I love lifting heavy weights. I’m no gym rat, and I don’t dream of spending hours in front of a barbell like some do. In fact, I’ve historically had a less than ideal relationship with gym classes and cardio, meaning I kind of hate gyms. So why do I go to one, multiple times a week, just to pick up and put back down some clunky pieces of rubber? Well, beyond improving my climbing, it makes me feel pretty damn good.
Ever since I started lifting heavy things, I sleep better, my mood is improved, and my aerobic stamina has even improved. I feel so good that I want to stop every miserable looking runner that I see on the side of the road and tell them that they can stop – there’s a better way to get fit and healthy! But before I go over the fantastic reasons I love lifting, I just want to touch on one thing.
What does “lifting heavy” mean?
Confession: I don’t have a 300 lb deadlift. And that’s totally ok with me. When I say you should lift heavy things, I mean whatever is heavy for you. This isn’t an ego thing, where you and I try to best each other in a game of who can hoist the most weight up over our own heads. If heavy means a 10 lb dumbbell, or even just your own bodyweight, then that’s what you start with. Once that’s no longer difficult, you can move on 15 lb dumbbells. Everyone is going to have their own frame of reference for what “heavy” looks like, and that’s ok. The point of lifting is to get stronger, lose fat (and maintain that fat loss!), and get healthier.
Without further ado, here are my top three reasons why you should be lifting heavy things.
1. You don’t have live in the gym to get great results
I told you before that I haaaate gyms, and I wasn’t kidding. I love weight lifting because you can get away with doing as little as possible while still getting stronger and losing fat. This is all thanks to the way our bodies use our muscles during strength training versus aerobic exercises. Our muscles are made up of different types of fibers called slow twitch and fast twitch. If I go for a nice long run (though I’d hesitate to call it nice), I’d be using my slow twitch muscle fibers. But if I did a few sets of goblet squats, I’d be using both my slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibers. And the fact that I’m working more muscle fibers means that I need more time to recover, which translates to less time in the gym and more time spent doing other things that I love.
2. Reduces fat and maintains fat loss
Lifting provides you with the unique ability to hang on to muscle, which is a really important marker of health, while allowing you to lose fat. I’m definitely interested in an exercise routine that gets rid of my excess fat while keeping me strong and healthy. This likely works because having more muscle has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity, which is known to increase you’re body’s ability to shed extra fat.
Why does muscle help you maintain the fat loss you’ve achieved? Your muscles are great at storing glucose for your body to use at a later time for quick energy. If you have increased muscle mass, your body can store more glucose in your muscles. This means that less glucose is “unused” and won’t get converted to long-term storage (aka fat).
3. Improves your mental health
This is something I almost immediately experienced when I started lifting. When I’m done with a strength training session, I don’t feel exhausted, anxious, or sad. I feel exhilarated and strong. This is such a crucial point, especially if you’re someone who suffers from mental health issues of any kind. As someone who has struggled with anxiety for much of my life, lifting was a game changer for me. And this isn’t just anecdotal – there are studies that show that lifting can help provide relief from anxiety and depression. Just a single workout can start to show improvements in mood for those that suffer from anxiety.
Those are the top 3 reasons I choose to spend 3-4 hours a week at the gym lifting weights. They are the reasons that made sticking with this routine so easy, and why I’m still doing this over a year later. If you’re not giving strength training a shot, I highly suggest you do! Don’t have access to a gym? There are some great at home workout protocols that help you get an awesome routine down, all with minimal equipment!