Tried and tested: weightlifting

Health and fitness — it is that one aspect of life where people constantly strive towards greatness. Even so, most people don’t prioritize it nearly as much as they should.

We all do it or have done it. We all choose an extra hour in bed instead of that refreshing morning run. We choose that wine-infused evening over a spin class with our friends. Yet, we continue to look for those new trends through which we can fulfill that “dream body,” while still eating as many tacos as our heart’s desire.

Well, listen up because I may have found that one fitness trend that actually works: weightlifting.

Yep, going to the gym for 45 minutes four to five times a week and lifting heavy weights around is a great workout, though strenuous. And no, you are not going to look like the next Ms. Olympia, contrary to some stereotypes. What will happen? You will get toned, fill out those booty shorts and maybe even see some abs.

My journey to weightlifting began in high school. I remember attempting the fitness test at the time, which consisted of: as many push-ups as possible in one minute, as many sit ups as possible in one minute and a one kilometre run. I shakily completed three push-ups — three.

My embarrassment over my measly number made me realize I needed to get stronger. Since then, my fitness routine has evolved in complexity, though it still consists of the basics: leg day, back day, shoulders and arms day, and sporadic high-intensity interval training or five kilometre runs along the seawall.

Over time, I was able to do 55 push-ups in a minute and actually achieved the best score in my grade.

But, why weightlifting over other workouts? The great thing about fitness for yourself and not for a sport — or for anyone else — is you can choose what you want to do. You do not have to squat if you don't want to. You do not have to bench press if that is not your thing. You can walk into the gym and choose the exercises that make you feel good and that you enjoy. Personally, I train legs two to three times a week and arms once because I find leg days more fun.

Scientifically speaking, weightlifting is a great way to train and tone your body. According to Nerd Fitness, strength training is one of the most effective ways to lose body fat for a multitude of reasons, including the fact that it increases your metabolism during and after your workout. A study conducted at the University of Turku also found that weightlifting can be used for many different medical conditions — hitting the weights "enhances insulin sensitivity, improves glucose tolerance, and reduces blood pressure values," decreases body fat and can even help to maintain or improve bone mineral density.

Sounds just like those little magic weight loss pills advertised on TV, except it actually works!

Aside from the physical benefits — and maybe even most importantly — weightlifting can help us mentally as well. We live in a world, particularly as students, where stress is abundant and society is constantly telling us to be better. Better looking, a better academic, a better person, a better sports person. The American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine found that strength training reduces anxiety, improves brain functions, decreases depression, improves memory and much more depending on the individual.

I have felt these benefits.

To me, the gym is a space where I can fight off that stress and feel good about myself. Even if I didn’t do anything else that day, if I went to the gym and grew a tiny bit stronger, I succeeded. Every time I hit a new personal best, I succeed. Each day that my squats feel easier, I succeed. I walk out of the gym feeling accomplished and empowered.  

Sure, it’s summer time and I’ll wear my cute dresses to the beach and get my nails done a fluorescent pink, but in the gym, I can squat 1.5 times what I weigh with ease and that personal knowledge makes me feel good.

Nowadays, I eat more than I used to, but I am leaner than I have ever been because my muscles need more fuel than my fat. My muscles burn food while I sit here typing this, while I sleep and while I sit on that patio sipping red sangria.

So, next time you are looking for a way to get that summer body, find a weightlifting workout and stick to it for a few weeks. You will feel great, look great and eat even better. Trust me.