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How Strength Training Can Completely Transform Your Body

How Strength Training Can Completely Transform Your Body

Exercise is one of the most powerful physical and mental health interventions anyone can undertake. Everyone should participate in some form of exercise every day. Unfortunately, most do not exercise regularly at all and even among those that do, participating in a strength training program is more of a rarity than the norm, especially with women and seniors.

But things are changing and strength training is having a real renaissance moment right now.

Until recently, strength training wasn’t always considered to be as important as cardio and many didn’t pay it the reverence it deserves, instead focusing on cardiovascular exercise and events like 5K’s, marathons and triathlons. However, now it’s hard to look through my Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feed without seeing updates about squat, deadlift, powerclean and bench press PR’s. Weight training has even made it to prime time TV with the CrossFit Games and National Pro Grid League. This is great because now many people are realizing the power of strength training and how it can completely transform your body.

Increase Strength

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    One of the most obvious effects of a strength training program is the increase in physical strength. And being physically strong has a number of awesome side effects.

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    Yeah, you’ll notice the obvious things — like you’re not intimidated by the weight room anymore. You’re totally comfortable with a barbell in your hands and you’ve graduated from the vinyl coated dumbbells stored in the group exercise room to the ones on the weight rack.

    But you’ll also realize that your life is easier. Never having to think twice about carrying your kids, groceries, or the inevitable snow shoveling this winter. Things that used to be a real chore aren’t such a hassle and don’t leave you out of breath, sore and hurting for days. All of your ADL’s (activities of daily living) become much easier and less of a strain when you’ve changed your body through strength training.

    “Lifting weights is excellent for improving bone density, joint mobility, and body composition.” Not to mention that daily tasks such as lugging groceries, moving furniture, and climbing stairs become easier.” —Alexander Koch, Ph.D

    Increase Muscle Mass

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      Let’s face it, most of us start working out to look better naked and strength training is one of the best ways to achieve that goal.

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      Unfortunately, many “fit” looking people focus only on “cardio”, yoga and other forms of exercise that, while possessing their own benefits, don’t include building muscle. This results in someone who is very thin yet has a high body fat percentage and suffers from the dreaded “skinny fat” phenomenon. They appear to be fit and healthy with clothes on but actually have a comparatively high body fat percentage due to their low muscle mass. Skinny fat is probably most prevalent with women who are (incorrectly) afraid that weights will “bulk them up”, so they focus solely on cardiovascular exercise. Fact is, most women don’t have the hormone profile to add appreciable muscle mass. And even if they do, it usually takes years of dedicated, intensive, weight training and diet to build extreme muscle mass. If you’re still scared you’ll bulk up, keep in mind that research has consistently shown most women feel better about their body after they start strength training.

      Adding some muscle mass, changing the size of a muscle, is really the only way to change the shape or “build” of your body. If you finally want the arms, shoulders, legs or butt you’ve been after, you need to lift some weights. This goes for the guys, too. Strength training through progressive overload is the only way to stress the muscles, force them to grow, and add the muscle size and shape you’re after.

      Decrease Body Fat

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        Like cardio, strength training burns fat, too! Although not able to match the fat-burning rates of cardio, strength training results in an “afterburn” effect where calories are burned at an elevated rate after exercise has stopped. The afterburn can last up to 72 hours after exercise. While most people focus on cardio for losing the last 5 lbs of fat, most trainers will agree that the most effective formula for weight loss is usually a combination of nutrition and strength training.

        When combined with the increase in metabolism that results from adding more muscle to your frame over time, it’s obvious that strength training can be a powerful tool in the battle against body fat.

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        Improve Posture

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          Many of us look and feel depressed, sickly, even fat, simply because we have poor posture. Our, “Desk Jockey” lifestyle has lead us to exist in this hunched over, hang off the skeleton, stance. And it is wreaking havoc on our health. Proper strength training can help strengthen weak postural muscles, even out imbalances and help to reverse this posture. Not only will you appear taller, stronger and more attractive, you’ll feel that way too.

          “We found that the effect of the direction of thoughts (positive/negative) on self-related attitudes was significantly greater when participants wrote their thoughts in the confident than in the doubtful posture.” —Pablo Briñol, Richard E. Petty and Benjamin Wagner

          Build a Better Skeleton

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            Building and maintaining bone density is important for everyone as we age. Strong bones mean a lesser risk of the debilitating injuries that can result from bone breaks and fractures that can occur to anyone but become especially dangerous and prevalent as we age. Women are especially susceptible to bone loss as a result of age related hormonal and lifestyle changes. Strength training produces strong bones that cardiovascular exercise just can’t match.

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            “Both aerobic and resistance training exercise can provide weight-bearing stimulus to bone, yet research indicates that resistance training may have a more profound site specific effect than aerobic exercise. Over the past 10 years, nearly two dozen cross-sectional and longitudinal studies have shown a direct and positive relationship between the effects of resistance training and bone density.” —Layne, Nelson

            Bones are thought to increase density primarily in response to compressive forces. This is what makes strength training exercises like squats, shoulder presses, pushups, lunges and deadliftts so effective at creating bone mass. They place a compressive stress on the larger bones and lead to an increase in bone density and a stronger, more resilient skeleton.

            Improve Brain Function

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              We’ve known for a while now that cardiovascular exercise can physically change the brain by actually growing brain cells. Now we know that strength training can have brain benefits too. According to Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose, weight training can beneficially change the structure of the brain, but “a minimum threshold of exercise needs to be achieved.”

              While most of this research is new, it’s promising and is the first to show that strength training, as little as twice a week, may also result in a physical change to the brain.

              Strength training and adding muscle mass can literally transform your body. You can start out weak, slumped, soft and frail only to transform into someone strong, resilient and solid. While we’re all bound by our genetics and frame, strength training and adding muscle mass is the only way guys are going to build biceps that bust t-shirt sleeves and girls are going to build glutes they buy jeans show off instead of hide. In fact, many celebrities and models focus primarily on strength training when they need to get in shape fast and look their best.

              But, keep in mind, strength training is about so much more than just lifting weights, building your muscles and looking great. It’s about vitality, energy, confidence and independence. Once you’ve experienced the benefits of strength training you’ll understand how strength training can completely transform your body, inside and out.

              photo credit: Pinterest

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              How to Control Your Thoughts and Become the Master of Your Mind

              How to Control Your Thoughts and Become the Master of Your Mind

              Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

              Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality.

              I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

              You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

              Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

              When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

              I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

              Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

              Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

              Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

              1. The Inner Critic

              This is your constant abuser. He is often a conglomeration of:

              • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
              • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
              • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
              • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

              He is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

              Why else would he abuse you? And since “he” is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

              2. The Worrier

              This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

              He is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it.

              Occasionally, he is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

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              3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

              He is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

              He can be set off by words or feelings. He can even be set off by sounds and smells.

              He has no real motivation; he has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

              4. The Sleep Depriver

              This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

              His motivation can be:

              • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
              • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
              • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
              • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

              How can you control these squatters?

              How to Master Your Mind

              You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

              Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

              There are two ways to control your thoughts:

              • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
              • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

              This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

              The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

              Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

              For the Inner Critic

              When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

              You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

              For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

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              You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

              “Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

              If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

              • He riles up the Worrier.
              • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
              • He is often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
              • He is a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
              • He is the destroyer of self-esteem. He convinces you that you’re not worthy. He’s a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get him out!

              Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

              Replace him with your new best friend who supports, encourages, and enhances your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

              For the Worrier

              Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

              Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

              You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

              • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
              • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
              • Muscles tense

              Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

              If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

              Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

              “Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

              Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

              If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

              Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

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              Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

              For example:

              If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

              “I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

              Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

              “Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

              Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

              For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

              Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

              The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

              • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
              • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
              • Muscles tension

              I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

              Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

              Breathe in through your nose:

              • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
              • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
              • Focus on your belly rising.

              Breathe out through your nose:

              • Feel your lungs emptying.
              • Focus on your belly falling.
              • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

              Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

              Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

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              One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

              Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

              For the Sleep Depriver

              (He’s made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

              I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

              Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

              1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
              2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

              When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

              From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

              For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

              If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

              You can also use this technique any time you want to:

              • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
              • Shut down your thinking.
              • Calm your feelings.
              • Simply focus on the present moment. 

              Becoming the Master of Your Mind

              Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

              You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

              Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

              Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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