How Weightlifting Builds Muscle – And Your Career
There are more benefits to lifting heavy than losing weight. Spending time in the free weights section can improve your perspective and performance in the office.
If you watched the Rio Olympics, you probably caught a glimpse of the weightlifting. Maybe some of your workmates have discovered Crossfit and are now part of a born-again #cleaneating #fitfam who make you slightly nauseous?
We’re in the fitness era – as amazing as that can be for some, it can be off-putting for others. All the tights and progress photos, while they’re meant to be inspiring, often detract from what exercise is really about and what it can actually do for you past reducing your waistline and giving you something to humblebrag about on social media.
A year and a half ago, I begrudgingly picked up some dumbbells. I was training in Muay Thai kickboxing and knew that to throw a harder punch I had to get stronger. I wasn’t a ‘weights girl’, I didn’t want to get bulky, I thought they were boring. But I’m so glad I stuck with it and graduated from dumbbells to compound movements and beyond.
The power of strength training
Nowadays, I’d say that from power lifting to Crossfit, or even bodybuilding, strength training is the most complimentary and beneficial exercise to do when you have a career to focus on, work inflexible hours and want sustainable results. If you approach strength training with the same mindset as you approach your career with, you’ll start to see that the two can actually work together.
Learning to take your place in the weights section of the gym is just like taking your place in business. It takes courage to take up the squat rack for the first time, just as it takes courage to speak up and command airspace with your voice and ideas. Similar to presenting and owning your work, working out in the free weights section only gets easier the more you do it. When you finally do a pull up or nail the first meeting you run, you’ll know that next time you can do it.
It helps with overall brain function
And strength training doesn’t only build your confidence; a Canadian study showed that those who do weight training, compared to other exercise, can have a 15% increase in the function of their brain compared to others, helping you think sharper over a longer period of time.
Like most young professionals, I spend 10 hours a day at a desk trying to avoid a quarter life crisis and cookie jar in the kitchen. I am not a naturally happy person. As someone who struggles with anxiety and a very overloaded mind, there was a time where my mental health would get so bad I’d sit at my desk and feel as if I was going to cry, vomit and faint at the same time.
While cardio can make you tired before work, a session of weights energises you and flushes out anxiety for the workday. Or at least it subdues mine so I can achieve enough clarity to work with my negative thoughts, rather than drowning in them.
While strength training takes focus, it’s the kind that replenishes you rather than tiring your brain. My gym session is the one time during the day I get to completely zone out. If I’m having a bad day at work, using my lunch break for training is the fix. There’s a feeling of accomplishment and wholeness you get from completing all your sets and there is comfort in repetitive movement that is easy to crave. Even if you don’t struggle with a low mood, feeling like you’ve achieved something can only be an added bonus, especially during a tough work week.
It sure beats a sugar fix
The boost in serotonin levels weight training provides also makes you a happier person to work with. If you feel good about yourself, you’ll be more inclined to handle your workload, stress and other people more positively.
You can’t lift if you don’t eat. In a world where women are told they need to be smaller, eat less and take up little space, learning that it is crucial to feed my body for results was a game changer for me. Reinventing my diet to suit my training regime not only got me eating more frequently and better, but I noticed that by doing so, I had more energy to not only get through work, but thrive. Coffee became an option rather than a necessity and I needed less sugar to stay mentally engaged with both my tasks and the people in my workplace.
Weight training has been found to largely improve the energy of those with chronic fatigue, so you can imagine the boost in energy the average person can experience from it. A coffee at 3pm to beat the slump is nice, but having enough energy to not even experience the slump is nicer.
Your body is a machine to be fuelled and maintained, not an object to be starved and suddenly shocked with hits of energy. In the gym, as in your career, consistency, sustainability, clear goals and a good mindset are crucial. Also, did I mention you feel really badass when you can deadlift?
Evie Kennedy is a media professional, writer and literature junkie. She likes to punch, kick and lift things in the name of health and is trying to write a novel.