By Jenna Schifferle
The digital artist Michael John Bobak once said, “All progress takes place outside the comfort zone.” Few sentiments prove to be as true as this one — in life and in fitness.
Recently, I stepped outside my comfort zone and began a strength routine, a departure from my usual miles of cardio and weekly yoga. Three days a week, I hit the gym before work, rotating through leg, arm and core exercises. And I have to say, it is uncomfortable.
I’m using muscles I haven’t used in years and moving in ways that are completely new. Despite the sore muscles, it feels refreshing to be changing up my routine, and I know it will help my wellbeing in the long run.
Strength training isn’t just about building muscle mass; it comes with a whole host of benefits that improve your mental and physical health.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, sedentary adults lose 3% to 8% of their muscle mass per decade, resulting in a slower metabolism and a higher body mass index (BMI). This can lead to a whole host of complications like bone loss, heart disease, and diabetes. Strength training can help combat this by preventing muscle loss and promoting a healthy BMI and metabolism. It can also make you feel better.
For me, strength training has made me feel more tone and less hunched over (a symptom of sitting at a desk all day). I also feel stronger overall, which boosts the feel-good chemicals in my brain and leaves me feeling more clear-headed and calm all day.
For many people, starting a strength routine can be intimidating. Gyms are often filled with seasoned weight lifters who can bench a lot. But they’re also filled with people like you and me who are just looking to be healthy. While it can be hard to avoid the trap of comparison, remembering that even low-weight strength training can help your body and can be motivation enough to get you through your nerves.
Many gyms also offer designated areas to work out apart from serious weight lifters. Planet Fitness, for instance, proudly lauds itself for being a judgment-free zone, while the Buffalo Athletic Club offers a gym exclusively for women.
And if you’re absolutely not comfortable strength training in front of people, try doing it at home. Buy some lightweight dumbbells, use resistance bands, or just rely on your bodyweight to move your muscles. There are a ton of videos online that can show you how to get started. I’ve included two of my favorites below.
• Stephanie Mansour’s 30-day strength training routine: https://nbcnews.to/3gdYp7S
• New York Time’s 9-Minute Strength Workout: https://nyti.ms/3AUjPi3
Of course, you should always consult your physician before starting any fitness routine to make sure your routine is right for you. From there, I encourage you to take that first step out of your comfort zone.
Let me know how it goes at firstname.lastname@example.org.