by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner
Perhaps you’ve considered a weightlifting competition. Or maybe a weightlifting program. You could simply be curious about all the equipment on the Exercise Floor. Whatever your interest, here’s a light, motivating read on lifting the heavier stuff …
Strength training should be part of every fitness program, along with an aerobic and stretching routine. Lifting weights is an ideal method of strengthening. Some may have trouble getting motivated for this form of exercise. There are those in this world who don’t want to lift their dirty socks off the floor, let alone weights. Motivate yourself to get busy on the Exercise Floor by recognizing its many benefits.
Most associate cardio workouts with weight loss; however, weightlifting should not be discounted. Lean muscle can burn fat even during inactive times of your day. Weightlifting increases metabolism and helps the body burn calories more efficiently.
Stronger Body, Easier Tasks
Unless your career involves manual labor, you may doubt the need for physical strength. However, there are countless daily functions that can be managed easier with stronger muscles. Activities like carrying a laptop, mowing the lawn, and toting children can feel effortless with a body built for daily duties.
Beyond toned muscles, weightlifting also strengthens bones and connective tissue. This reduces risk for osteoporosis and other debilitating conditions. Strength training’s effects on connective tissue help prevent injury and improve overall movement patterns. Connective tissue includes the ligaments and tendons found throughout the body, which support muscles and aid motion.
Baby Boomer Perks
Increasing muscle mass helps preserve long-term balance and flexibility. A healthy weight and range-of-motion is more easily obtained, allowing better mobility well into senior years. Strong joints and muscle support each other. Studies indicate arthritis sufferers reduced joint pain through weightlifting. Healthy muscles protect bones and joints, whether stressed from aging, injury, or arthritis.
Done properly, weightlifting can be safe at any age. Often, it is used in rehabilitative settings to heal injuries further demonstrating its adaptability. A personal trainer can provide guidance to assure form is correct, which always trumps the weight’s heaviness. The amount of resistance from the heaviness is not necessarily the focus. The simple act of training with resistance should be the emphasis.
Build a Better Image
With strength comes power. Whether on the playing field or functioning at home, feeling stronger improves physical –and mental– performance. While building your body, you build confidence. Studies report weightlifters feel better about themselves. A toned appearance, and increased achievements as a result, is reflected in self-image. Women, in particular, enjoyed improved body image from weight training. Strength training is also a great stress and anxiety buster. There is nothing like pumping iron to expel tension.
Taking It Center Stage
Personal Trainer Michele Zandman took strength training to the next level. Although her background was in dance, weightlifting became a passion after she suffered an injury during a dance routine. With a Bachelor of Science degree in health and exercise science, she easily transitioned from dance instructor to personal trainer and fitness coach.
After a couple years, Michele acknowledged the dream within her: to become a fitness competitor. She connected with Personal Trainer Randy Frankel, who helped create a program worthy of the National Physique Committee (NPC) Midatlantic Natural Classic Competition. Both were new to the world of fitness competition.
Michele approached the contest with pure determination. Workouts five days a week, and a strict nutritional plan for six, required commitment. “I needed to take care of myself. Attack my dreams. I wanted this opportunity to compete for so long. It was time to do it,” she relays. Michele’s interest in figure competing grew from following friends on social networks. “These strong, beautiful women inspired and amazed me,” Michele says.
Knowing anything worth doing is worth doing well, she heavily trained for the competition. “Michele is a star client,” Randy comments about this personal trainer whom he trains. “She never deviated from our plan and gave 100-percent effort every day.”
It was time for the event. Despite jitters, Michele approached the stage with the confidence of a performer. As a dancer, she was in her comfort zone. She admits being back on stage felt like home. She loved it, and the judges loved her. Michele won first place in her class. She proceeded to place first in the overall Women’s Figure division.
“I never even expected to place,” Michele admits. She was one of the only novices there, and one of the youngest at one month shy of 26 years. Michele partly credits winning to this no-pressure attitude. She approached the event with a positive spirit, her main goal to “have a blast.” While waiting back stage, she danced with her competitors. “It was a lot of fun. Everyone was so supportive. There is a feeling of mutual respect. Each person recognizes the hard work required to be there,” Michele relates of the contestants.
Above all, Michele acknowledges her trainer’s support. “Randy and I make a great team. It’s proven in the results. He’s become a friend and my biggest fan.” Randy offered feedback to Michele during breaks in the competition. His shared observances were her first hint at the possibility of winning. The audience support was as significant as her trophies. Michele remains grateful to Center members and staff who took time to attend. Fitness Manager Peter Sarni was probably cheering the loudest, making Michele laugh throughout.
In doing something for herself, Michele inspired others, including her trainer. “I plan to enter my first competition next year. Michele inspired me. I hope to do half as well as she did,” Randy shares. (Will Michele be Randy’s trainer?) He notes they will not compete together so his own training does not distract from the attention Michele will need. “I don’t want to compromise her winning ways,” he says with a proud smile.
Michele is taking the next year to train for the NPC National Competition (spring 2014) where she hopes to qualify for the International Federation of Body Building and Fitness Professional Figure Model Competition. Randy and she continue their research to best prepare and train for this next step, which could take Michele to professional status. This time, they’re veterans.
Interested in Some Healthy Competition?
Anything is possible. If you aspire to take your workout to the competitive level, set your goals and soar. There are a variety of competitive events. Research them and attend a couple local events in areas of interest. Some involve performing fitness routines and other activities, others are physique only, or a combination. Three major organizations are the National Physique Committee, FAME, and Fitness America. Know their requirements and determine your personal style.
Develop a rigorous fitness plan and follow a strict diet. Depending on your current fitness level, this should be started six weeks to several months in advance of the competition. A personal trainer can help customize this routine. Workouts usually include strength training five to six days per week.
How you lift weights and nourish your muscles (nutrition) affects the way muscles are sculpted. In competitions, symmetry of elongated, lean muscles and vascular presence are often critical. A personal trainer can help accomplish this specific look, which is more involved than bulking up or toning. S/he can also help perfect your stage presence and any routine to be executed.
Have fun with it. It will reflect in your appearance. Michele encourages all weightlifters, whether for sport or better health, “Embrace that you can be strong. It’s a very empowering feeling.” You have what it takes to be a champion. Whatever your goals– train like the winner you are.
“How to Become a Fitness Competitor,” by Ozzie Jacobs at www.livestrong.com.
“Top 10 Reasons to Lift Weights,” by Paige Waehner at www.about.com.