This morning, I tried to fit into those gorgeous jeggings, maybe after a month or two. (I had gifted them to myself in celebration of my leaner figure after four months of grueling cardio). But as I glanced into the mirror, I realised that I didn’t like the way they fit. My legs did not look fit and skinny anymore, clad in the tight fabric. In a desperate attempt to get back on track, I made unrealistic and unhealthy promises to cut my meals in half, skip dinner (yet again!), wake up for early morning jogs and take time out for late evening walks in the neighbourhood park (or that treadmill in the basement).
These half-hearted and empty-stomach runs are not only unhealthy but also de-motivating. But following these rules seem to have worked for many others. Unfortunately, for most of us, maintaining a lean body is a constant struggle - the never-ending cycle of putting on weight, losing it and then relapsing, all in the same year!
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to debunk some myths. From “women only need to control their diet and go for the occasional jog” to “women shouldn’t go to the gym, you don’t want to look like those bulky wrestlers,” we’re always torn between what’s the right or wrong way to staying fit. Cardio has long been portrayed as the best bet for us (like those dance classes or running on the treadmill), but you’ll be surprised to learn that there is an alternate way to staying lean and fit without starving yourself. That is weight training. And no, it doesn’t have anything to do with beefing up, which is the common notion most people associate with weight training. So if you want to get a well-toned body that burns fat on an ongoing basis, start weight training.
A common school of thought is “why should I go to the gym when I can run and shed some weight?” But the truth is that for weight loss, you need something more than just running. The reason being: running eats up valuable muscles first, instead of attacking the fat. So you’re left with a higher body fat percentage and that really doesn’t sound good, does it? A higher metabolic rate is beneficial but training specific muscles leads to one being fitter and more toned, instead of just being skinny.
Unlike Cardio, which helps lose inches only as long as you work out, in the case of weight training, you start to build muscles. Once your body has built muscles in place of all that extra fat, you will continue to burn calories even when you’re bundled up on the couch watching your favourite TV series (as long as you don’t make a habit of it). This is because muscles are high-maintenance and the body will keep burning all that extra fat to fuel them. You will therefore continue to burn calories the whole day after a rigorous weight training session.
Secondly, only doing cardio will make you look ‘skinny fat’- a double-faced monster where you look lean in clothes but there’s still a lot of loose skin on your arms, thighs and belly which sags. Cardio may lead to toning of specific body parts like calves in the case of running but does not help you tone other areas like arms, etc.
Mr. Krishan Tiwari, a fitness expert (Krish Fitness Academy in Siri Fort Complex) says," It’s a myth that one should focus on cardio. Without strengthening the muscles, any form of exercise or even daily chores will lead to joint pains. Conditioning of the muscles is essential for both sexes." On the topic of whether it will bulk up the body he says, "Women dont have the genetic set up or tissues to get bulky bodies with weight training. Women body builders may have to take extra doses of hormones and sometimes steroids to achieve that look. Also, it’s a great way to lose weight and condition the muscles as there are weight training exercises that engage as many as four muscle-sets together, which doubles as cardio too."
You probably jumped to this section as soon as you heard ‘weights’. Let’s just set the record right – lifting weights will NOT always bulk you up. The truth is, bulking up requires some serious effort. You will need to work hard for years and load up on proteins and supplements to build muscles. You will also need to undergo intense weight training to target specific areas of your body. So unless and until you’re making a dedicated effort to beef up, you will not get bulky. Lifting weights will make you burn calories and carve out lean muscles that look tight and feel strong.
Strength training is only meant for the ‘strong’ (a.k.a. men). Heavy weights can hurt me (women)
A carefully planned weight training program, which advances in intensity with time, will not only make you feel comfortable but will also help you tone up that body you have always craved. It will also strengthen your core, back muscles and joints. As a matter of fact, endless running (in the absence of core strength) is more likely to strain your hips and joints. You can ease into weight training by taking a couple of introductory sessions with a gym trainer.
Sumaya Dalmia, a Delhi-based fitness expert says "Women tend to associate weight training with men and the myth that women don’t need to weight train continues. Weight training is essential for ladies to improve muscle definition and also bone density which tends to deteriorate with age and leads to various ailments.". She also adds that new mothers or aging women who complain of back aches and may also suffer from back injuries need to weight train to build strength and bone density.
When it comes to fitness, there is no either-or situation. A certain amount of cardio is always good but you should also complement that with a well-planned weight training regime under expert supervision.