THE BENEFITS OF STRENGTH TRAINING
This article originally appeared in Issue 3 of Mountain Bike for Her.
Getting started is always the hardest part of any written form for me. Once you know who I am, and my generally bad sense of humor and unique writing style, we are both good, so let’s try and start from the beginning. I’m an ex-pat Aussie who moved to Canada at the end of 2007 as the final portion of my “change of life” plan. You may now wonder why this is so important. Well, put simply, this is the point in time I became a Personal Trainer, and hopefully in the upcoming articles I will be able to help you out with a whole bunch of useful tips and advice to help you achieve your goals.
Photo Credit: Clayton Racicot
The next important question you will probably have is “why listen to me?” My answer: chances are any information I am imparting is coming not just from the knowledge and education that I’ve received, but from my own personal experience of what does and doesn’t work. I am an International Certified Personal Trainer, a Professional Mountain Bike Coach, and my own personal success story! Yes, really, and what I mean by that is that at the start of 2007 – over a 12-month period – I lost half my body weight, changed my career, and I moved half way around the world. I went from the girl who could barely run a single block to the girl who has run half marathons, hiked to remote locations, and competed in some pretty grueling mountain bike races.
Now that we’ve gotten the introductions out of the way, let’s start at the beginning. Everyone should do strength training. Period. It doesn`t matter how young or old you are – or how much you ride your bike – if you don’t have some sort of strength training program in that busy schedule of yours then you need to make time. Why? Let me list what I think are three of the most important reasons:
Posture: Between modern day life (yes, I mean sitting at a desk all day) and riding a bike means we spend too much time rounding our shoulders and hunching forward. Sitting at a desk, then sitting on a bike all help to create weird imbalances in our bodies that a little time lifting weights can help correct. A good training regime can undo all these imbalances, for example: help bring those shoulders back and open up the chest, help with back pain, and strengthen your whole posterior chain.
Strength: You would think this one is obvious. Spend some time building upper body strength and then be suitably impressed at how much easier you find handling your mountain bike while hurtling down a hill. Leg strength as well, both up and down having increased leg strength enables you to both hit more of those punchy climbs while not fatiguing out as easy on those long descents. Which brings me to another advantage of being stronger, you will have better endurance. Being stronger also has a number of other benefits that we will discuss later, but for now we’ll keep it simple.
Bone Density & Muscle Mass: Another no brainer, considering that women are more prone to osteoporosis than men, we should do everything we can to keep those bones as strong as possible. From puberty, you lose around 1% of muscle and bone strength every year.
So now you know why you should start strength training the next question you are going to ask me is “So how do I start?” My answer really depends on a number of factors. For example, if you are new to strength training, then I would suggest before throwing the weights around that you consult with a professional. The one thing I can’t stress enough is good technique or form when doing your workouts, after all, you are doing them to make improvements to yourself and the last thing you want is a setback from incorrectly doing a move and hurting yourself.
Once you have your technique dialed, there are any number of options for training. You can continue to work with a profession in a studio, gym, or have them design a program for you. If you don’t want to pay for one-on-one attention but like the more social aspect of training, then there are a number of group fitness options out there. The two that come to mind are boot camp or circuit training. If you have experience and feel comfortable working out on your own, then you can always train in your own home, at a community gym, or even outdoors, there really are endless options. Just get out there and get training!