**First, meet my wife, Jen. ^^
Over a year ago I wrote a 3-part series on the differences between the goals of fat loss and becoming a better runner. (Click HERE for that) To summarize, running more may help to make you leaner, but it is NOT the most effective way to get lean.
To the point of how crucial it is for (women especially) to get their strength up, I want to share my colleague Tony Gentilcore's recent post. I think you'll have a much clearer understanding of why “just running”, as awesome as it is, is not the best strategy if fat loss is your goal.
Tony and I have each just finished reading the same book, Intervention by Dan John, and have found it to be a fantastic resource not just for trainers, but anyone who's serious about becoming a better athlete.
There was one passage I wanted to share that really resonated with me and helped feed into my incessant campaign on why I continue to encourage women to turn to strength training in lieu of those lame cardio-pump classes. And yes, sometimes even running.
Here’s the passage:
Recently, a woman told me her friends can’t make a mistake.
What? Well, what she told me was this: Since they were attacking fat loss with aerobic work and strict dieting, they didn’t have any wiggle room. The woman, who holds herself nearly year-round at a very impressive 19% body fat, told me she enjoys desserts, cocktails, BBQs and fine food. But, and this is a big but, she can also do 10 pullups. She is very strong in the weight room. In other words, her glass is so big, she can afford to cheat a little here and there.
That made no sense to me. Then I watched her train and thought about some other women I work with. When she presses an impressive kettlebell overhead (half her bodyweight with one hand!), her entire system has to gather up resources, and then adapt and recover from the effort. When little Edna at my gym thinks the five-pound dumbbell is heavy, she isn’t going to tax her body very hard.
Edna can’t eat cake.
Ladies: read that again and let it sink in. I’ll explain a few things in a second.
I’m not kidding, read it again.
Now for most, you may be wondering what the whole "her glass is so big, she can afford to cheat a little hear and there” means.
What kind of glass are we talking about here? A standard 8 oz glass? A wine glass? An Optimus Prime collectors mug I got in a Happy Meal circa 1985?
Well, any glass really. The idea, though, is to make the glass bigger!
Think of strength as a glass, and the water inside the glass as all the “qualities” we train for: endurance, strength-endurance, power, agility, speed strength, strength speed, having the ability to somehow take F.O.R.E.V.E.R in the bathroom getting ready, you know, those types of things.
The smaller your glass, the less “qualities” you’re able to express, let alone at a high level. That said…
Strength is the basis for everything.
You can’t be “fast” without having some semblance of strength (or horsepower) in reserve. You can’t improve your timed mile, or taking a bit further, your marathon time if you can’t generate more force into the ground to propel yourself forward.
The larger you make your glass, the more liquid you’re able to place inside said glass, and the likelihood your performance improves. Whatever your endeavors may be.
If you’re weak, the glass is almost filled to the brim, and there’s little room for improvement. And, I’d even argue for those more aesthetically minded: you can’t even come close to getting as lean as you’d like if you’re weak in the first place.
If you’re someone who’s idea of “working out” is performing endless repetitions of arm circles, curls, and extensions with those cute, 5 lb pink dumbbells – and it’s hard – guess what?
You can’t have cake.
And that sucks.
Conversely, if you’re someone who places a premium on getting stronger (maybe working towards being able to perform ten solid push-ups, or one dead hang bodyweight pull-up, or maybe 1.5x bodyweight deadlift, or something as simple as learning how to squat properly), and you actually place a stress upon your body and force it to, you know, do something…… and do it hard…………the more “wiggle room” you have when it comes to your nutrition.
While not a concrete train of thought, I think most people reading can appreciate the general tone I’m getting at here.
For example, my wife Jen has set IMO a beastly goal: 20 strict pull-ups. To achieve that, is she is working on her max strength by strapping 45+lbs to her waist - as shown above.
Not to brag, but I don’t think there are many women out there who could just casually walk up to a chin-up bar and start busting out reps.
Wanna know what else she can do:
- Dumbbell Bench Press 45 lbs in each hand.
- Deadlift 210+ lbs for reps.
- Perform 20+ flawless “feet elevated” push-ups.
- Walking Lunges with 45lbs in each hand.
Wanna know what else she does:
She feels no remorse when we go out to eat on the weekends and orders a steak (with potatoes) and dessert afterwards.
She also eats out of the bread bowl. GASP!!!!!!!!!
To her credit: she works her ass off, has put in A LOT of hours in the gym to look how she looks, and is passionate about eating clean 90+% of the time.
As Coach Dan John alluded to: she doesn’t necessarily have to be as “on point” with her nutrition and can get away with a few cheats here and there because she’s STRONG!
This isn’t to suggest that every female reading needs to rush out to their nearest gym and commandeer the squat rack (although, that would be pretty cool). All I’m suggesting is that it wouldn’t hurt to turn the page, turn off the Tracy Anderson DVD, and start lifting some appreciable weight.
I’m not saying all of this to be snarky, and I hope it’s not coming across as such.
In every sense, I’m saying all of this to EMPOWER you.
For some this should read as a profound epiphany.
At least, I hope it is.
(Thanks again to Tony Gentilcore for expressing my thoughts beautifully!)