A strong body is one piece of the wellness puzzle, and in this post, I’ll be introducing you to ways you can strengthen your body.
This is the second installment in my Core Four series where I’m introducing you to my four pillars of health. (Eat Nourishing Foods was the first.) This the framework behind my whole health and wellness philosophy as well as the foundation of my Harder to Kill Challenge (come to my webinar about it).
The Core Four are:
Now, before you think I’m going to insist you start barbell training or exercising like crazy every day, hear me out. You may be surprised at my approach.
Strengthen Your Body
Too often, this health-seeking community – fitness and nutrition folks in particular – take a really narrow view about what it means to build a stronger body. Like how nourishing your body isn’t just about what you eat, strengthening your body isn’t just about how many reps or sets you do in the gym.
And, you can’t just nail this pillar, ignore the rest, and expect to feel great in your body and mind. Balance takes a broader approach. You don’t have to be perfect, but if you’ve been working out hard and still not seeing results, it’s time to zoom out a little and consider the bigger picture.
Like food, there’s no one single way to strengthen your body that appeals to everyone.
Women ask all the time whether XYZ fitness class is too much or too little or right for them. I can make my best assessment based on your lifestyle and goals, but I’d rather empower you to make that decision for yourself.
The simplest way I’ve found to figure it out is by asking yourself the following question:
Is this giving me more than it’s taking away from me?
Everything, even if it’s perceived by the rest of the world as a “healthy habit”, has a give-take dynamic. Waking up at 4:30 am to go to CrossFit, spending all Sunday meal prepping, digging into your own mindset issues…they all have benefits and costs. And here’s the kicker: It’s so individual.
For one woman, waking up at 4:30 am to go to CrossFit five times a week may bring her more health – body, mind, and soul – and makes the cost of going to bed at 8:30 pm and waking up super early worth it. For another woman, the exact same schedule might be costing her a better relationship with her partner/children, sleep…making her feel raggeed, and flaring up her autoimmunity.
If you’re not sure, ask yourself. Really listen to what your gut/intuition is telling you.
The framework around Strengthening Your Body has a few key points:
Movement is broader than just exercise.
When it comes to strength, function/capacity matter more than looks.
A strong body needs regular maintenance.
Strength is about more than the physical.
My Harder to Kill Challenge dives more into these points and has you take action around them.
Strength Real Talk
I’m the first one to champion lifting weights. To say it was life-changing for me is not hyperbole, and I really encourage women to at least try it – but let’s get something straight:
You don’t have to lift weights if you don’t like it.
Nobody is here to force it on you or shame you for running or doing TRX or yoga or whatever it is that you do to move your body. In the long run, it’s more important you do something you actually like because it means you’ll stick with it. And consistency = results.
My job as a coach is to help you ask that important question: “Is this giving me more than it’s taking away from me?” So if running is wearing you out mentally, giving you shin splints, and you just don’t enjoy it anymore, maybe it’s time to try something new.
You can strengthen your body in so many different ways. (My Harder to Kill Challenge includes two different options for weaving strength training into your routine just three times a week.)
That being said, building a stronger body through strength/weight/resistance training of several kinds can be fast, efficient, and has a ton of benefits like better balance and coordination, improved bone density, and more self-confidence.
And if you care about generally being healthy, having longevity, and wanting the strength to do the things you want with you life – not about competing or being a professional athlete – you don’t need to train hard six days a week. I know women who are hanging on by a thread in the rest of their lives because they believe they have to work out super hard daily. You also don’t have to beat yourself up in the gym daily to lose weight. For most women, it’s a total mismatch.
Our society is so obsessed with fat – being fat, losing fat, eating fat – that we’re distracted from understanding that muscle mass is actually a better predictor of longevity (source) and a reserve that protects against disease and illness (source).
I don’t have the space to get into all the misconceptions around strength training here – for the love of Pete, it’s not going to bulk you out or make you look like a man – look for those in upcoming posts. But suffice to say, there’s a lot of garbage that gets repeated to perpetuate the narrative that women aren’t strong, can’t be strong, and never will be strong. Bullshit.
The Other Things That Matter
Movement matters. If you work out for an hour every day and spend the rest of the day sedentary, that has a cost. In other words, your workout can’t unravel all the sitting you do. The answer isn’t to do more exercise though. Instead, it’s introducing more low key movement often during your day: getting up frequently from your work desk, walking a little when you could drive, puttering around the house…all movement, all important.
Also, aesthetic goals aren’t wrong, but somewhere along the way, we (society) started emphasizing that they’re way more important than function. This obsession with the scale has got to stop because:
- Your body is going to fluctuate even if you get to your ideal weight.
- You’re spending a shit ton of energy every time the scale doesn’t display the number you want.
- You could have an ideal weight and be totally unhealthy otherwise, or vice versa.
- What’s the point in being an ideal weight if your body isn’t functioning properly?
I could go on but again, that’s a topic for another day.
And lastly, taking care of your body with non-exercise stuff matters. If you’re stiff and in pain; lack basic flexibility, mobility, and range of motion; and feel generally shitty in your meatsuit on the daily, how are you possibly going to feel good and enjoy your life? Getting a massage every week would be nice, but I don’t know many women who can afford that. Luckily, there are lots of free or very inexpensive and simple ways to maintain your body. It’s not just about going hard; regular maintenance is the yin to that yang.
Takeaways About the Strengthen Your Body Pillar
Building your strength is a body, mind, and soul journey that takes time. It’s truly never too late to start. Ladies, your 40s and beyond are not too late! Stop it with that story. Set it aside. Choose a new narrative. Moving your body, honoring it, listening to it, and having gratitude for what it can do is not the norm in our culture but you can learn a new way of doing things.
If you’re ready for more balance in your life when it comes to movement, check out the Harder to Kill Challenge.
Stay tuned for the next pillar, Recharge Your Energy.
Read the other posts in this series: