Weight Lifting for Women

Weight Lifting for Women


I have recently had the pleasure to come across the work of Dr Clarissa Hughes, so I thought I would feature one of her articles here for you because I think it gives an interesting and inspirational perspective on weight training for women. Success leaves clues, and to get that lean, shapely look, it makes sense to follow the advice of professional body & figure shapers, especially ones who are also Mums (to a blended family of 5 children, 3 her own) and who make awesome, no-nonsense, super healthy recipes. Enjoy!  …Kylie

Knowledge, Inspiration & Action

– Guest Post by Dr Clarissa Hughes

So much effort is put into ‘educating’ people about health issues. No matter what the topic is, the standard response seems to be making sure that people know what’s good for them. There’s lots of information out there in books and magazines and on telly and the internet about what to eat, and how often to exercise, and all that sort of stuff. Yet there often seems to be quite a gap between what people KNOW and what they actually DO (or what they are prepared to try). So people might know, for example, that it’s good for them to get some form of exercise, drink several litres of water, and eat fresh vegies every day. Yet there are all sorts of reasons why some people who know that stuff won’t actually do it.

Knowledge only gets you so far

Take me as an example. There is a lot of osteoporosis in my family. Over the past few years, I’ve been conscious of the need to do things to reduce my risk of having the sorts of problems that I’m genetically predisposed to. I turned 40 recently (eek!) so it’s all seeming a bit more relevant and urgent! I have known for some time that having an adequate calcium intake and balanced diet will help to keep my bones strong. I have also known for ages that regular weight-bearing exercise such as strength training would reduce my risk of osteoporosis and similar conditions. Yet, up until earlier this year, I stayed away from lifting weights – not because I didn’t know it would be good for me, but because I had several perceptions firmly in my head that made me think that strength training ‘wasn’t for me’.

I’m not that kinda girl!

One of those perceptions related to ‘what kind of person’ lifts weights. If you had said ‘weight lifter’ to me a year ago, the image that sprang to mind would have been of a big guy in a tank top whose muscles were so huge he couldn’t put his arms down by his sides, and who didn’t have two brain cells to rub together.

If you’d probed a little further, I probably would have assumed he would be a bit vain, a bit dull, and a bit self-centred. If you pushed even further and mentioned a ‘female weight lifter’, I would immediately think of an incredibly blokey-looking women with overdeveloped musculature and a hard, ripped look. The stereotypes about vanity, dullness and self- centredness would still apply. Needless to say, I couldn’t really relate to either of these images – I just didn’t see myself as ‘that kind of girl’.

Weights will make me bulky, won’t they?

The other set of perceptions that kept me away from weights related to my certainty that ‘people who lift weights get bigger’. I wanted to get smaller, so the idea of doing something that (I thought would) make me bigger seemed ludicrous! When I looked at my body, all I saw was the layer of fat that I wished I could get rid of. I certainly didn’t want my muscles to swell up and push everything out even further! So I pretty much stayed away from weights – at least until I became completely frustrated and dissillusioned with the ‘cardio only’ approach to fat-loss.


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The difference one person can make

The crucial thing that turned my perceptions upside down was not something I learned, but someone I met. I happened to cross paths with a young woman who I took an immediate liking to. She was friendly, intelligent, had a great sense of humour and had a wonderful generosity of spirit. She was not at all narcissistic, self-absorbed, masculine or ‘harsh’. So you can imagine my surprise when I found out that she lifted weights! (And not pathetic little pink plastic ones, either – big, hefty ones!). And then I found out she is a figure competitor, too! Hmmmm! It just didn’t compute. I was confronted with someone I liked, someone LIKE ME, who challenged my ideas about what sort of women lift weights. It was time to re-evaluate my stereotypes : )

Challenging the stereotype

Another thing that person (who is now one of my best friends) did for me was challenge my misperceptions about what weight lifting does to women’s bodies. She correctly pointed out that most women who lift (even those who do it pretty seriously) don’t really ‘bulk up’. If anything, they get smaller and more defined. She also explained that if you put some effort into increasing your lean muscle mass, that will actually help you to burn fat. When I first heard that I wasn’t convinced. So I went looking for ‘real life’ examples.

Inspirational role-models

One of the places I found information and inspiration was the body transformation area of bodybuilding.com. There are thousands of real case-studies on there, sent in by everyday people from all over the world. Lo and behold, I found people like me – short, tertiary-educated working mums in their 30’s or 40’s – who had improved their health and body shape through strength training. Wow! The ‘before and after’ pics showed that they hadn’t become bulky and manly, and the training and nutrition details showed me how they’d managed to transform themselves. What’s more, it showed me that even women with difficult circumstances (eg recovering from an accident, or living with a chronic illness, or being seriously overweight) could do amazing things. That made me think ‘If they can do it, so can I!’

Launching into action

Looking back, finding inspirational people I could relate to was absolutely crucial. Without that step, I would not have been motivated to actually apply my knowledge to my own life. Reading their stories made it real for me, and provided very practical advice about how to make sustainable lifestyle changes. I became quite excited by the prospect of seeing what I could achieve – so excited, in fact, that I set myself the goal of entering a figure competition. In October 2010 I did just that – and the best part for me was women coming up to me afterwards and saying how inspiring they found it, and wanting to know how I trained and what I ate. It wasn’t that I wanted the recognition or the compliments – it was more to do with the feeling of satisfaction I got from having helped and empowered others.

Women supporting women

I’m proud to say that there are lots of other members of the Getting Lean and Curvy community whose main aim is to support and inspire others to make positive changes in their life and achieve their goals – whatever they may be. One woman who springs to mind is Leanne Avery who, like me, is a mum, a newcomer to strength training, and a woman with a passion for helping people. On her site www.inspirationalbodies.com you’ll find lots of inspirational people who might just challenge you to reconsider some of your stereotypes!

Clarissa’s Salmon & Spinach ‘Cupcakes’

I know the name of this dish sounds like a bad joke! They’re not actually cupcakes with fish and vegies in them – they’re little crustless quiches in patty pans! Super-quick and easy to make, these travel well and make a good, filling snack that will satisfy you for longer than sugary rubbish (BTW I have a serious sweet-tooth – and know that there IS a place for sugary rubbish, LOL).

Slice a small onion, a fresh chilli (or to taste) and sautee gently in a little extra-virgin olive for a few minutes. Then add a small handful of finely-sliced baby spinach leaves and continue cooking until they are floppy and the onion is clear. Leave to cool.

Once this is cool, add a small tin of salmon (drained and with with skin and bigger bones removed) and the juice of a fresh lime. In a separate bowl beat 4 eggs, 1/4 cup low fat milk, 1/2 tsp baking powder and a tbs or two of brown rice flour (or similar, to bind)

Then add the salmon/veg mixture to the egg mixture and carefully spoon into pattie-pans in a muffin tray. Allow a little ‘rising room’. Top with a tiny sprinkle of finely grated extra-sharp aged parmesan (which is quite high fat, but so flavoursome you only need a touch), and cook in a moderate oven until the quichelets are set all the way through and lightly browned on top.

If you like this recipe, you can find more at: Getting Lean & Curvy Facebook Page

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