You just have to get used to the idea that you need to constantly work on building muscle and protecting muscle mass in order to lose weight safely.
Just believe that, will you? So you don’t hurt yourself, metabolically speaking?
Either believe it or stop dieting now, because without working on muscle development, you’ll just end up dieting off the muscles you need, slowly lowering your metabolic rate, and setting yourself up for a fast and prolific weight gain down the road and a harder time losing weight next time, because you’ll have even less muscle mass to support your weight loss.
Every time I hear anyone say, “Well, I just want to lose 15-50 lbs. first and then I’ll work with weights, because I don’t want to get too bulky…” I just want to cry. I just want to sit down and cry, because I can see that person’s next 15-20 years rolling out in Technicolor detail. And I worry. And I lose sleep.
When you just have to pick up a dumbbell once in a while. Do the occasional squat while brushing your teeth… And that can make the difference between losing weight and keeping it off or yo-yoing for all time.
So. You’re used to the idea, right? We don’t have to quibble. Women and men need to train with weights, particularly as they get older. Right? Right.
Where to start? There are plenty of places to start.
Weight circuits: These circuits are a good way to go if you just want to get it done. You’re maintaining your body, you know you need to strengthen, and you just want to do that work as quickly as possible with the least fuss or opportunity for injury.
You’ll find these machine-families at virtually any gym. They are designed using pulleys and springs and weights and levers to isolate and work specific body parts. Work the whole circuit to get a total body workout. You want to be shown the ropes by a trainer at the gym how to use the equipment. That person will likely supply you with a card that will allow you to track the size of weight you use and the number of repetitions (reps) and sets you accomplish at each station. Go slowly. Build gradually. Think about adding strength training to your exercise menu 2-3 times per week. Always allow a day of rest between workouts.
There are many women-only gyms springing up that include these kinds of weight circuits, and throw in aerobics as part of a planned circuit. Here’s what a friend of mine has to say about working out at one of these:
“Okay, here’s why I like my gym.
“First, it’s obscenely convenient. It’s across the street from my office building, which means I have to work pretty hard to come up with a reason not to go.
“Second, I have two good friends who’ve agreed that we are each others’ priority on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings–right after work. All the books say have a buddy to hold you accountable, and, doggoneit, it’s true.
“Third, it’s women-only. That gets rid of another whole chunk of excuses. And what women! They are the salt of the earth, and they come in such variety! There’s a teenager I’ve seen a few times, and there are women who are probably in their 70s. There are some twigs, of course, but there are also some apples and. . . umm, some cucumbers, too. We can inspire and be inspired by each other.
“And fourth, there’s the work itself. We start with three minutes on an exercise bike, and then do two circuits of eight weight machines, each machine followed by a step or rebounder. Only a minute and a half or so at each station. So if there’s a machine that’s challenging, it’s followed by a machine I’m awesome on, totally competent–like the leg press. The circuits are completely noncompetitive, since nobody else is doing what you’re doing while you’re doing it. And the music–I have to admit–is motivating, even when it’s disco show tunes. The best part of the music is that I need to neither shop for it nor own it!
“So there! That’s why I like it.”
Or you might try working with free-weights. Free. Weights. Your body, your mind. Dumbells. In many ways more simple, in many ways more difficult. Very un boring. Requires understanding, training. Attention to form and posture.
Here is a discipline for people who like to take a real interest in their workouts. You can work on mastering free weights and exploring different postures and movements for years. Lifters have their own cultures and distinctions from city to city, country to country. Gym etiquette. A free weight gym is a particular kind of place. Far more open to women than you might imagine. Heroines and heroes, lore and mythology.
For anyone, but particularly for women, I can think of no better introduction to this work than reading through the site lovingly authored and constantly updated by Mistress Krista, diva of the free weights. Krista and I don’t agree on all things (um, particularly Pilates and its benefits), but when I need help figuring out how to do things like proper squats, or work my way up to real pushups, I will start at http://www.stumptuous.com.
Karen Voight is great for strength work by video. Knowledgeable and careful in her cuing, challenging in her workouts, she’ll help you develop “lean legs and buns.” “Firm arms and abs.” If you prefer to work out at home, her videos are a great challenge. Go slowly and assume you’ll not finish with Karen and her friends for a while. But I like a video I can’t finish. It has a longer shelf life.
And therabands or tubing. Or a bowflex at home. Or power yoga. Add some strength work to your aerobic workouts to really boost your weight loss and fitness progress.