Fitness Programs: Weight Lifting
Weight Lifting can be so intimidating, especially for women. But it shouldn’t be! Today I’m talking with Jazmine Bates, a Health & Wellness Mentor and Fitness Coach. She’s passionate about helping others succeed with their health and fitness journeys! Read on for more about her personal journey as well as her insights into weight lifting and building lean muscle mass!
Kate: How did your fitness journey begin?
Jazmine: Growing up I was always involved in sports ranging from gymnastics to recreational basketball to select level volleyball. One of my biggest influences as a child was Tae Kwon Do as I achieved my black belt at the relatively young age of 12. However, my fitness journey truly began at the young age of 15 in the wake of my brother Joshua’s death, which left an unfathomable and infinite hole in the heart of our family. In an effort to take control of life and escape it all the same, I began running avidly, weight lifting regularly and restricted my food intake obsessively. As hard as I tried to identify myself as a person in the process I ended up being swallowed by my own grief and fell into a cycle of body dysmorphia and eating disorders. Over the years I would have moments of remission and found myself rebound from 115lbs all the way to 150lbs. Extreme life events would either trigger my necessity to take control or just loose control all together. In 2010 a series of circumstances forever changed my life… In May I lost my father Jason tragically just weeks before I was to walk at graduation. Again, succumbed to my own grief I sought an outlet, a sanctuary to escape from life’s cruel intentions, and that’s when I found yoga. My ultimate release, a practice where I could push myself and learn to love myself all the same. Eventually, as years past and the heartache became easier to mute I found myself slowly crawling out of the vicious cycle I was in. I found something I loved, something I needed and so in July 2013 I made one the best decision in my life- to become a certified yoga instructor and since then I have not looked back.
K: What are you certified to teach?
J: After achieving my 200 RYT yoga instructor certification I continued my studies of the human body, as well as social justice, at the University of Washington. Here, I received my Bachelor of Arts in Health Studies. In addition, I’ve studied Personal Training through the National Academy of Sports Medicine as well as Fitness Nutrition Specialization. I truly believe that knowledge is the greatest of wisdoms and as such my educational journey will never be complete. Ultimately I would like to obtain my Master’s Degree in Exercise Science and Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine. My deepest passion lies in educating and inspiring others on how to create a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
K: Tell me about your weight lifting journey.
J: Although yoga truly helped save me, kept me slim and healthy, the practice of yoga alone does not help build lean muscle mass.
K: What builds lean muscle mass? Why is this important?
J: Well to some it may not be, but after working with hundreds of woman over the years one of the most popular responses I hear to the question “What is your personal goal in relation to your body and body composition?” is something to the effect of: “I want to tone up, lose weight, have a flat stomach but not get bulky.” Seriously, if I had a dime for every time I’ve heard that! What we women sometimes don’t realize is that to “tone up” means to put on lean muscle mass. Lean muscle mass is built through putting our muscles under tension, that tension can be accomplished in several ways, most of which include weight lifting! To lose body fat you have to have balanced and functioning metabolic processes. Weight lifting increases your lean muscle mass therefore increasing your metabolic capacity leading to lean muscle gain and fat loss. It’s at this phase where some people feel they plateau, because during this time there may be weeks where one’s body weight does not change BUT their body composition is changing! This is where we have to trust the process.
I also hear (mostly from women) that they “don’t want to get bulky.” The reality is while men and women are similar there is a HUGE difference: women secrete different hormones than men and the one responsible for why men can pack on so much muscle mass is testosterone! Though both men and women produce testosterone, the role it plays in men’s body is much different than that of women. Even a woman who produces more than the average amount of testosterone still produces significantly less than a man who produces below average testosterone! Meaning don’t be afraid of weight lifting in fear it will make you bulky, ladies!
K: Why should I weight lift? Don’t I need cardio?
J: Again, because to “tone up” is to put on lean muscle mass, lean muscle mass is built through putting our muscles under tension. Is there a place for cardio? Absolutely! It’s called “cardio” because it is the most beneficial form of exercise in terms of our circulatory systems and heart health. But killing yourself an hour a day on the treadmill or elliptical is not going to get you there. In fact, it could be the culprit for your lack of results. I keep mentioning metabolic functioning, so hopefully you’re catching on that this is your control center, when functioning at proper capacity it controls your hormones at homeostatic levels eliciting hundreds of processes in your body including lean muscle gain and fat loss. When you are spending hours doing cardio day after day, week after week, in combination with under eating, you send your body into “fight or flight” mode because without proper nutrition and training (like for example marathon or triathlon athletes) you actually begin to strip your body of lean muscle tissue, therefore slowing or halting your metabolic capacity all together, therefore you cannot lose fat or weight. It is very much a waterfall effect.
K: What is the correct way to do cardio?
J: To be honest there is no “right way”, this will change from person to person because our bodies are different. But I can give some helpful tips that will help you preserve lean muscle mass, burn fat (more effectively than steady state cardio) and have you spending WAY less time in the gym. I am a huge supporter of HIIT aka High Intensity Interval Training, a form of cardio-based interval training. An exercise strategy focusing on short periods of intense anaerobic (cardio) exercise with less intense recovery periods. EXAMPLE: 30 seconds all out sprint followed by 6o-90 seconds of light walking or complete rest, repeat for duration of 20 minutes. HIIT should only last 10-20 minutes, if you are able to do it longer you are not doing it correctly. As previously mentioned, this is ALL out intensity followed by brief periods of rest. In the high intensity portion you should be getting your heart rate up towards 90-95% of your max heart rate (MHR = 220 – (your age)) and during the periods of rest should get down towards 100-160 BMP (depending on age and current fitness level). HIIT can be performed in a number of ways like the sprinting example ahead, or on stair climber, row machine, jump rope, battle ropes or even circuit style, but one thing does not change and that is the goal all out intensity for 15-30 seconds followed by rest or low activity (such as walking) 30-90 seconds. HIIT should be completed no more than 3 times per week and I recommend starting with just 1 session for a few weeks, then adding in another for a few weeks, etc. But don’t get stuck here, mix up the number of sessions you do and what form or equipment you use. Our bodies are smart! Keep your body guessing!
K: How do I learn how to weight lift? Or what’s the best way to start lifting?
J: We’ve all heard the saying “practice makes perfect” well I say “perfect practice makes perfect”! If you are completely new to weight lifting start light. Perhaps buy, borrow or rent workout videos for home like Jillian Michaels, Ben Harper, P90X or even download the “Daily Burn.” After completing the video series maybe start to explore the idea of joining a gym and investing in a Personal Trainer for a few sessions so they can show you how to use some of the equipment. Ask questions, I know it can be intimidating and embarrassing to ask for help or seek an answer from a stranger at the gym, but you would be surprised who is willing to go out of their way to help you feel more comfortable. Get an accountability buddy to meet you at the gym a few times a week, allowing you to prioritize yourself and your body while also making you feel more comfortable! When I first started I did P-90X at home for 3 months, then graduated to the gym, then hired a coach, then fell so in love with the process that I became a coach myself <3
K: What if I can’t lift the bar? What if I’m not strong enough? How long will it take me to feel comfortable and confident in the gym weight lifting?
J: You have to start slow and you have to start light. Just because you can’t lift a certain weight does not mean you are any less of a person. You as a person are NEVER defined by a number, not the number on the scale, not the dress size you wear and certainly not by how heavy you can lift. I can promise you, at first it will be intimidating, you will have days you want to give up, feel out of place, feel like quitting, and that is all normal. But here is where you do define yourself, how do you move on? Be the person that persists, that does not take no for an answer even when that “no” is coming from you. Because as time passes you will create a habit and routine for yourself, you will become more comfortable and you will be unable to recognize the “you” from weeks, months or years ago.
K: Do I have to drink protein shakes or take supplements to weight lift?
J: Simply put, no. But I will tell you, you are not going to get the results you want without proper nutrition. That does not mean 1000-1200 calorie diets! Yep, even YOU. I don’t care if you are underweight, overweight or just right, I have never met someone under the age of 60 that needs that little of food. This is going to cause metabolic damage and leave you feeling defeated. You need to be eating LOTS of lean protein, simple carbohydrates, veggies, fruits and good fat sources. Eat 4-6 meals per day and drink AT LEAST 100 ounces of water daily. The best rule of thumb is drinking your body weight in ounces but if all else fails AT LEAST 100 ounces. Did you know your body is over 70% WATER? It is essential for the proper regulation and homeostasis of the entire body. A few key roles of water in the body, purge toxins from the blood which helps keep your skin glowing and clear. Helps with weight loss! Boost metabolic function so everything works properly! Increases production of new blood and muscle cells.
K: How often should I weight lift?
J: Again, each person is different and your needs are going to change depending on your current fitness level and goals. A good rule of thumb for someone just starting out is 3 days a week. For someone with a little more experience or with certain goals then 5-6 days per week would be better suited.
K: Do I need weight lifting shoes or gloves? What do I wear?
J: Luckily, weight lifting is like most other physical exercise as far as attire. You will want to be comfortable and wear clothing that allows for full range of motion. For females, this is usually yoga pants (spandex pants), shorts or sweats paired with a tank top, t-shirt, sweat shirt and making sure there is enough support in your netherland region (lol, think good supportive sports bra) as to not cause discomfort or pain. For males, usually shorts or sweats with a comfortable shirt or tank top. Shoes are going to depend on what activity your under taking, for weight lifting you usually want a relatively flat sole unlike running shoes that offer curvature. Reebok makes tons of “cross trainer” shoes which work for both lifting and cardio as well as ASICS.