Weighty Goals | VailDaily.com

Weighty Goals

Strength training is an important part of lifelong fitness for women

»By Traci J. Macnamara

At the GOAT Training gym in Edwards, bands of light filter in through an open garage-style door to illuminate squat racks, kettle bells and free weights that fill the room, which feels more like a warehouse than a place for physical improvement. Located in Edwards, this gym might be indiscernible from the other boxy, industrial spaces that surround it — if it were not for a sign on the front door that says, in simple white lettering, "Welcome to The Process."

Lifting weights is an essential part of lifelong fitness, but for many women, this type of environment can be intimidating — or at least confusing. Anyone not accustomed to lifting weights is likely to feel some apprehension about where to begin. And while women, especially, need to lift weights for whole-life health benefits, many worry that lifting weights will lead to excessive bulk or cause injuries rather than prevent them.

Weight-Training Truths

The truth is that weight training — sometimes called resistance training or strength training — has a myriad of health benefits, especially for women over the age of 40. It can help increase lean body mass without increasing bulk, boost balance and athletic performance, and contribute to overall physical strength. A regular weight training routine can also reduce the risk of osteoporosis, heart disease and diabetes while protecting against injuries — or even healing chronic aches and pains.

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With gray paint covering the walls instead of mirrors, the GOAT Training space — open to men and women — may be no less intimidating than other gyms where heavy weights and the people who lift them hang out. However, the camaraderie that's developed at its women-only classes makes what GOAT owners John Mark and Laura Seelig call The Process so much more fulfilling.

"The journey — or what we call The Process — is really the important part in reaching a goal," says Laura Seelig. "It's different for every person because training goals can be anything from competing in an endurance mountain bike race to lifting a specific weight this winter to bending down and picking up a child without pain. Goals motivate us, but it's our commitment to the process that gets us there."

For women new to lifting weights, especially, it's important to feel safe and comfortable while learning proper technique. And this is where Seelig steps in, with an easy-going demeanor and the positive attitude of a peer who's willing to share insider tips. It takes a special kind of person to demonstrate proper weightlifting technique and then coach others into adopting it, maybe for the first time. And that process is a whole lot less awkward in an all-female environment, when it might be necessary for a trainer to kindly reach out and reposition another woman's hips or backside.

"It's motivating to be around other strong women who see that it's okay to lift weights," says Seelig. "There's something empowering about being able to press or squat a weight that you didn't think you could." In this way, the physical benefits of lifting weights can translate into psychological benefits, too. An increased sense of physical strength and confidence may make other things possible in life and work that once seemed impossible.

Cardio and Weights: What Works?

Women are often more inclined to focus on cardiovascular activities such as running or cycling outdoors, or even committing themselves to run on a treadmill or to attend spin classes indoors for the winter months. One common misconception is that cardio-intensive activities help people lose weight or maintain a healthy weight — but that lifting weights contributes to weight gain.

While cardiovascular training and weight training both burn calories, weight training provides additional metabolism-boosting benefits that can help burn calories for a longer period of time. Ultimately, a balance of cardiovascular workouts and those that involve weight training can maximize health benefits. Stretching and proper recovery, too, are important for overall health.

"Health and fitness are about more than just appearance," says Seelig. "It's not all about being skinny. Setting and exceeding goals goes deeper than outward appearance, so I see it as part of my job to help women achieve goals and also feel good about themselves." The GOAT Training gym's lack of mirrors might also reduce obsession about physical appearance and support the development of other healthy habits.

When it's not possible to see oneself while working out, more focus gets channeled into how the body feels. This increased kinesthetic awareness, or brain-body connection, is an important part of developing functional athletic skill, especially since mirrors aren't available for physical feedback out there on mountain trails or ski slopes. 

Finally, these real-world applications are what drive commitment to a weight training routine, and it's important to keep a functional end goal in mind. While participating in women's-specific weight training sessions, such as the ones at GOAT Training, are important for developing skills and confidence, our goals of climbing mountains, running personal bests and skiing steeps have far more weight.

  Mike Thurk,  John Mark Seelig, GOAT Training and Lisa Boshard