As a dedicated non-competitive bodybuilder for 46 years, if I may offer some thoughts:

  1. there continues to be a ridiculous either-or argument among aficionados about whether we should do strength training OR aerobic. Kindly. BOTH. They do very different things, and longitudinal studies show those oldies (like me, I’m 67) who do both live longer and….well…prosper (sorry).

2. I am a serious gym pig but never ever was interested in steroids. Over the years I’ve battled eating disorders and obesity. One thing I always was and am still: strong. Grew up on a farm, had to lift and move BIG heavy things. Twice in the last two years I’ve had to move big heavy couches. Alone. No problem. Not. At. All. The day I can’t move most of my own furniture I am packing it in.

3. The body tends to fall into several categories: mesomorph, endomorph, ectomorph. Some have a combination. How we respond to weight training (as in, can I get cut up? will I bulk up?) depends a great deal on where the body holds its fat, what you eat (85% of what we look like) and how you lift. It is a puerile and ridiculous argument to say “oh I’m afraid I’ll get all bulked up” to avoid weight work. Look sisters, if you did half of what I have done at the gym you still wouldn’t likely “bulk up.” It took me YEARS to get sizeable biceps. How tall you are, your individual proclivity to develop muscle, how often you lift and how heavy you lift all play into it. As with all things, it depends. But with all things, PLEASE learn proper form. Weights can injure, and seriously so, so an investment in someone with proper skills will keep you out of the ER. I love seeing women at my gym, but watching them try to lift like men scares me to death. I’ve never injured in almost five decades and that’s only because some very good people protected me from myself.

4. I am stuck at home and out of the gym. I have a 45 lb plate, a 25 lb plate, a set of 10lb dumbbells, a yoga mat, a pullup bar, two different DVDs and a bunch of bands. I do tricep dips using my kitchen counter and island. I do pushups every single day, up to 100 at a time. I’m ex-military, it’s not as hard as it sounds. I still look like a girl. I’ve got biceps, I am cut, but again, I’ve been at this 46 years. I work with what I have. At this age I have to move- because things creak, but movement keeps my joints juicy.

5. This is NOT for everyone. Sometimes just bodyweight work is enough, which is just fine. To your point, it’s strength. PERIOD. Strength. Last February I was on a horse in Tanzania who decided to get into a vicious kicking contest with another horse at a rest stop. I was thrown forward and to her right, about to fall in-between two 1200-lb Thoroughbreds having a hissy fit fit with flying, iron-clad hooves that would have killed me in a heartbeat. I just hung onto her neck, and when she calmed down, I pulled myself right back up. I am strong because in my line of work (adventure travel) if I am not strong, limber, flexible and focused, I die. Just that simple.

6. And finally to that point. You don’t have to choose to do what I do in order to want strength. But here’s the piece. Since I turned 60 I have undertaken some 40 major expeditions all over the world. Some of them have involved very serious injuries, including breaking my back in eight places (horse) having my ribs kicked in and my shoulder stomped (horse) falling down stairs (just being stupid) and smashing my pelvis. Every. Single. Time. I got up and walked to safety. Every single time I was able to get away from the danger. And in a few weeks, back at the gym, on the horse, whatever. And every single time the doctor said that had I not been in that kind of shape I’d have been dead or a quadriplegic. There is nothing like having real body confidence in life, as you and I age, and as we inevitably diminish. Age related muscle loss or sarcopenia begins in our twenties and gets worse as we age, as does muscle capacity. You and I can slow that process way, way down with weight work and an aerobic program. Nothing to do with being an Olympic athlete. Regular movement, regular weight work, regularly. You do not have to be an endurance athlete to transform your fitness. And thin does not translate to fit. Fit translates to fit. And that is as individual as a fingerprint.

Strength, PLUS flexiblity (think yoga) and balance. These things give you options. OPTIONS. As you age, and again, I’m nearly 70, and I am not a natural athlete, I have options. LOTS of them. More muscle means better healing. More muscle means a more efficient metabolism. More muscle means confidence.

I could go on, but you get the point. Strong is sexy. Strong is feminine. Strong is masculine. Strong is just amazing. It’s not a competition. It’s about confidence.

Working with weights is a gift to ourselves. thanks for your piece.

Horizon Huntress, prize-winning author, adventure traveler, boundary-pusher, wilder, veteran, aging vibrantly. I own my sh*t. Let’s play!

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