weight training

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Why To Exercise Today: Prepare For The Worst

(Thue/Wikimedia Commons)


Quite an amazing email came in yesterday in response to Friday’s post on learning to love the weight machines. One of the 10 reasons that post gave for weight-training was the “buffer” the training helps create in case of health calamities that may drastically deplete our strength in the future. One reader memorably responded, in part:

At my 50th birthday physical exam my doctor told me to “lose weight and get 5 days of vigorous exercise per week”. I did what I was told. 2 years later I was waiting to make a left turn and a distracted driver traveling at 40+ mph slammed into the rear of my car. I suffered a major brain injury and almost died. My doctors told me that my being in great physical & mental health due to my previous strength training saved my life. On January 1, 2013 I will go back to the gym to pick up where I left off (currently I receive medical therapy).

The message of your article needs repeating. While most of us work out for vanity, having the ability to cope with a physical/mental health crisis is the true benefit of strength training.

Good health is the cornerstone of living a great life. Due to my well-thought-out financial planning I bought additional health insurance and I have always placed money into savings (along with making safe & sane investments), so I have been able to cope with the financial loss of my life-changing medical crisis. While I may never work again due to my new disability, at least I won’t be a burden to my wife or the taxpayers as I was physically and financially well prepared.

The reader said he’d like his message to be spread more broadly, and I’m honored to try. I’ll also be rooting for him with every pom-pom when he heads back in to the gym next month…

10 Joys Of Weight Machines: Sex, Anger, Bacon And More

[Note: The scene above of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger in the documentary 'Pumping Iron' is hilarious but also a bit salty, not kid-appropriate. Also, it is included for its entertainment value but is by no means intended to portray him as a role model. This post discusses moderate, healthful weight training, not extreme body-building.]

The other day, I was in an awkward spot at the gym: The shoulder press positioned me face to face with a woman who was using an arm pull-back machine just a few inches away. As we sat oddly nose to nose, she made a friendly effort at pleasant conversation:

“I hate the weight machines, don’t you?”

Of course the correct answer for social easing was, “Like poison.” But I found I just couldn’t say that.

After an entire lifetime of despising and avoiding strength training, I’ve become a convert over the last year, to the point that I actively long for it when I skip more than two days. Unimaginable, right? The reasons are many, from now-effortless grocery-bag lifts to the sense that in one small way at least, I can fight aging and win.

My motivations are not only emotional, they are data-driven: “The research shows that strength training is really almost like the elixir for aging,” said Prof. Miriam Nelson of Tufts, author of “Strong Women Stay Young.” “Whether you’re 30 or 85, it helps you be as strong, healthy and vital as possible.”

(U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons)

The ideal routine includes both aerobic exercise and strength training, she noted, but “We know strength training is critical for maintaining and strengthening bones and muscles; it helps with glucose control; it helps with your cholesterol.” Also, sleeping better and mental health. “So it’s the physical as well as the functional and emotional.”

But let’s face it: Long-term effects and abstract data are just not enough to get most of us past our abhorrence of the leg press. And it’s almost New Year’s resolution time, so well in advance, here’s an evangelizing attempt to reframe the experience of strength training in terms of all sorts of actual pleasures and gratifications and even, yes, joys.

1. Sex – Arnold Schwarzenegger says it inimitably in the clip above:

The greatest feeling you can get in the gym, or the most satisfying feeling you can get in the gym is ‘the pump.’ Say you train your biceps. Blood is rushing into your muscles, and that’s what we call the pump. Your muscles get a really tight feeling, like your skin is going to explode any minute. It’s really tight, it’s like somebody blowing air into your muscle. It just blows up — and it feels different. It feels fantastic. It’s as satisfying to me as [...] you know, having sex with a woman… So can you believe how much I am in heaven?

For some mysterious reason, I couldn’t find a fitness expert who wanted to go on the record likening the engorgement involved in strength training to the engorgement involved in sex. But I can tell you that the comparison helps me in two ways: Continue reading

Why To Exercise Today: Weight Training Is Even Good For Kids

Learn something every day. I really did think kids and dumbbells don’t mix. But a “Well” column currently on nytimes.com debunks the popular myth that kids should not weight-train, citing medical experts and a recent review in the journal Pediatrics.

“We are urban dwellers stuck in hunter-gatherer bodies,” said Lyle Micheli, M.D., the director of sports medicine at Children’s Hospital Boston and professor of orthopedic surgery at Harvard University, as well as a co-author, with Dr. [Avery] Faigenbaum, of the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s 2009 position paper about children and resistance training. “That’s true for children as well as adults. There was a time when children ‘weight trained’ by carrying milk pails and helping around the farm. Now few children, even young athletes, get sufficient activity” to fully strengthen their muscles, tendons and other tissues. “If a kid sits in class or in front of a screen for hours and then you throw them out onto the soccer field or basketball court, they don’t have the tissue strength to withstand the forces involved in their sports. That can contribute to injury.”

Note of caution: The experts warn that kids shouldn’t just start using their parents’ weights — injuries could result.