that I never went into the free weights area until I hired a personal trainer. As she began walking toward there, I felt my heart start pumping more than it does when I go all-out on the elliptical. To her, that was just another useful part of the gym. To me, that was “the forbidden zone.” What? Women “go there”?

It didn’t take long before I didn’t even notice the men. I was too focused on the work I needed to do. Fortunately, I also have plenty of gal role models in my gym who confidently work out in the free weights zone, which somehow gives me more confidence. In fact, if I run into my friend Leigh, she will extol the complete and positive praises of strength training for women. “You burn calories all day long with the lean muscle mass you build,” says Leigh to every woman she can.

The bottom line, ladies, is that as we age, muscles are a “use it or lose it” tool in our health arsenal. We need them for balance, we need them for strength, we need them to burn calories, and we need them if we want a sculpted body.

According to the Mayo Clinic, strength training offers the following benefits:

* Develop strong bones. Strength training increases bone density and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.

* Control your weight. Muscles burn more calories than fat. Do the math.

* Reduce your risk of injury. Muscles protect your joints and help with balance – something many women lose as they age.

* Boost your stamina. As you get stronger, you won’t fatigue as easily.

* Manage chronic conditions. Beyond building strength and muscle, strength training is good for your brain and other health conditions, including depression, diabetes, and osteoporosis.

* Sharpen your focus. Some research suggests that regular strength training helps improve attention for older adults. Face it, you have to focus while lifting weights. Not only do you have to count reps, but you have to take caution that you’re using proper form in every execution.

OK, so you’re ‘just’ lifting the bar while doing chest presses and the guy next to you has more weight than you and your BFF combined. So what! You’re lifting the bar! You’re lifting a kindergartener in the air! This isn’t a competition. You’re there for you and your health, not to win the “I’m lifting more weights than you” badge.

Note: With all strength training, for your own safety, ensure you know proper form and are executing each move properly. You certainly don’t want to injure your back, for example, while trying to build your biceps. Grab a trainer, if you can, or research online. My favorite book still is the Women’s Health Big Book of Exercise. An invaluable tool for the novice lifter.


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[author_info]About the Author

 Lori Rypka is the Prime Parents Club Fitness Contributor, a mom of two wonderful kids first, a writer, wife, friend, personal trainer and marathon runner in training second. She enjoys helping others in their personal journeys toward living healthier lives. The biggest tool in her tool box: humor. Who says dieting can’t be fun? You can find Lori at http://www.fumbledintofitness.com/, or on Twitter as @LoriRypka.

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Lori Rypka has been certified as a personal trainer through the American Council on Exercise since April 2010, and enjoys helping friends find their healthy selves. Follow Lori on her blog at Fumbled Into Fitness.

1 Comment

  1. Anja

    August 13, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    Exactly how I used to feel about the free weight area! Great post.