Ask Miss Barbella
Strength training for women has gone mainstream. Soccer moms, grandmas, and even teenage girls are buying into the benefits of being stronger. Strength training is important for men and women alike and for all ages too.
Working out with weights not only radically transforms your body, it also alters your psychology. You feel a deep sense of accomplishment when something that felt hard in the past—like lifting your luggage into an airplane’s overhead compartmen—suddenly becomes effortless.
Strength training also boosts your metabolism, burns fat throughout the day, and prevents osteoporosis.
I had a knee injury a few years ago and the knee is still sensitive. Would lifting weights be suitable for me?
It’s important to speak to your doctor or physical therapist before embarking on a new workout regime. You definitely do not want to avoid exercise, since “movement is medicine.” When we become overprotective of an injured body part, we tend to “hold” the area and avoid excessive movement, which actually decreases the mobility of the joint. You might even lose range of motion. It is important that your joints are able to move in all the various ways they were designed to move to maintain flexibility throughout a lifetime.
Start slowly and preferably under the guidance of a qualified personal trainer. You might want to begin with stretches to increase the mobility of the area, then move on to body weight exercises to strengthen it. If you continue to improve, I recommend weight training with multi-joint movements like squats, step-ups, deadlifts, and shoulder presses. Strengthening the injured area will also stabilize the joint and offer protection.
Do not shy away from strength training—instead, approach it slowly and knowledgeably. Soon your sensitive knee will be sensitive no more.
I lack coordination—in fact, I consider myself very clumsy! I tend to stay in the machine section of the gym to avoid hurting myself. Do you have any advice for me?
In my opinion, body awareness equals athleticism. I think it’s the single most valuable thing in fitness! There’s something very powerful about understanding where your body is in space and controlling its movements. I’ve often been awestruck watching a gymnast perform on a balance beam or the uneven bars.
It’s a gift to be present in your body—but the good news is that it’s a skill you can develop. You need very little coordination to use gym machines, which means you’re not practicing the skill of body awareness. Get into your body—join a dance class or take up yoga, even if you’re the most uncoordinated one there.
My favorite way to better understand the movement of my limbs is using a barbell. Working on movements like the clean and jerk and the snatch (the two Olympic lifts) develops huge amounts of coordination. Even though you need a lot of patience, with time your progress will start to filter into the rest of your life.
Find the best movement medicine for you, but remember, adventure happens outside of your comfort zone.
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