I started weightlifting five years ago and immediately became addicted to how challenging it was.
Having worked an average of five times a week regularly since then, I have learned a lot.
I realized that exercise is overrated for fat loss and consistency trumps perfection.
In the summer of 2017, I agreed to do six weeks of personal training as an introduction to weight lifting for an article.
I was always trying different things as a lifestyle journalist, but it was mostly fleeting interests in content.
Strength training, however, was different. When I agreed to write this article, I had no idea it would spark a passion that would become a way of life.
I had never lifted dumbbells when I started, and although I enjoyed dancing and netball as a teenager, I didn’t consider myself a “fitness person”. Every once in a while I put myself through a boring stint on a cardio machine.
But five years later, discovering bodybuilding changed not just my body, but my whole life. Fitness is now my specialty as a journalist, I have a healthy relationship with food and I’m also stronger, fitter and leaner.
“Resistance training is key to almost any training goal,” personal trainer Luke Worthington previously told Insider.
I’ve been lifting weights regularly for five years, it gives me a sense of empowerment, and rather than seeing exercise as a punishment, I look forward to hitting the gym.
I learned some valuable lessons along the way that would have helped me when I started, including that exercise alone won’t make you lose a significant amount of fat, and that there is no ” toning”.
1. Exercise is overrated for fat loss
Although I’ve been working out more than ever, I haven’t lost weight for nearly two years on my fitness journey. I actually gained weight, and while some of it was muscle, it was also fat. I was simply eating (and drinking) too much.
I didn’t lose fat until I educated myself on calories and minimized overeating. Strength training and a high protein diet also helped me maintain my muscles.
After losing body fat and losing 35 pounds, people mistakenly assumed I had just been into fitness. But I was already strong (I could lift 255 pounds), I just didn’t fit the image most people associate with someone who works out.
Formal exercise only accounts for 5-10% of the calories an average person burns in a day, personal trainer Graeme Tomlinson previously told Insider. That’s why I train to get stronger, fitter and more empowered, not to burn calories – if I want to lose fat, I aim for a calorie deficit with my diet.
2. Lifting weights doesn’t make you bulky
Contrary to popular belief, lifting weights does not automatically make women “bulky”. Building muscle is actually a very difficult and slow process, especially if you are not eating with a calorie surplus.
“If you do this three times a week, the increase in muscle mass won’t be noticeable for most people,” personal trainer Sarah Carr previously told Insider.
The physique of female lifters is the result of hard training and dedicated nutrition, Carr said, and genetics also play a role.
Five years later, I love the muscle I have and I haven’t bulked up yet.
3. Toning is a myth
Lifting heavy weights can help create the “toned” physique that many women covet. But it’s a myth that muscles can be toned – they just grow or shrink.
The “toned” look basically means having some muscle mass and enough body fat to see it, personal trainer Pete Geracimo previously told Insider.
The way to do this is to build muscle through resistance training and lose fat through a slight calorie deficit.
4. Consistency trumps perfection
Not every workout will be great. Some days my training is harder than others. Sometimes I don’t feel like going to the gym at all. But 90% of the time, I go there, show up and do something.
Knowing that I won’t always be motivated to work out and that I will sometimes have to push myself to get to the gym, has been essential for me to stay consistent and achieve my fitness goals. I don’t blame myself if I sometimes have a lighter workout either.
Overtraining doesn’t help me reach my goals any faster and sometimes I take an extra day off, but I’ve made progress – and made fitness part of my lifestyle – recognizing that consistency is more important than perfection.
5. Changing workouts is fine, but the fundamentals still work
Every time I changed my workout style (like going from a weight training program to a CrossFit-style workout plan), my body adapted.
This often leads to delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which is mistakenly believed to be a sign of effective training. So I don’t change my training every month in a quest for DOMS.
My workouts will always include fundamental movements like squats, hinges (deadlifts), pushes (bench press), pull-ups (chin-ups), lunges, and carries.
Bases are bases for a reason, and to progress you need to train them consistently, applying progressive overload, Worthington said.
6. Anyone can become a “fitness person”
I used to think that “fitness people” were born that way, and if I wasn’t one, there was no hope.
The past five years have shown me that’s not true.
Finding a way to move that I actively enjoy has changed everything for me. Not everyone will enjoy lifting weights, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a type of exercise for you. You may not have found it yet.
Read the original Insider article