By now, we’re all familiar with the #transformationtuesday posts that fill our social media feeds each week. Side-by-side photos of women showcasing their fitness progress to the world. I’ve never been one to participate in this, mostly because I didn’t want to post unflattering photos of myself on the internet, but also because I never quite realized how much my body has changed in the past three years.
I’ve always been pretty thin and have always loved working out, but up until about three years ago I was the cardio QUEEN. I would go to the gym and do the elliptical for 30 minutes and then run 3 miles on the treadmill, never even glancing at a weight. I was in spin classes three times a week, and the only “strength training” I ever did was sitting on the mats in the corner of the gym after my cardio and attempting to do a few minutes of ab work. My mindset was always that, as a naturally small-framed woman, I just needed to burn calories (which I measured by how sweaty I was after each workout) in order to maintain my weight while continuing to eat whatever the hell I wanted. Like so many women, I thought strength training equaled “bulk” and cardio equaled “thin”, so there I was, running, running, running like Forrest Gump, with no end in sight.
Then, in 2014, I took my first barre class totally on a whim. I was spending the summer in Boston for a job and noticed a Pure Barre on Newbury Street. I’d heard of Pure Barre before, and although barre was still newly on my radar, every account I’d heard of it boiled down to one thing: this workout will get your ass in shape, literally. I walked in to a mid-morning class on a weekday, and tbh, I think I blacked out a little during that first class. So fast, so much pain, wtf is this rounded-back abs situation under the barre and good GOD, how long are we going to stay in this chair thigh exercise!? But something about the workout clicked, and I was obsessed instantly. I bought the new client month, and the rest is history. I went on to become a Pure Barre teacher, even managed a studio in NYC, and still teach barre (although no longer at PB) to this day.
So, how did this workout convert me from cardio queen to barre devotee, and how has it managed to keep my attention for so long? Because it worked. When I finally started strength training, I went from staying the same no matter how much I worked out – pretty thin, but with hardly any muscle tone and a little bit rounder face than I would have liked – to actually seeing results from my workouts. In fact, I started seeing changes in my body within the first two weeks of taking classes. I saw definition in my thighs. I saw abs. I saw muscles in my arms, and I felt better. And I definitely didn’t get “bulky”. I actually started losing weight – over the first eight months of taking barre classes, I lost about fifteen pounds. And guess what? I still eat (pretty much) whatever the hell I want. #blessed.
It didn’t hit me until I came across this photo of me on the steps of the Harvard Library, taken two days before I took my first barre class. I was by no means overweight – but I certainly look different. My legs don’t have the defined quad and calf muscles they do now, and my face looks much rounder. I still have those shorts, and they don’t hug my thighs quite as closely now.
So, here’s the moral of the story: Women, don’t be afraid of resistance training. SO often I hear the same concerns from women about strength training. They’re afraid they’ll gain weight if they don’t do cardio every day, they’re afraid they’ll bulk up if they strength train, their number one goal is to lose weight, so how could adding muscle mass possibly help them achieve this?
To put it very simply, muscle burns calories. The more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns without doing anything. Not only will you see more muscle definition, but you will burn more calories, which often results in losing inches faster than you would by doing cardio alone. It also helps build bone density and improve posture. Give it a try. Try a class at your gym or do a resistance workout at home. Find a way to incorporate strength training that works for you. For me, barre was that way, but everyone is different. There are so many options out there for strength training these days – from Crossfit to Pilates to core workouts done on stationary surfboards. So get out there and try something new! Who knows, trying a new type of workout on a whim could totally change your life — it changed mine.
Do you have a favorite resistance training method or a success story from changing up your fitness routine? Tell me in the comments!