Why I’m strength training (and why you should too!)

Long time readers that know me well and close friends will know that I have had a love/hate relationship with strength training. Initially, while how I loved how it could make you look,it seemed that with a hyper mobile pelvis and sacroiliac joint issues, that I’d take two steps forward and one and a half steps back. However, I also knew that if I could become stronger, I would improve both muscular strength and control around the hips, abdominals and spine and suffer less sacroiliac issues. Thus I persisted.

Then I ruptured my hamstring and for a long time it seemed impossible that I’d ever be able to do any serious strength training again. I kept up doing pilates and didn’t bother with my strength training. Yet, at the back of my mind, the reasons that I SHOULD be doing it were gnawing away at the back of my mind. This time last year, desperate to improve my hamstring function, I teamed up with a physio that was conducting a study into proprioceptive ability and whether improving this would reduce the chances of hamstring re injury. I was given a weird concoction of exercises to perform and for convenience, I thought I’d do them at the gym after my morning ride. After a few months, I cautiously approached the squat rack and started doing some basic strength training moves and was encouraged by my slow, but steady progress. Eventually I progressed to doing two days of strength training per week. However I felt like my injury and instability was beginning to “hamstring” (pardon the pun). I decided to take some of the advice I would give someone in my position and decided that help was warranted. The solution was to go back to where I started my strength training journey twenty five years ago and sign up for a strength and conditioning program at UQ Academy.

I’m glad I did. Working with a strength and conditioning coach has been the tonic I needed to get out of the rehab mindset to the “let’s get strong” mindset.My strength and conditioning coach works with elite/sub elite athletes and it’s nice to finally go and train with the narrative of improving athletic performance and extending myself more rather than solely rehabilitating my hamstring (that still has to be worked on, and I consider it a life long project).

I’m approaching my tenth week of training and my strength and stability have improved markedly which in turn are probably impacting my cycling in a positive way. Every few sessions I surprise myself with a better Strava time or power output which is rather encouraging. I’m going to continue to keep strength training for the reasons below and recommend that you do too – you may have different reasons though.

1) It makes you feel like a total bad ass.

There is something oddly satisfying about lifting a decent amount of weight. Every time I do what I call a “post accident” personal best, I feel like a complete rockstar. Whilst I used to do strength training to look better, focusing on being a bad ass is way more uplifting, not to mention quite a bit of fun.

2) It’s great “anti ager” and good for your metabolism

It’s well known in exercise science circles that consistent cardiovascular and strength training slows a natural decline in cardiovascular capacity and strength (due to age related muscle loss, or sarcopenia). At nearly 49, I’m still keeping up on the bike with some of my younger counterparts and want to keep it that way. Strength training has also been shown to improve glucose and insulin sensitivity and while I never go into the gym thinking, “it’s time to prevent diabetes!”, it’s nice to think that combined with a healthy diet you’re maintaining your body nicely and staying fit for the long term.

3) It’s helpful in assisting with injury management/long term chronic musculoskeletal issues

When strength training is progressed properly and assessment is thorough, my opinion is that chronic musculoskeletal issues such as excessive hyper mobility are improved. Naturally strength training cannot prevent every injury from happening, but invariably I find some type of movement within sensible limits is beneficial (and yes, helps you feel bad ass!)

4) It’s essential for healthy bones (especially at mid life)

The benefits of strength training, especially for women entering menopause cannot be underestimated. Here in Brisbane, pioneering work on the relationship between lifting decent weights and bone health is being done by The Bone Clinic. In my time practising pharmacy, I have seen the devastating effects that low mineral bone density can have on patients’ quality of life. I want to keep my bones strong!

5) It’s a time efficient form of exercise

With strength training, more sessions are not necessarily better. Recovery from a hard session can take 36-72 hours, therefore, training twice a week is adequate. Plus if you’re really time poor and lifting heavy things, it can provide quite the aerobic workout!

Do you lift weights? Do you enjoy it?

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