7 Lessons I’ve Learned from my Strength Training Journey

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Strength training, weight lifting, resistance training … these words are being tossed around more and more in the fitness world for women. You are seeing more and more women in the weight section at the gym which is awesome. When I started my strength training journey, all the different terms made it quite overwhelming. For those that don’t know, these are basically all interchangeable and the benefits of adding strength training to your workout routine are quite extensive. 

Benefits include 

  • Improves Mood
  • Increases Confidence
  • Increases Balance
  • Improves Posture
  • Improves Flexibility
  • Increases Metabolism

Unlike cardio, lifting weights can build a stronger body. You can build a bigger booty and create an hourglass shape by increasing your upper body strength. 

Strength training has so many benefits

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, all adults should be doing some kind of strength training at least twice a week. This can be anything from squatting 100 pounds to doing a bodyweight squat. (Yes, bodyweight workouts can be considered strength training as well!)

Now that we’ve talked about how you won’t look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, I wanted to try to convince you even more how great strength training is. 

Strength training has changed my complete outlook on fitness and health in general.

I actually enjoy working out which has helped me to actually stick to a training plan.

Before I changed my focus to lifting weights, I hated going to the gym. I had no direction and it just felt like a chore that wasn’t producing results. 

Now, for all the runners out there. I ran a half marathon in the past so I know what it is like to follow a training plan to get to those 13.1 miles. Following this program did make me a better runner and I was able to see results that I could never have if I didn’t run 5 times a week. I definitely felt accomplished after I crossed that finish line. 

Although for me, after I was able to cross that off my bucket list, I stopped running. I injured my foot shortly after the race and after that time off, I didn’t go back to long runs. I didn’t miss it one bit. Running is honestly not something I overly enjoy. I felt beat up after longer runs and my body just hurt. Honestly, I was probably not fueling my body properly but in my young 20s, I felt old. 

After that, I was searching for an easier on my body workout routine. Something that I didn’t have to commit a whole Saturday to since I didn’t recover well after long runs.

lifting heavy weights is all apart of the strength training journey. Don't worry, you won't get bulky.

That’s when I read that if I wanted to lose weight and get my dream body, I needed to lift weights. 

As a complete newbie to strength training, I programmed hopped a ton in the beginning. I made a consultation with a personal trainer at my gym since I had no idea what I was doing but I couldn’t afford it. I tried out a few apps including an app that was supposed to be an ‘artificial intelligence’ (AI) personal trainer. 

It wasn’t 

I tried a lot of the popular fitness apps. Most likely, what I did was google the best strength training apps and spent way too much money on apps that I decided I didn’t like. I still wasn’t seeing results and I didn’t feel confident at the gym at all. 

The weight section at the gym is scary for first-timers. Trust me, I’ve been there. I would circle the weight area until I could find a spot where I could hide a little and no one would notice that I had no idea what I was doing. 

You may have guessed that I still wasn’t enjoying going to the gym. I actually just felt more stressed out.

Then it all clicked

I found the Train with Katie program through Instagram. This was exactly what I needed. Unlike all the apps I tried, her program provides form feedback through a private Facebook group. 

I’ve actually learned how to do a Deadlift, Squat, Lunge, and Hip Thrust correctly. Her program gave me the confidence to learn what to do in the gym without paying a lot of money. Seriously, her program is only $20 a month. 

She programs 5 days of training sessions each week. This was honestly not attainable for me so I only do 4 days a week and I am still seeing fantastic results. Her program has women (and a few men) from all walks of life so you can definitely fit her routine into your schedule. 

Seeing people taking up space in the gym and cheering each other on has really helped me feel more comfortable in the gym

Since starting her program, my body has changed so much. I am so much stronger and confident at the gym. Not to toot my own horn, but I feel like my form is better than people who have been lifting weights much longer than me. This is all thanks to Katie and her team. 

Strength Training can build strong muscle which will give you a leaner looking body

I’ve lost 15 pounds and counting. My metabolism is better than it has been in years. Seriously, I can eat way more and stay at maintenance. 

I love going to the gym and I can feel my mood change in a positive way after I workout. If you’re a beginner like I once was, here are 7 pieces of advice for you if you want to shift your focus to weight lifting.

1. Personal Records (PR) goals are more fun to achieve than Weight Loss Goals

Sure, I’ve lost weight since I started strength training but you know what felt better? Hip Thrusting 250 lbs or Deadlifting 145 lbs. Doing my first full body push-up and then my second. I never thought these things were possible for me. It is so empowering to prove yourself wrong. Once I stopped going after physical goals, I started going to the gym with more purpose.

It was no longer about how many calories I was going to burn and more about how I was going to crush a PR or work towards getting stronger. 

Following a program has helped tremendously since there’s no more guessing. I know exactly what I’m going to do when I walk into the gym. I can make monthly goals based on the program.

2. You can’t get a PR every time you go to the gym

Even though hitting a PR feels amazing, it is physically impossible to hit a PR every time you go to the gym. Otherwise, people who have been weight lifting for years would be able to lift thousands of pounds.

If you are hitting PRs every time, don’t worry. You just haven’t found your max yet and that’s okay! When you’re first starting out, you’re going to hit PRs more often which is great for your confidence levels since you probably don’t feel like you know what are you doing quite yet.  

3. Progress isn’t linear 

Just like weight loss, your increase in strength isn’t going to be linear. You aren’t going to be able to lift heavier every week. In fact, sometimes you may be able to lift less than you did the week before. 

There are numerous factors as to why this may be the case including your menstrual cycle, the amount of sleep you received, and what you ate. Even your mental state. I know some days, I’m not as pumped up to go to the gym as usual. 

If this happens, don’t worry about it and do what you can. If you have to, drop weight (and your ego) and focus on the mind-muscle connection. As long as you’re moving your body, it isn’t a bad day in the gym. 

4. Form over Weight 

If you have bad form, you’re going to end up injuring yourself. Plain and simple.

There’s no point in trying to pull 200 pounds off the ground if you’re going to hurt yourself. Then you’re going to have to take time off and you aren’t going to be able to get stronger. 

As a complete beginner, I lifted the same weight for months until I knew my form was solid. I waited until I had the confidence to tackle heavier loads or weight. This was invaluable. 

It’s okay to just lift the barbell or even regress to dumbbells until you’re ready to move up to the barbell or more weight. It’s a process not a race.

This is a lifelong journey so you’ll get there. It doesn’t have to be today. 

5. Be realistic about how much time you can commit 

I can only realistically commit 4 days a week to strength training since I like to do one day of cardio or hiking with my friends and family. 

On top of that, I know I can only be in the gym for about 45 minutes to an hour with my work schedule. The program I follow is really for over an hour but I do what I can. It’s still better than not going. I’ve still seen improvements in my strength and physique with this time commitment. 

Everyone’s schedule is different so do what is best for you. 

I put my workouts in my weekly planner just like any other meeting, appointment, or deadline. It’s become a non-negotiable for me that I work out at least four times a week. Having it in my planner helps me stay accountable especially when I would rather not leave my house. 

6. Create a training journal or track your weights in an app

Progressive overload is super important when your goal is to get stronger. Progressive overload is when you’re able to do more over time. Bret Contreras has a great article about progressive overload if you want to check it out. In other words, are you getting stronger over time? Now, it doesn’t necessarily mean weight, you can achieve progressive overload with better form, more repetitions, or a bigger range of motion.

Track your weights on your strength training journey so you can see how you're improving

It’s hard to remember what you did last time you performed that movement last week or last month so it’s good to have it written down for next time you program the movement into your routine. It also helps you to see what your numbers are and how much you’ve approved overtime!

I use google sheets so I can access it at the gym on the app and organize it on my desktop. I know a lot of people who use apps or even the Notes section in their phone. It’s up to you but find somewhere to keep track of your lifts!

7. Trust the process

Watching other women’s form checks or even some of the women at my gym, I sometimes compared how much I can lift to them. Hip Thrusting 250 pounds doesn’t seem as impressive when someone else just hip thrusted 400 pounds. 

You have to remember everyone is different and everyone is at different spots in their journey. Not too long ago, I was a complete beginner. I felt so lost in the gym and when I remember this, the weight I can lift now is pretty incredible to me. 250 pounds is a lot of weight after all.

There were days on this journey where I felt frustrated, especially in the beginning. It took me a while to get the hip hinge for a deadlift. This is when you push your hips back instead of starting the movement at the knees. I still can’t quite figure out how to do a kettlebell swing correctly. But I’m getting it.

Don't go too heavy too fast on your strength training journey. Focus on form first.

Every day I go to the gym, I get a little better. It doesn’t always feel like it, but believe in the process and that if you put honest effort into your training then you will get stronger and better. 

Once my form was good, my strength took off, and most importantly, I didn’t feel beat up afterward. 

Those are the seven things I wish I knew at the beginning of my journey.

You can see most of them is about mindset and taking your time. It’s a lifelong process and I’m not competing with anyone but myself. That’s what makes lifting weights so great. 

It’s really easy to see your progress. My form has gotten significantly better since I started repeating the same movements week after week. Just the movements though, I will switch up how many repetitions, or reps, of the movement I’m doing. My flexibility has gotten better and I can see that in my increase in range of motion when I’m lifting weights. I can reach down to pick up a barbell with less knee bend and squat much deeper. 

Progress doesn’t necessarily mean more weight. It could be form or range of motion. Are you moving better over time? How do you feel? 

After all, working out should be fun so don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Enjoy it. 

Until next time, 

7 Lessons I’ve Learned from my Strength Training Journey

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