Health

Thursday 10 July 2014

Weight-training: 'She lifts, bro...'

More and more women are embracing weight-training as part of their fitness regime -- and they're showing the boys how to get it done, writes Eric Haughan

More women are turning to weightlifting. Thinkstock

Every guy thinks that it is every girl's dream is to find the perfect man... pffft, every girl's dream is to eat whatever she wants without getting fat!'

So read the clever text on the picture sat at the top of the page, raising a chuckle as I scrolled quickly through the many 'selfies' (some of them, admittedly, my own!), photos of newborns, YouTube links and 'check-ins' at various well-known nightspots that clutter your typical Facebook homepage.

I was reminded of this slightly tongue-in-cheek witticism as I observed a 'Ladies Introduction to Weightlifting Workshop' at Revolution Fitness on Richmond Road, Dublin 3, on a chilly Saturday afternoon recently.

As any semi-regular gym-goer may attest to, the dreaded 'free weights' area -- long the unofficial domain of only the biggest, hairiest, most testosterone-filled males -- is slowly but surely attracting more and more members of the fairer sex.

It is a long-held -- and erroneous -- belief among many (male and female) that a quick stroll past the squat rack on your way to the water cooler will cause even the slightest of individuals to suddenly transform into a beefed-up Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"I don't want to get too bulky," she argued... "I need cardio to lose weight," he reasoned... "Weights won't help me for football/hockey/ athletics," they insisted.

However, more and more ladies are ditching the 'eternal diet plus hours on the treadmill' routine and telling us that 'strong is the new skinny.' Lift heavy, eat well, rest well. Maybe you can't exactly 'eat what you want' -- but an exercise regime where eating plenty of real food is an absolute requirement may even deserve a Facebook 'meme' of its own.

Strong people are, after all, more useful and -- so I'm told -- harder to kill!

James Hanley is the owner of the Revolution Fitness gym. He has been involved in the health and fitness industry for 10 years.

A national champion and world record-breaking powerlifter, James left his "safe career" in accounting to open RevFit -- just a few dozen walking lunges from Shelbourne Football Club's Tolka Park home.

RevFit styles itself as a place which specialises in getting guys and girls STRONG and prides itself as being "a gym where machines aren't used -- they're made".

The Ladies Lifting Workshop came about thanks to James, his partner (in work and life) Sarah Doyle -- who spoke to the class about nutrition and making your training 'goal focused' -- and Karla Kelly, a primary school teacher in Ballymun who is living, breathing proof of why 'ladies who lift' reach their fitness goals quicker than the rest.

Now a qualified personal trainer, Karla explained that "it is only in the last three years that I started to get serious about my training. I started to strength train back in 2010, thanks to a workshop I attended -- similar to our own here today -- and I fell in love with the main compound lifts immediately.

"I loved the sense of achievement I got from lifting and I loved how my self-esteem and self-confidence started to soar. I was persuaded by some friends to give powerlifting a try and I entered my first competition in July 2011.

"To my surprise -- and everyone else's -- I set a world record in the deadlift in my weightclass. I currently train and compete in Olympic weightlifting and I love the challenge of lifting heavy and the confidence it gives me."

And so, on the day in question, nine eager ladies stepped somewhat shyly through the door and onto the platform at RevFit to take, for most, their first tentative weightlifting steps.

Just over three hours later, all nine headed for home armed with the knowledge, ability and confidence to completely overhaul their training regimes and -- as one of the class joked -- "get ripped!"

The structure of the session was tight, comprehensive and hugely informative. As James himself points out: "if you want to build the biggest pyramid, you must first build the largest base."

And so, the class was put through basic mobility exercises and warm-up drills before being introduced, bit by bit, to the major lifts -- ie, the squat and deadlift. Sarah followed this up with a brief lecture about nutrition and 'goal making' before James finished the session off with some basic programming advice. This final piece of the puzzle, essentially, gave the class the ability to write their own training programmes -- a basic template for progress, if you like.

The class was encouraged to "not just exercise -- train". And train with a specific goal in mind. That goal might be anything from 'complete one pull-up' to 'squat twice my bodyweight'. But a goal, we're told -- something attainable to strive toward -- is almost as important as the training itself.

It was truly eye-opening to see some participants go from, at first, having difficulty with basic mobility movements to, as their confidence grew, ripping up deadlifts with near perfect form. In conversation with many of the participants afterwards, the word for the day seemed to be 'confidence'. Every person there had long wanted to get in amongst the weights, as such, and they now felt the confidence and know-how gained from the RevFit workshop will allow them to explore weightlifting in more serious terms. The 'will' was always there. They now had the 'way'.

As one class member said: "At least now when I walk into the free weights section, I'll know what all the equipment is for and what to do with it!"

There you have it; Yorkies may not be for girls, according to the silly TV adverts -- but lifting weights certainly is.

Start lifting, ladies. It will change your body -- and it might just change your life.

ELAINE (36)

"I had done some kettlebell and dumbbell work in the gym but I've always wanted to properly get into it and doing this workshop has given me the confidence to try the main barbell exercises.

"I've done the cardio thing but this, lifting weights, is just a better way.

"I now have the confidence to go heavier, to use the bigger equipment -- it used to all seem a bit scary, but not now.

"I had a baby in February and my core strength was just gone. But using weights is a big help, it's so much better than just cardio."

LEANNE (22)

"I started training here in RevFit about four weeks ago. Before this, I had no weightlifting experience at all and my fitness routine was pretty much all cardio.

"I wouldn't have known anything about weight- lifting. I thought girls who lifted weights would get bulked up and end up with that Jodie Marsh look, like a bodybuilder! But it's completely the opposite.

"I definitely needed the help of a trainer, I couldn't have figured this out for myself -- I needed the guidance."Keira (26)

"I started trying weightlifting probably six months ago but I wanted to do this workshop to give me the confidence to get into it more.

"Previously, with me, it was just running, running and more running and it was useless. I tried lifting weights and I loved it straight away.

"After today, I feel like I'm ready to go heavy -- I just want to do more, more, more!"

Irish Independent

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