Thanksgiving is past us but we have loads of holiday gatherings between now and the New Year coming up. In my last post, I talked about enjoying the holidays in moderation which you should! But for some of us, that still means an overall greater intake of calories and/or a decrease in activity. Again, this isn’t the end of the world but I wanted to talk to you about how lifting weights can help you maintain balance.
Increase Muscle Mass = Increase Metabolism
Muscle is living tissue. This means it needs calories to survive. The more muscle you have, the more calories you need to burn just sitting on your butt reading my blog post about it. As a trainer, I can’t control what my clients do outside of our sessions. For some, I’m only seeing them once a week so their workouts, how they sleep, and what they eat (all major factors in body composition) are completely out of my control.
When someone comes to me for fat loss or body-composition goals, the first thing I do is get them on a strength training program. This is with the goal to increase their muscle mass, to increase their metabolism, all to make it easier for them to maintain their weight or even lose weight down the road.
Extra Calories + Extra Weight-Lifting = More Muscle + Increased Metabolism
With that being said, your body needs extra calories to produce new muscle mass. What better time to start lifting than when you’re overeating over the holidays?! If you’ve ever heard of a body builder trying to “bulk” or overeat food, this is why. Your body can’t make muscle if it doesn’t have the supplies and demand to.
If what I just said has just caused alarm because you’re afraid you’re going to become huge like a bodybuilder – I promise you that that takes a VERY long time and some SERIOUS dedication and a LOT of testosterone. Avoiding strength training because you’re afraid of looking like a bodybuilder is like avoiding taking Algebra because you don’t want to become a world renowned professor at MIT someday. It takes work and IT DOESN’T HAPPEN OVERNIGHT.
Save Time in the Gym
Strength Training and Cardio are not mutually exclusive. They have a lot of overlap. You can still get your heart rate up with a really good lifting program to save you time in the gym. This way you can get in, burn some calories and work on building muscle in one effective workout.
If you’ve never felt your heart rate go up while strength training, you may not be working on strength or power but more muscular endurance. If you’ve been lifting with very light weight to something like 20 reps, you’re not going to feel this effect and, frankly, you’re spending more time in the gym than you probably need to.
A few ways to keep your heart rate up and get more bang for your workout buck:
- Circuits and Supersets: Try to pair opposing muscle group exercises with each other in a circuit. While one muscle group is recovering, the other gets a bit of an active rest as you move through your circuit. One example might be doing a row, then push ups, then lunges. The combinations are endless. Try to make it through the full circuit before taking a rest or one or two minutes and repeat 2-4 times.
- Compound Exercises: Lifts that use a lot of your body at once, such as squats or deadlifts, are great for hitting everything in a short period of time. From your arms holding the weight, through your core stabilizing, and your legs lifting the weight you should feel EVERYTHING and your heart rate will go up to keep up with the work.
Using some of these strategies, you can get an effective full-body workout in 30-40 minutes. That’s going to prove very helpful when you have 7 different holiday parties to run to.
Reduce Risk of Injury
After the holidays, comes the cringe-worthy New Year’s Resolution exercise craze. I’m always thrilled to see when people begin to take their health and fitness seriously but this time of year I HATE IT. I see so many people go nuts and get hurt. You’re body is not going to respond well to going from exercising once every week or so to 4-6 days/week. ESPECIALLY when it’s a cardio-based exercise program. Your body is not used to repeatedly controlling and taking the load of running etc…
However, if you spend the next month leading up to New Year’s working on a light to moderate lifting program to build up your muscular endurance, you’ll end up with a stronger base to work with. I’m not saying “then go nuts!” I’m just saying, a little strength training can go a long way in reducing your risk of overuse injuries.
Exercise in general is great stress relief. As fun as this time of year can be, it can also be stressful. This may be personal preference, but I find lifting to be one of my favorite outlets. For other people, cardio may be their preferred outlet but there’s something about lifting heavy shit that just makes you feel undefeated. I love it so much that I hope you’ll give it an honest go and let me know how you felt!
Get to the gym, lift some heavy weights, and watch all those extra holiday cookies turn into some serious strength!