Embracing The Challenge

As a fitness enthusiast and someone who has tried many fitness programs out there, I really am just a huge fan of the P90x series in general, particularly the latest series of 30 minute workouts that fit oh so easily into my schedule. I’m about a month into this newest 90 day program, and just this minute finished “The Challenge” workout – a routine consisting solely of push up and pull up moves. I’m surprised I can even type this right now, my arms are still shaking so much from fatigue. But I feel absolutely empowered! Believe me, I’m as much a fan of Barre workouts and running as many girls out there, but I’ve really come to appreciate the importance of a good strength workout, especially one that challenges me as much as pull ups do (and always will…)

Over the years, my clients have also come to appreciate the importance of strength training as a necessary component of any fitness routine. It’s something I emphasize all the time, probably more than my friends and family would like to hear. But it’s important, and I’m not quite done endorsing this vital category of fitness. So here’s a reminder of just a few of the many benefits of strength training:

1. First (and of most interest to many of us), building lean muscle is necessary for weight loss. It increases your resting metabolic rate and post-exercise caloric burn. Cardio workouts are important, and I love them, but they’re not enough for weight loss and overall health.

2. Strength training protects your bones. There are many ideas out there about why bone loss occurs as we age, and how we can prevent it. But what is supported consistently in studies is that strength training protects your bones and slows bone loss. As an Occupational Therapist working with an aging population, I am constantly reminded of the quality of life issues that result as osteoporosis and fractures occur…and I am positive that there’s a lot I’d be willing to do to prevent such a decline. If strength training is proven to work, why wouldn’t I do it?

3. It’s functional. In my job, as in many others, I have to lift on a daily basis. And I have to do it correctly and efficiently to protect my back (and neck, and shoulders…you get the picture). Having underlying strength is necessary to be able to do this. And for those of us who sit most of the day, maintaining functional strength is even more important, as it is even easier for someone who sits most of the day to hurt his back when doing something as simple as taking a suitcase out of the car. No joke…I’ve seen this happen. And the pain can last much longer than one would think.

4. It prevents fitness plateaus. Continually changing the muscle groups you’re working, as is common in a multiple day strength training routine, keeps us from getting bored. It works accessory muscles that are otherwise neglected. It challenges you to work muscles in many directions, thus promoting increased function. And building lean muscles throughout the body might just be the push needed to bust through a weight loss plateau.

5. It makes us more athletic. Whether you’re a runner or participate in a local basketball league, strength training will help you become stronger, faster and more powerful for your sport. Just try it and tell me it doesn’t help…

I could go on forever (and would love to), but you get the picture. The point is, fitness is multi-dimensional. It should be forever evolving and changing for the better. It should make you feel strong, fit, and healthy and never, ever bored.

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