How much would you pay for a prescription that:
- Caused you to lose excess body fat, but maintain and gain lean muscle mass;
- Built strong bones, keeping you from osteopenia and osteoarthritis;
- Decreased anxiety and depression and improved other mental health issues;
- Made you a better cyclist; and
- Lengthened both your life and health span?
Most of us would pay dearly. But we don’t have to, because that drug exists.
It’s called weight training.
Kristin Carpenter, Dr. of Physical Therapy and owner of Mend Physical Therapy in Boulder, held a clinic on June 30, 2022, for Venus Bike Club members about the importance of weight training for women, especially female cyclists. She began with some startling facts:
- The amount of muscle in our bodies peaks at age 30. We lose 3-8% of our muscle each decade after 30 until we reach our 50s, when the decline increases to 5-10% of muscle lost each decade thereafter.
- Bone mineral density also peaks at age 30, and the decline begins in our fourth decade of life.
- 50% of women will have an osteoporotic fracture in their remaining lifetime.
- Cycling, while an excellent sport for cardiovascular function, is in the lowest tier of exercise for protecting against bone and muscle loss. (In fact, walking ranks higher than cycling for its impact on bone and muscle health.)
What’s the difference between a 75-year-old woman who falls, breaks her hip, and never leaves the nursing home before she dies, and one who falls, recovers, and is able to live independently for years after? Very simply: The amount of bone and muscle she has.
And what’s the best way to build and maintain strong bones and muscle? Weight training.
Kristin had the group stand and do six movements:
2. Hinge at the hip
3. Horizontal (arms out front) pull
4. Horizontal push
5. Vertical (arms overhead) pull
6. Vertical push
After everyone successfully pushed and pulled the air around them, Kristin informed us that if we can do those movements, we can weight train.
She then spoke about the intensity required to actually build muscle. She picked up a five-pound dumbbell and proceeded to curl it more than 30 times, without getting anywhere close to fatiguing. Not effective, she said. You need to lift heavy (to you) weights. That means a weight that after about 6-10 repetitions is verrry difficult to lift.
So, ditch the pink five-pounders and push yourself.
Then recover. Give yourself one to three days between training sessions, because the muscle-building process actually happens on the off days. If there is sufficient protein in the diet, recovery allows the muscle fibers that you broke down during your workout to repair bigger and stronger. Along those lines, Kristin also addressed muscle soreness after a workout, saying you should be sore but not debilitated — If it hurts to get into proper position on the loo 72 hours after leg day, you overdid it. And if you’re injured, get a good physical therapist (she happens to know a few!), because a personal trainer just doesn’t have the education necessary to help you weight train in the presence of pain.
But she stressed that the most important elements in your regimen are consistency in working out and variation in the exercises you do. For example, there are many, MANY ways to do a squat. (An interesting aside: this video was developed using the LIFTMOR study on osteoporotic women to increase bone mass).
So now you’re convinced. But how do you start? Kristin pointed us to Mend’s YouTube channel where there are numerous videos on how to properly do each of the six categories of exercises. For example, here’s how to do a deadlift progression from very beginner to advanced.
Kristin ended by asking us to think of our future selves 20 years from now. The muscle we will have then — and therefore the stability, endurance, and ability to recover after falls — depends on what we do now. In other words, your future self wants you to pick up some heavy weights, two to three times a week, and she wants you to start now. (I.e., be like Ernestine!)
Muscle: If you don’t use it, you WILL lose it. Thank you, Kristin, for the fantastic clinic!
For more information, you can contact Kristen at firstname.lastname@example.org