--- You must begin to
think of yourself as
becoming the person
you want to be

               David Viscott


Last month I spoke to you about the importance of nutrition in the grand scheme of living a long, healthy life. This month I want to address the importance of strength training.

I would like you to envision yourself as a 70 year old woman. Do you see yourself as active and vibrant and strong? Do you see a fit, trim, optimistic "lady"? Can that "lady" carry in her own groceries from the car? Walk up the stairs without becoming winded? Is she still independent? How's that lady's balance?

Well, I have a surprise for you. If you don't take care of your body, you can kiss that vision good-bye. Yes, you can eat well and you can even do cardiovascular exercise (cardio) till the cows come home. But if you do not strength train, you are missing a key element of caring for both your body and your outlook on life. Muscle strength is an equally important component to overall health and fitness. According to Dr. Michael Pollock, chairman of the American College of Sports Medicine's position paper on exercise guidelines, "With society living long and longer, it makes sense to keep people functionally capable and independent." Strength training is a means to achieving this end.

Take a look at this fact. You will lose 1/2 pound of muscle for every year you age past 20, if you do not incorporate some type of resistance strength training into your exercise routine. Think about that for a moment. That means if you weighed 120 pounds at the age of 20 and you weigh 120 pounds now at the age of 40, you've replaced 10 lbs of muscle with 10 lbs of fat, even though your weight is exactly the same. Pretty shocking isn't it?

Now I want you take a good hard look at yourself. Is the joy of getting dressed gone because nothing fits and you don't like the way you look in anything? Do you shop for hours and come home empty-handed because "nothing fits?" AKA "I refuse to buy a bigger size??" Have you noticed that you are getting soft and look kind of unshapely lately? Do you feel weak? Have you twisted "the wrong way" and pulled a muscle? Have you been desperately dieting and walking or doing some kind of cardio and not getting any results? Ladies - you need to start strength training! Muscle is calorie-burning tissue. A person who regularly works out with even light weights and multiple reps will burn more calories than someone who concentrates solely on an aerobic routine.

More reasons to strength train: Muscle takes up less space than fat. NO! Muscle does not weigh MORE than fat. A pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat. But, muscle is denser than fat. Would you rather have a toned, shapely body or a soft, sloppy body? If you add strength training to your weekly exercise routine, you will not only look better, but everything will start to change. Your resting metabolic rate will increase, you will increase your bone mineral density (anyone out there been warned about Osteoporosis?), your digestion will speed up, it can reduce your resting blood pressure, relieve lower back pain and improve your balance and stability. These are just a few benefits of weight training. The biggest benefit - you may ask? YOU WILL START TO FEEL GREAT ABOUT YOURSELF!

Also, if you think you're too old for weight training, think again! Weight training fights the loss of muscle, bone mass and strength that naturally occurs with aging. No matter how old or how young you are, you should be doing some kind of regular strength training.

If you are heading out of your forties or older, strength training will literally turn back the clock. If you are heading to your forties, time spent strength training will be like money in the bank. You are investing in your future. The time is NOW. AND here is the good news; you can strength train in as little as 20 minutes per day. Here are some ground rules:

1. Start by strength training 2 days/week. You can start by using the Beginner Workout from this website! Make sure you have one day of rest in between each session.
2. Start with 1 exercise for each body part - biceps, triceps, deltoids, chest, back and lower body (butt, hips, thighs, calves)
3. Start with one set of each exercise (12-15 repetitions) using light hand weights. As you progress, work up to 2-3 sets.
4. As you add additional sets, rest 30 seconds to a minute in between each one.
5. Never hold your breath during the exercises. Always exhale on the hard part of the movement.
6. Always warm up before and stretch after each session.
7. Pay attention to form and technique, as they are important to injury prevention and producing results.
8. When selecting a weight, it should be heavy enough that you feel the muscle working and the difficulty increasing as you get to your 12-15th rep. The weight should be light enough that you can do 12-15 repetitions without pain or breaking proper form.
9. Strength training should never be painful. If you experience pain, stop the exercise immediately.

The adage "Move it or Lose It!" is true. Unused or underused muscles provide little or no support for your skeleton, internal organs and skin.

And working with weights consistently will give you visible, tangible results. Your scale may say you have not lost weight, (pounds) but your clothes will say you have. A pound is a pound, but a pound of muscle burns about 50 calories a day.

Whether your weekly routine incorporates more muscle strengthening exercises or more muscle endurance-building exercises, the choice is yours. The greater the weight you lift, the more bulk and more strength you will build. Greater reps and lighter weights help define muscles and build endurance. Set your goals and be persistent. The average person should see results in strength or definition within four to six weeks. And working out upper body and lower body on opposite days will decrease fatigue and burnout factors.

So there you have it, girls. You can't turn your back on strength training. You will look so great, you will get so strong and you will feel so wonderful about yourself. And remember - summer is coming. Start now. By June, you will be so proud to wear those fun, sexy summer outfits. Make 2006, your year of change.

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