Worth the weight

Benefits for women’s weight lifting

Personal trainer Rachel Koester demonstrates a beginner’s weight lifting exercise with free weights.

Personal trainer Rachel Koester demonstrates a beginner’s weight lifting exercise with free weights.

Photo By Ashley hennefer

—Rachel Koester, personal trainer

Even women who are committed to positive choices of a balanced diet and cardio exercise often overlook a key component to a healthy life.

“Many women have the misconception that weight training is for men or athletes, but the truth is women need the lean muscle mass and strength just as anybody else,” says personal trainer Rachel Koester. She notes that weight training is especially important for women in their 40s and 50s due to their vulnerability to bone loss, a slower metabolism, and loss of muscle mass. At any age, the proper weight training program can provide strength for a woman’s daily activities.

Melinda Natzel, District Sales Manager for U.S. Food Service, started weight training with Koester last December.

“The body will do a lot more than the mind sometimes thinks it can,” Natzel says of her experience. The 51-year-old grandmother of six says weight training gave her increased mobility and confidence. Ten months ago, a single flight of stairs left her out of breath. In May, Natzel completed her first 5K race, the Reno Rock N River Marathon. Last weekend, she climbed to Mount Rose summit, 10,877 feet, in 5-and-a-half hours, and “loved every minute of it.”

Whether a woman is preparing for a marathon or simply wants a healthier lifestyle, a balance of nutrition, cardio and weight training is essential. Women who structure their exercise routine exclusively on cardio often hit a weight-loss plateau. Koester explains that a key element to weight loss is not allowing the body to adapt to a workout routine.

“Weight training is a great addition two to three days a week that will push you out of the ‘cardio comfort zone’ and shock your body into responding as a new stress placed upon it,” says Koester.

A common misconception is that weight training will result in bulk. “Many women are so concerned with becoming ‘bulky,’ or looking like a body builder, when realistically women are just not genetically designed to gain that amount of muscle mass,” says Koester. For women intent on tone, Koester recommends working with light weights with a lot of repetition (three sets with 12-15 reps). She also focuses on core and upper body strength exercises with her clients.

“Core strength is extremely important for everyone—your core is the center of your body,” Koester says. “Weak core means a weak body.”

Whatever a woman’s fitness goal is, she should approach weight training as a marathon instead of a sprint. “Obviously women and men are at risk for injuries doing too quickly or too much,” says Dr. Joe Johnson of Sierra Nevada Wellness. He advises women to begin with light to medium weights. For her clients who are new to weight training, Koester emphasizes the use of free weights because it forces the body to stabilize and use the core for balance.

“In this case, I am there to supervise or ‘spot’ my clients, but if a woman is taking the next step of weight training by herself, I would recommend the use of machines until she has gained proper form, strength, and knowledge of free weights,” she says.

Natzel also believes in the one day at a time approach. “It’s taken me 10 months to lose 40 pounds of excess fat from my body and rebuild my muscle strength. But the outcome has changed my life,” she says.