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The Little Strength Training Book
By Erika Dillman
Copyright © 2004
All right reserved.
I haven't exactly had sand kicked in my face, but I have experienced the
independent woman's equivalent: having to ask my boyfriend to replace the
five-gallon water jugs on my water dispenser.
For years, we had a perfect system. I wanted a drink; he did the heavy lifting.
But when things got shaky between us, I was forced to take responsibility for my
bottled water habit. First, I tried three-gallon jugs, but they were still too
heavy for me to carry up to my second-floor apartment. Then, for a while, I
bought liter-size bottles of water. That didn't work either (too many trips to
the store). Finally, faced with the prospect of having to drink tap water for
the rest of my life, I decided to do something about my matchstick arms and
It's not like strength training was a mystery to me. I'd lifted weights in high
school to prepare for the track season, although I rarely stuck with it once the
season ended. Knowing I was in excellent cardiovascular shape from all the miles
I logged, I had occasionally wondered whether lifting weights did anything for
me but fatigue myalready overworked muscles.
Even in my mid-twenties, when illness and injury prevented me from running, I
still didn't consider lifting weights as a necessary part of my fitness routine.
I wasn't "in training" for competition, my heart and lungs were in good shape,
and I burned a lot of calories from swimming, walking, and biking. There were
strong people and weak people, and I accepted that I was skinny and weak and
always would be. I liked being thin. It worked for me. That is, until I hit my
thirties and realized that I no longer had the body of an active
sixteen-year-old. Ten pounds overweight and lumpy in places I wanted to be firm,
it wasn't only my struggles with oversize water jugs that caused me to take a
fresh look at getting stronger. It had begun to seem like everyone was in shape
but me. Sure, I wanted to lift my own bottles and carry my own suitcase. But I
also wanted to look great in a little black dress.
STRENGTH, ENERGY, AND GRACE
I started working with a personal trainer at my health club who designed a few
different strength training routines for me, each consisting of six or seven
exercises to train all of the major muscle groups in my body. I started off with
twice-a-week, twenty-to-thirty-minute workouts that I could do at home with no
equipment or with handheld weights.
Initially, I worked with very light weights-only three-and five-pounders.
Approaching each exercise like a yoga pose, I concentrated on using correct
form, maintaining my posture, and coordinating my movement with my breath.
Before each lift I inhaled slowly, focusing my mind on the task ahead, and as I
lifted the weight, I exhaled slowly, controlling the pace with my breath. Then,
inhaling slowly, I returned the weight to the starting position. I was surprised
by how much I enjoyed the discipline and control required in strength training.
It felt good to develop a rhythm that made me feel graceful and strong at the
same time. My workouts left me feeling solid and energized, like I'd
accomplished something important. Over time, I was able to gradually increase
the amount of weight I lifted.
Within a few months, my arms and legs felt firmer and had more muscle
definition. Even my abs felt harder when I pressed on them. My trainer had
assured me that I wouldn't bulk up from strength training, but rather firm up.
She was right. I felt better, I looked better, and I started to notice other
changes in my body. My coordination and balance improved. And I could walk
farther before becoming fatigued.
It was still a bit challenging hauling those water jugs up two flights of stairs
to my apartment, but I didn't throw out my back in the process and was strong
enough to lift them to the top of the dispenser all by myself! And the
boyfriend? He remained in the picture, happy to be relieved of at least some of
FIT FOR LIFE
Learning more about strength training has been an inspiring experience. Once I
let go of my outdated ideas of what strength training was all about and gave it
a try, I quickly realized that I'd found a fitness tool for life.
It's easy to fit into my schedule, there are so many exercises from which to
choose, and most important, it makes me feel great!
Excerpted from The Little Strength Training Book
by Erika Dillman
Copyright © 2004 by Erika Dillman .
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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