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Weighing in on the weights thing

19/01/2015 8:11 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST
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Two racks of free weights / dumbells at a health club. Canon 20D.

I care about shedding calories, but I'm happy to gain weight. I don't worry when the kilos don't drop. How? Two words: weight training. Aside from the obvious benefits of strength, weight training has changed me as much on the outside as it has inside.

Gone are the days when women could afford to pooh-pooh weight training, for fear of turning bulky and muscular. Because let's face it, osteoporosis is on the rise, like never before. India ranks high on the list of countries with high incidence, and abysmally low on the list of countries with awareness about it. Ladies, we need to lift those weights now more than ever.

It is a well-researched fact that complementing your cardio routine with weight training will fetch optimal results. So this year, I stopped shying away from gaining bulk and am happy to report I've learned to appreciate strength over thinness. Here's why:

Lifting weights shred flab and toned my body faster than cardio ever did. So if you're aching to see results, complement your cardio routine with weight-lifting workouts.

I've rediscovered the super-fast metabolism I thought I'd lost to my twenties. Scientifically, higher muscle mass means a higher calorie-burn even at rest. Which means you continue to melt calories long after you work out, and are going about your daily routine.

I've watched my resistance to infection spike. I can proudly say I only fell prey to the flu twice this year (as opposed to once every 2-3 months), and sailed through 2014 without a single tummy bug.

Weight training has a direct impact on muscle mass and bone density, which is critical to bone health and in protecting you from osteoporosis.

But apart from these obvious and well-known benefits, the most valuable lesson has been a realignment of the focus of my fitness. On building endurance and strength, rather than getting thin.

In fact, I have completely stopped getting on the weighing scale. Because as much as lifting weights forces your muscles to shear through calories faster and strengthens your muscles, it makes you build significant muscle mass. And guess what? Muscles are heavy! Lifting weights has taught me to ditch obsessing over the numbers and focus on how strong and healthy I feel. As much as I have gained strength on the inside, weight lifting has done me loads of good, on the outside:

1) I feel super strong, I've almost entirely stopped asking for help because the effects of this impact my daily life. Carrying an entire month's worth of groceries up the stairs, in one go, without help, taking down boxes from the loft, opening impossible-to-open jars, lifting suitcases that others would rush to help me with.

2) Extra strength has boosted my confidence, made me positive, social and outgoing too.

3) The very idea of fitness has been challenged. It is no longer dictated by numbers - the perfect size, the ideal weight, the inches left to go. So when I suddenly find a forgotten skirt fits me, or a much-loved pair of pants is too loose; the instances surprise me pleasantly because I am no longer seeking them obsessively.

4) I cherish the small bursts of winning every day. Lifting a heavier set of dumbells, an extra set of squats mastering the tricep hover, spider-man-push-ups - they're every day chances of winning.

Every time I look in the mirror and judge the way I look, I quickly remind myself of my ability and how much more I can do today, than 12 months ago. I've reclaimed my body image and this has extended to my attitude to women around me too. I've consciously cut down commenting on the way people look and I'm trying everyday to respect my body for what it does for me.

It's ironic that women often fear lifting weights because they worry it will make them look less feminine, because personally, it has shaped the very idea of femininity for me. Whether it's this newfound confidence to wear myself just the way I am, choose the clothes I was shy to, appreciate my body, treat it well, eat right and feeling healty. Most importantly, I've begun to look at my body with love rather than harsh criticism. And a lot of it is because I've learned that weights make bulky, but badass and beautiful. Inside and out.

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