BY COSHANDRA DILLARD
Lifting weights is second nature for Jamie Lynn Hughes, a personal trainer and fitness competitor. And while some women are learning more about the benefits of weightlifting, there are many others apprehensive about trying it.
They fear they will look masculine, trainers say, long-believed myth that has been associated with weight training for years. As a result, many women turn to hours of cardio exercise.
“I blame it on the ’80s and Olivia Newton John,” Mrs. Hughes said. “It doesn’t matter how much fat you lose, if you don’t put muscle behind it, you’re still going to look empty. You’re still going to look flabby.”
Mrs. Hughes said seeing large men pumping iron in the gym increases that perception of weightlifting.
“Genetically, most women can’t look the way that they’re thinking they are going to look without the help of some kind of drugs or hormones,” she said.
Mrs. Hughes competed in the bikini division at fitness competitions and has placed nationally in two categories. She’s always been athletic and previously worked as a dancer for professional sports teams. She got into weight lifting after moving to Tyler.
“I did very controlled amount of cardio,” she said. “I wasn’t running my tail off. I rarely jogged. I did a lot of weight lifting.”
To become successful, Mrs. Hughes had to get over a few things also: being embarrassed about something she may not be able to do and the dreaded “workout face.”
“Take out of your mind that you need to look really cute when you’re working out,” she said. “There are certain moves that when you do them properly with the proper weight, you’re not making the most attractive face. For women that’s a big deal. You just have to put that to the side.”
Weight lifting doesn’t replace cardio, but trainers stress that it’s an important part of weight loss.
Hayle Hudson, 26, operations manager at Premier Fitness, said weight lifting is the most effective way for people of all ages to develop a solid frame and build strength.
“Part of the reason I think women are intimidated by this kind of thing is that they feel like people will stare at them,” Ms. Hudson said. “They’re not intimidated by the weight so much but they don’t want to put themselves into this environment where people will judge them. No one’s judging you for being here. We’re all here trying to accomplish what we want to accomplish.”
Lori Hardin, 43, has developed a love for weight lifting. She has lifted for seven years, also adding Crossfit to her regimen. She said she wanted to “tone up and fight the aging process.”
“Right when I was fixing to become a grandmother I decided I didn’t want to look like one,” she said. “That’s what got me in the gym.”
She added, “I get a lot of compliments about my arms I have to tell them, ‘Put down those five-pound dumbbells and pick up the 10s and maybe you’ll accomplish something. Don’t be afraid of it. It’s not going to hurt you.’”
How much a person should lift and how often depends on many factors, including ability and personal goals.
Weight lifting is just one way to reap the benefits of resistance training, which cause muscles to contract against an external resistance. Other ways include the use of a person’s own body weight and other objects.
Mrs. Hughes said people have to challenge themselves to see results. When weights become too light, it’s time to bump up to the next size.
“You want to feel what is challenging enough to you to get that muscle growth,” she said.
She added that people have to set practical goals from the start and not expect to be sculpted within a few weeks. Goals must be broken down into smaller ones. That may include something as simple as joining a gym.
“You want to set that goal but you want to make it measureable,” she said. “Something you can put a date on.”
For those who want to add weight lifting, she advises using the help of a personal trainer to prevent injury and learn good form. Beginners should stay away from Olympic-type lifting unless under the guidance of a trainer.
“To me, time is the only thing that we can’t get back,” she said. “Injuring yourself is not worth trying to figure it out on your own.”
Adding weight lifting to a fitness regimen is a lifestyle, Mrs. Hughes said. Just like cardio exercise, it has to be done consistently to maintain the benefits.
“Your body is never stagnant,” she said. “If you’re not doing anything, then you work out, get to a certain spot and stop, you’re body is just going to go right back. If you continue working out, it’s still going to change and you always have to change what you’re doing.”
Personal trainer Ross Campbell said functional training is “where fitness is headed.” This method mimics movements people do in everyday life. It also incorporates balance and flexibility. While it’s not a new idea, more people are applying it today as an alternative to using weights. Exercises include squats, pushups, lunges, pull ups, sit ups, planks and leg raises.