Muscle withers away if you’re not constantly building it, and muscle withers faster as we age. Waning muscle mass gives way to fat gain, stiff joints, stumbling and bumbling balance, and a precipitous drop in self esteem and functional strength. If you are willing to, fighting back will help us turn the hands of time, just a bit. This means getting strong. Lifting weights can do as much for your heart and lungs as cardio, in addition to building lean muscle, providing you with armor to weather the inevitable storms of time.
So, what do you do to build that strength? There are a plethora of machines, bands and free weights, balance devices and pads, ropes and straps. What works best? What’s the simplest answer? Frankly, you can get fit anywhere, at any time. You can lift cans of soup, bags of groceries, or your own body weight. No fitness equipment is required to take a walk outside, or to simply get up move your body. The truth is, that stuff was created to rope you in, with the promise of a shiny new body. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t work: it does. But you don’t HAVE to use those items to get a fitter body.
I’ve spent the last 15 years, focused on studying all of the different modalities (define as “fitness stuff”), learning about different illnesses and limitations, special populations and sports specific training. But what’s the bottom line? Build muscle. Get strong. If you do that, you will be able to function, doing what you want, whenever you want, for as long as you want. That’s functional fitness.
Do you HAVE to have a trainer? Absolutely not, if you can motivate yourself on your own to workout. Where trainers like me come in handy is in not only motivating the unmotivated, but also in designing programs that will work for you and are periodized. Changing our approach, based on accomplishments and achieving goals. Other reasons a trainer can be helpful are if you have special considerations; you have knee replacements or other joint issues, MS, Fibromyalgia, arthritis—these can make exercising safely challenging. Each condition comes with its own challenges, and it’s my job to sift through those to make the program work.
A trainer can also help to pinpoint muscular imbalances. You may not realize that your back pain is related to your hamstrings being too tight, and your abs being too weak. Or you may suffer from knee pain due to over-developed quadriceps muscles, and weak hamstrings and glutes. It’s my job to assess your movement and listen to your story. Taking all of those aches and pains, diagnoses from the doctor, and your likes and dislikes to try to create something you will actually do on a regular basis. A client once said to me “I’m not likely to do that one on my own.” Ahhhh, this is why we’re doing that particular exercise together. The ones you will do on your own, those end up as your homework (gymwork, extra assignments that you do on your own throughout the week when I don’t see you).
I’ve got news for you: there are a fair number of exercises I’m not likely to do on my own too. That’s one reason I teach classes! That way, I do it with the camaraderie of the group. When I was working actively on losing weight (145lbs to be exact), group exercise classes were the only way I could stay motivated. I couldn’t stand the treadmill, and the weight room was still way too intimidating. At one point, I did consult a trainer, and that program helped me to lose my last 40 pounds. So, when you’re stuck, or bored, or intimidated, that’s a good time to ask for some help.
Whatever you pick, it will work, if you just do it, and keep doing it. Build that muscle so you can stay strong. Work harder and smarter by choosing something you will do regularly. But most of all, keep moving!Get your own personalized plan!
Written by Melissa Abramovich, ACE CPT, NASM CGT, AAHFRP Medical Exercise Specialist at Elite Sports Club-River Glen
Melissa Abramovich went into Personal Training and Group Exercise instruction after successfully losing 140 pounds through healthy diet and exercise. Her desire to help others drove her forward into a career helping others to make healthier choices. She is an ACE certified personal trainer and now also a Medical Exercise Specialist (AAHFRP), helping clients with a myriad of health issues at Elite Sports Clubs. She holds a Bachelor’s degree, and many group exercise related certifications as well.