In my younger days, I never thought of myself as the weight-lifting type. We focused on calesthenics in gym class, and the 80s was the decade of aerobics. If I thought of strength training at all, it was as the province of jocks—male jocks, at that.
Not that lifting weights was a bad thing, it just wasn’t a thing for me.
Then, some fifteen or twenty years ago, I ran across a book on my mom’s bookshelf.
Strong Women Stay Young
The crux of the book was that people lose muscle mass as we age. This could lead to unpleasant effects—not just overall loss of strength, but decreased bone density, lower bone density, and others I can’t quite remember.
But! Strength training could combat this muscle loss, and slow or reverse the effects of aging!
The book laid out a strength-training plan carefully modified to be safe for women over fifty, complete with line drawings of a very serious fifty-something woman demonstrating the various exercises.
I wasn’t certain of the health benefits, but I liked the idea of getting stronger. And I liked the clear explanations of each exercise and the muscles it was meant to tone.
I can’t remember whether my mom gave me the book or I bought my own copy, but I also bought its companion book, Strong Women Stay Slim, not so much because of its alleged slimming effect as because I wanted more exercises to do. I quickly acquired the recommended 2-, 3-, 5-, 8-, 10- and 15-pound dumbells and adjustible 20-pound ankle weights.
And I was off!
At least for a while. Then life got busy and Bob the Brain Tumor reared its ugly head and a bunch of other stuff happened and strength training fell to the wayside.
The Strong Woman Returns
In December 2018, I had a dilemma. I was watching a lot of YouTube, and sitting on my butt in front of the computer was getting boring. Also, I wanted a way to work out, but a gym membership wasn’t in the cards.
Then a happy idea struck me: I still had my old weights tucked away. Why not pull them out and exercise while I watched videos?
So that’s what I did.
I started with the basic six exercises from SWSY. Next I added the weighted leg exercises I could remember. Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember the exercises from SWSS, or I’d have added them, too.
The workouts worked, at least for my purposes.
I didn’t lose any weight, but my muscles got harder and shapelier, and my clothes fit better. I was stronger (well, duh!) and, after some initial tiredness, had more stamina. My balance and flexibility improved, and my blood pressure and blood sugar readings dropped significantly.
Interestingly, even my hands and wrists got stronger and slimmer. I could actually wear my wedding ring again!
I was going strong through June or July, but then I began to backslide. I think there were a few reasons behind that:
- In June, I attended Camp Dogwood. I had an awesome time, but the break made it hard to get back into my routine.
- I’d added a lot to my original workout. The longer my workout got, the harder it was to work it in.
- I’d seen significant changes at first, but I’d plateaued. It was getting harder to add weight or reps, and my body wasn’t changing dramatically any more.
- I was getting bored with the routine.
- I was taking on other projects and had less time to work out. Even now, my New Year’s workout goals are bumping up against my New Year’s writing goals. And meal planning goals. And… Well, there’s only so much of me to go around.
Beginning Again in 2020
I like the benefits I’ve seen from my workouts, and I’ve committed to getting back into it in 2020. Based on my list above, I’ve made some changes:
- I’ve gone back to the basic six exercises. Keeping workouts short has let me slip a workout in on a couple of occasions I almost let it slide.
- I’ve committed to working out twice a week, instead of three times. If I get that third workout in, great, but I’m not ocunting on it.
- I’m going to ask MrH or one of our sons to go over the exercises I can’t remember. Maybe having more variety will keep me more engaged.
That’s about it, really, and it seems to be working. Three weeks into the new year, I’ve managed to get two weekly workouts in, and I’m already feeling stronger and fitter. I suspect it’s easier to get back into shape than to get there in the first place.
I’d still like to join a gym, partly for the workout equipment, but also for access to treadmills and exercise bikes, the walking track, and swimming pools. Until then, I’ll keep plugging along on my own.
I love walking, and I’d love to find a walking buddy or a walking trail I’m comfortable taking on my own. In our neighborhood, it’s hard for me to tell the paving apart from the packed dirt beside it, and driveways from the roads themselves. Still, if I get stir-crazy enough, maybe I’ll try again.
What About You?
Do you have an exercise routine or fitness regimen? Do you have a gym membership, and if so, do you use it? What kind of exercise do you like? Work it out in the comments below!