How Strength Training Changed My Life

In today’s episode of the Inspiration2Grow I want to light a fire under you to begin an exercise routine that could possibly change your life completely – like it has for me.  It’s a bit of my personal story and a sprinkle of well-intended advice for women, like you and me, who want to be strong from the inside out.

Let me just start by saying, I am not a newbie to exercise and sports.  Luckily, in Canada, you are subjected to many different types of sports during your time at school.  My favourites were volleyball, badminton, track & field, sprinting the 100-m-race and soccer.  When I moved to Austria at the ripe young age of 19, I tried out for the United Nations Ladies Soccer team.  Skiing and hiking quickly became new favourites of mine because I fell in love with the picturesque, mountainous terrain. 

After studying at the University of Innsbruck, I met my husband, who was a veterinarian and enjoyed riding horses in his free time.  So, we took up competitive riding – Dieter was into jumping and eventing, my discipline was dressage. 

One thing that really influenced me and my fitness journey in Austria was when my husband explained to me the impact I was having on my horse’s back.  He said with every extra pound I was carrying, this weighed down tenfold on Tamburin’s back.  It wasn’t meant to be any kind of criticism about my weight at all, but he really made me think long and hard about it. 

There was no way I wanted to hurt Tambo’s back with all the intense training we had to do, so I signed up as a member at a local gym.  Not only did I start working out, but I also re-evaluated my eating habits.  Something had to change and so it did.  I began a gym strength training routine 5 – 6 days a week.  The joke at the gym was, “Send Lisa home if she shows up on the 7th day in a row.”  I was fanatic about my training, but the owners tried to convince me taking at least one day off was necessary. 

I can’t even tell you how much I loved it.  It made me come alive even on days when I had to drag my body into the facility and just didn’t feel like it.  Within minutes your body comes alive, and the adrenaline starts pumping more and more, pushing you harder and harder.  It took some weeks, but I began to feel and notice how toned I felt.  People started noticing and commenting too on the progress I was making.

I felt strong.  I felt capable.  I felt like an athlete.  I felt better on my horse too.

Over the course of about 4 – 5 years I trained consistently at the gym and rode my horse 5 – 6 times a week as well.  I lost a total of 18 kilos and I was easily able to keep them off with this type of exercise routine.  People don’t even realize how toning and physically demanding dressage riding is.  To make it look easy and effortless, you, as the rider, are flexing a lot of muscles just the right way sending the most subtle signals to your horse about which way to move, whether to speed up or slow down, whether to switch gears from walk to trot to canter, whether to ‘dance’ on the spot. 

In 2009, my husband accompanied Tamburin on a flight from Germany to Toronto and I travelled with our Jack Russel Terrier, Franzi, to our new home in Ontario, Canada.  I rode competitively for another 2 years and continued my workouts at a gym near his stable.

However, things started to quickly fall apart after I had a rather serious car accident on my way to the stable.  It took me out of commission for some time.  But while I was recovering, my business was taking off.  Unfortunately, through all of this exercise took a back seat in my life, it just wasn’t a priority as it should have been. 

Sure, I did a bit of yoga here and there, went on walks with my dog, took longer hikes at the cottage only on weekends, but nothing consistently.

The odd time I would become motivated by something I saw on social media or by someone and sign up for an event I had to train for.  I participated in a female-only triathlon and a relay triathlon with my husband.  Sprinkle in a few bike races, but that was the extent of it.

Over the span of 10 years – between the ages of 47 – 57, I let my level of fitness slide into a deep abyss.  I was sitting for long hours in my office. Like the vicious cycle we tend to fall into – emotional eating packed on the kilos.  Overindulgence in snack foods while recuperating after a long day at work in front of the TV was happening far too often.  I say vicious cycle, because once you find yourself in it, it is sometimes very difficult to help yourself out of it. Of course, small attempts were made but not much headway was made.

At the age of 50, I received shocking news.  My pain and lack of stability in my left leg meant I needed a hip replacement.  This news hit me over the head like a brick.  At first, I thought my doctor wasn’t really listening to my symptoms.  I didn’t believe him.  I told him that I would explain how I was feeling again so he could get a better picture of the situation.  He just smiled and told me I had to accept it.  But he also added that they would not consider operating on my hip until I had reached the age of 60.

I like to think I did a lot of help myself from that point on.  After some research, I changed all the footwear to comfy, supportive sports shoes.  No more flats, high heels or loafers for me.  I changed my diet and started to explore recipes of a vegetarian nature.  I was trying to cut back on processed and junk food while introducing anti-inflammatory foods into my diet.  Basically, I tried a lot of different things to reduce the pain and reduce my weight.  Because there is something doctors will not tell you in situations like this – one of the best things you can do for your limbs is to lose excess weight! 

But there was one thing I wasn’t doing that, in hindsight, would have helped immensely.  I should have been strengthening the muscles surrounding my hip to provide more stability.  I completely dropped the ball on this. 

At this point in today’s show, you’re probably saying – where is this going, why are you telling us all about your bad hip? 
Because this brings me to a very important message that I want all women to know…

Don’t be afraid of strength training.  It is the single most important activity you can do for your body and mind apart from eating healthy and drinking lots of water.
I can’t emphasize how important it is, especially for women, to lift some weights and pump some iron.

Strength training helps to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.  There are tons of research online about losing bone density as we age – in particular in women. 
Strength training is the key to a strong body inside and out.  It increases your self-esteem and confidence.
Strength training will change your life for good.  Not only from a physical point of view but also in creating healthy habits and routines in your daily life.
Strength training will reduce your risk of injuries.
Strength training will help build lean muscle, so you looked toned from head to toe.
Strength training will help relieve stress and give your mood a real boost.

I could go on and on about the benefits, but I will only add in a few more that I have personally experienced:

-> My sleep has greatly improved.
-> I have strengthened muscles surrounding my problem areas, so I don’t need all the prescribed pain meds my doctors seem to think I should take.
-> My body has tightened and toned up so much.  My clothes fit so much better.  A huge win – win.  In fact, I can fit back into clothes that I wore in my thirties and forties.  I know many fitness experts advise NOT to keep clothing items in your closet that no longer fit you, but for me, it is a true sign of progress.  The number of the scale is one marker, but being able to rock the outfits from two decades ago – that’s a feeling of awesomeness I can’t even describe.
-> My joints feel great.
-> I have postponed surgery indefinitely because I am feeling so awesome.
-> Most importantly, I feel like I am taking charge of my situation and showing up for myself with every workout I do.
-> The mirror is my friend now because it shows me the progress I am making.
-> During a recent vacation, I allowed myself to indulge a bit more than usual.  So, upon returning I was pleasantly surprised that I hadn’t gained much, and it took 1 – 2 days to be back to my weight number again.  Why?  Because muscle burns more calories than fat.  So, while I wasn’t following my normal exercise routine, my muscles were still working very much in my favour by burning those extra calories I was consuming.

Have I convinced you yet that strength training has to become a priority in your life?  Dieting will not get you a toned body nor will it reduce the risk of injury.
Cardio training is great and better than nothing of course, but the real gold is in strength training.

If you don’t believe me, there is more than enough information on the internet to support my claim here.  Look into it yourself.

Your body will transform, not overnight, but if you are committed to a regular routine and stick with it, changes will gradually appear – both to you and to others.

You will notice huge increases in strength as well as endurance and you can expect to have more energy.  Who doesn’t want more energy, right?

If there was ever a time to start, it’s now.

You are never too old. 
You can do it from the comfort of your own home. 
There is only minimal equipment required.
You can begin with short sessions and work up to longer ones.

Many women don’t know exactly where to start and don’t feel comfortable going to the gym.  So, I am going to make it super simple for all of you.  All I want is for you to take charge of your health and make it a priority as of today.  You owe it to yourself!

One thing I will say here, if you have any medical conditions or issues, you might want the green light from your doctor first.  Everyone has different needs, so it is best to check with a physio therapist or medical professional before jumping headfirst into a strength training routine.

I truly hope this is you when I quote Michael Jordan, who said…

“Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen.  Others make it happen.” ~Michael Jordan

In case you haven’t heard it yet today, let me be the first to tell you…

You are beautiful and amazing.  Your potential is limitless, really.  Now, go out and show the world what you are made of.

I hope to have inspired you to grow.

Til next time.
Xoxo Lisa