The Importance of Strength Training from a former Cardio Queen
“I just want to be lean, I don’t want to look bulky” is the anthem cried around the world from many women (and I’m sure some men too) who think their fitness routine comprised of solely cardio is the only thing they need in order to achieve their fitness goals. Believe me, I WAS one of those people! My fitness routine in college and the majority of my 20s consisted of running, the elliptical and cycle classes with a few crunches and planks thrown in there sparingly for good measure. Not only did I think cardio was the only thing you needed to stay in shape, I also had no idea how to even begin strength training and there was NO WAY I was going into the grunting, men in tank tops free weight area of the gym!
Now don’t get me wrong, I still love running (I’ve run two full marathons so far and it’s on my bucket list to run a third at some point in the future) and I obviously love cycle classes or I wouldn’t be teaching them! But the difference is that now I know the importance of balancing both cardio and strength and how they both help one another. Below is my list of reasons why strength training is so important and beneficial!
1. It helps improve your running speed. If you’re training for an event or just enjoy running, adding in strength training can greatly improve your speed. Strength training strengthens muscles and connective tissues which has been scientifically proven to increase your speed and VO2 max (maximum amount of oxygen a person can utilize during intense exercise). Your body uses the most fatigue resistant muscle fibers so you don’t expend as much energy to hit a certain pace.
2. You’re less prone to injury. All muscle tissues have a certain capacity before they reach fatigue. Load is the amount of stress you put on your muscles through training. Capacity and load limits determine how resilient runners muscle fibers are. When the limits are low, the risk for injury increases. Strength training increases your capacity to endure more load which in turn allows you to run faster and longer without increased risk of injury. Also, strength training keeps muscles around affected joints strong, lubricates your joints, decreases bone loss and helps control joint swelling and pain. This can help reduce your risk of both arthritis and osteoporosis.
3. Helps you lose and keep weight off.Cardio is well known as a way to increase the number of calories you burn in a day but not everyone realizes how important strength training is as a weight loss tool. Strength training helps increase your resting metabolism which is the rate at which your body burns calories when you’re just going about your day, not exercising. Research suggests that every pound of muscle burns roughly 6 calories per day at rest compared to every pound of fat which burns approximately 2 calories per day.
4. EPOC Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption aka afterburn is the amount of energy (calories) and oxygen your body needs after exercising to repair your muscles and recover. Strength training generally causes more physiological stress on your body than cardio so, in turn, it takes more energy to repair your muscles after the fact.
5. Strong is the new skinny!! Yes, strength training can help you fit into those jeans you desperately want to wear but it can also help you lift a 50lb box you never could before, push the stroller around with your happy baby on a nice sunny day, carry in all the groceries in one trip WITHOUT pulling your back (because we all carry in the groceries in one trip regardless of whether or not we strength train!)
The point is, gaining strength has so many benefits and I PROMISE you will not look like the hulk! My advice is start off slow, keep it consistent, ensure your form is correct and listen to your body. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or want to start a program!