Benefits of lifting heavy

Lifting heavy. Maybe you’re ready to get your hands on that barbell. Maybe you’re still not sure if lifting heavy is for you.

I’m not here to sell you why you should lift heavy. Yes I have an online ebook to tell you all of that, but here all I can share is the research I’ve done and how lifting heavy has affected my body, my mindset, and my self-esteem.

Whether you’re all in or on the fence about starting, I hope this post will help clarify the benefits of lifting heavy and give you the confidence to cross from the carpet to the rubber the next time you hit the gym. (The red to the black mats in my gym specifically) haha

Here, we break down how lifting heavy leads to a bigger, faster, stronger body.

Bigger – Benefits to muscle

A common concern women have when considering lifting is that they will get too big or look like a bodybuilder.

I’m here to break it to you not-so-gently: you won’t.

Bodybuilders work insanely hard to build the muscle and maintain a lower body fat composition — measuring and weighing their food. And that’s just normal day-to-day life. You should read what they go through the days and weeks leading up to a competition.

The truth is building muscle is the only way to get that toned physique you crave. And lifting heavy is the best way to get that muscle.

But more than helping you achieve that perfect bikini body, building muscle has significant other benefits.

Strength

At 172 cm and 63 kg’s, I don’t look like a menacing meathead who can deadlift twice her body weight and squat 100kg’s. Fact is, I can’t, you don’t have to either. There are women smaller than me out-lifting me by 100kg’s or more.

Being able to lift twice your body weight is seriously empowering.

It’s also practical. Are you lifting kiddos on a daily/ hourly basis? Do you want to be able to move that furniture or heavy bag without waiting for your significant other to help you?

By strengthening your muscles, you’ll also reduce your risk of injury in other areas of your life. Think about it. Your muscles surround vital joints, tendons, bones, and organs. The stronger that muscle, the more protection there is.

Metabolism and why you need all the donuts

Muscle mass is the “engine” of the calorie-burning machine. As you strength train and increase your muscle mass, you build a bigger, more efficient engine that burns more calories and helps you lose weight.

Not sold yet? What if I told you lifting heavy lets you have donuts, burn calories at rest, improves your blood sugar, cholesterol, and improves blood pressure.

Faster – Benefits to central nervous system

I know I said I wasn’t going to sell you guys on lifting heavy, but I feel like an infomercial. Did you think lifting heavy only had benefits to muscle? Think again. Lifting heavy also has a huge impact on our central nervous system.

Basically, when someone lifts heavy, their muscles all perform as a group faster and more efficiently. The neural communication to triggering those muscles improves, giving a person who lifts that split-second edge to react. Quite important, considering how quickly you need to react to situations in real life, you may change your mind.

In a LiveStrong article, Eric Brown writes about the value lifting heavy has on motor unit recruitment, coordination, and synchronization of motor units. “The stress placed on the [Central Nervous System] is directly proportional to the load you are attempting to lift, so the heavier you train, the greater the Central Nervous System response,” he writes.

Stronger – Benefits to the bone

Another common concern people that don’t lift weights have is the impact lifting heavy can have on joints and bones. You may be sensing a theme here of misconceptions.

You guessed it: Lifting heavy improves bone density and decreases bone loss.

Through a process known as bone remodeling, strength training stimulates the development of bone osteoblasts: cells that build bones back up. While you can achieve some of these bone benefits through aerobic exercise, especially in your lower body, resistance training is really the best way to maintain and enhance total-body bone strength.

Posture

Building all of that muscle and improving bone density has another subsequent benefit: improved posture.

With more and more of us suffering from nerd neck after hunching over our computers every day, this may be the greatest reason to start lifting. Working together and working against your every hunch, your muscles naturally begin to hold those bones in place and return them to the body’s ideal alignment.

That doesn’t mean you don’t have work to do to fix extreme postural deficiencies, but if you’re lifting heavy you’re on the right track.

 

I hope this was helpful and that I would see more and more girls moving over to the weight section from the cardio machines, if this is not enough benefits, and if you can’t sense my absolute passion for it? I don’t know what else to tell you!

 

But you’re not going to get a tight toned booty by sitting on it 😛

 

3 Biggest Workout Program Mistakes + How to Fix Them

3 COMMON TRAINING PROGRAM MISTAKES + HOW TO FIX THEM

FIRSTLY…

A training program should have PURPOSE. You’re following it for a specific reason, I hope… These days almost anyone can be a “personal trainer.” But let’s be real, just because someone does a workout themselves, likes it and puts it on their Instagram, or worse on paper and SELLS it, DOES NOT MEAN THEY HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE DOING THAT. It also does not mean it is a proper program.

A training program should be progressive, should work towards a specific goal, and in my professional option should be functional. If that’s not your jam, well then by all means go buy the 6 week summer shred from literally any insta-famous fit chick. But if you want to learn, and train with purpose, this one’s for you sister.

These five things are typically missing from most workout, fitness, or training programs. I have come to find this through my own clients telling about other programs they’ve tried, as well as purchasing and trying programs myself.

First up…

NO PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD

Most online programs and training templates in general are 4-8 weeks long and then they end. Then you jump onto a new program each month, but the phases don’t build on one another.

You will not improve if you do not use progressive overload somehow. Progressive overload refers to overloading your body in comparison to what it has previously experienced. You can do this through tempo, sets and reps (volume), increasing weight, or decreasing rest periods. There are many ways to use progressive overload in order to make gains. These are just a few of the big ones.

So if you’re not told to add weight, or reps, slow down your tempo, or decrease rest periods, you are likely NOT using progressive overload and need a new program.

Progressive overload does NOT mean to try crap loads different exercises every time your enter the gym. Which leads me to my next point…

LACK OF CONSISTENCY (TOO FANCY)

Most workout programs try to be too fancy. Perhaps the creator thinks they need to change things up weekly, or even every day. And again, if you like that type of training, you do you boo. Just don’t expect to get REALLY good at anything when you focus on everything (which is really focusing on nothing).

How do we measure progress in strength or movement quality or pain reduction if we do not train some of the same movements consistently? You can’t! Movement patterns are skills. Skills need repetition in order to improve.

Yes, muscles need to be surprised and challenged from new angles. But for the most part, functional, compound movements will get you what you’re looking for in terms of strength and physique. Be consistent, and embrace getting GOOD at a few movements. It all goes back to mastering the basics. If you have not yet done so, there is LITERALLY no need to get fancy. Unless you’re into getting injured.

NOT FUNCTIONALLY FOCUSED OR BALANCED 

Listen, movement and workouts for most humans just need to be balanced. You spend the majority of your day sitting, or unaware of the way your body moves (or doesn’t move).

Often times, workout programs are created with a heavy “bodybuilding” focus. Are you trying to be a body builder? Or live functionally for the rest of your life? If you’re trying to be a body builder, then duh, follow a body building program. But if you’re a normal chick who wants to lift weights, get stronger, and move functionally, then you should be doing that.

HOW IS YOUR CURRENT PROGRAM DOING? 

Does it prescribe enough rest, or are you working out 2 hours a day and drinking juices for 28 days long?

Is it functionally focused?

Does it provide consistency but still include progressive overload?

If yes, then girl you’ve got yourself a kick ass program.

If not, then I have just thing.

CWF GYM training guide is a 12 week progressive strength and hypertrophy program designed with these principles in mind. And it will change the way you look at “workout” programs forever. (Shameless plug)

 

Contact me at carlawestfitness@gmail.com for more information

Should You Be Sore After Every Workout?

TO BE SORE OR NOT TO BE SORE?

Should you be sore after every workout? How often should you be sore?

To start off, no, you should not be sore after every workout.

WHAT IS MUSCLE SORENESS?

If you’re not sore it doesn’t count, you didn’t work hard enough. This is an old myth and it’s simply not true. Muscle soreness is PRIMARILY due to micro tears in your muscle fibers. This is what the muscles have to recover from and literally heal from when you experience soreness.

DO YOU HAVE TO BE SORE TO GROW MUSCLE?

Nope.

All you need to do to grow new muscle is to stress that muscle more than it has been stressed or stress it in a new way to elicit a growth response.

This CAN happen without actually feeling sore. You must also remember that feeling sore is a pain receptor response. So, this can vary greatly from person to person and muscle group to muscle group.

When you feel sore, you have in a sense, damaged the muscle fibers and it needs to recover in order to (ideally) come back stronger.

“Also, if your aim is to build muscle there are essentially 3 major mechanisms – i.e. muscle damage (which we usually think about), mechanical stress (which is like stretching an elastic band, think about how the weight stretches or force down your arm as you try to pull it up) and then lastly there is a mechanism called “metabolic stress”. This metabolic stress is produced by increased volume (i.e. maybe like 20-40 rep sets) which leads to you depleting your readily available energy sources and subsequently results in a stimulus for growth. (if you are really interested, please see (The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training, a scientific paper).” – JD Conradie

Lastly, if your aim is to become stronger, then the amount of weight you use is more important than the amount of repetitions and normally produce less muscle damage and soreness, however, rest is still essential as the rest of your body systems (i.e. nervous system) will need to recover successfully to see improvement and perform optimally.

SO WHEN IS IT OKAY TO FEEL SORENESS?

Don’t get me wrong, feeling sore is okay and it should happen. But not after every workout. If you’re sore after every workout, you’re likely not recovering and building new muscle. This is not what you want if strength or muscle gains is any part of your fitness goal.

You’re expected to feel sore when you start a new phase. This is because you will be loading the muscles in a new manner (doing different exercises) or for a different amount of volume/intensity (more sets or more time under tension). This is when you can expect to feel sore.

If you are eating optimally and getting adequate sleep, you can expect to feel minor soreness after each workout. I wouldn’t even call this soreness. The level of soreness I am talking about is the kind that you may not even notice until you start warming up and stretching the area the next day or two.

So any time you change up your training, you may experience soreness. But you absolutely 100% do not need to feel muscle soreness to make gains my friend.

“It is also important to be aware and know when to push and know when to manage. You do not always have to perform at your best and produce PBs, it is good to push and perhaps have 1-2 weeks of decrease volume/amount of training to enable the body to adapt and train. Think of it this way, if your goal is to build muscle you are essentially building a new structure. For this structure you need builders (Enzymes, other proteins), materials (amino acids, energy), a plan (DNA, RNA) , stimulus or a manager (exercise) and time (rest).”  – JD Conradie

Indoor vs Outdoor running

It’s a Monday morning in the middle of July in Cape Town, South Africa. 7am I drive to the gym in the dark to get my first run in of the week.

But, on this Monday morning, where it should be the depth of winter… I quickly come to realize that this will be the most beautiful sunrise, it’s already 20 degrees outside and there is NO wind blowing. (rare for this part of the world) I take a sharp left on the R44 and drive down to the beach, for my first outdoor/coastal run since moving back to South Africa.

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And this was my experience…

If you can block out the cat calling, and the obvious irrational fear of being attacked for your phone and car keys that you are stupidly running with in your hands because you didn’t prepare properly, you can actually start taking in the scenery. And what an absolutely gorgeous view it was. Breathing in the fresh ocean air first thing in the morning and feeling you shoes hitting the side walk definitely has a few if not a lot more physiological benefits than running on a treadmill looking straight in front of you in the gym.

I soon as I get comfortable with my pace, I start looking around, noticing details on the buildings I’ve never bothered looking up to, waves crashing next to me, people commuting to work. But I feel like I’m flying. Sure, I have loads of work to do, but this feeling, I want it to last a bit longer. It was only a short run as I didn’t have much time but the time definitely flew 100 times faster than running on a treadmill. I feel addicted to this feeling now and I can’ wait to go on another unplanned perfect weather run. Until then, you will find me on the treadmill. My safe space.

Here are the Pro’s of both though:

Treadmill:

  1. You can keep your phone, keys, water, towel at hand without running with stuff in your hands.
  2. You set your speed/pace and tend to stick to it better.
  3. Safety (It’s South Africa after all)
  4. It’s easier, the treadmill belt assists your leg turnover.

Outdoor:

  1. Scenery. So much to look at and take in, it makes time go faster.
  2. Fresh air. (Totally underrated)
  3. You adapt to your surrounding better incl. weather and running around people.
  4. Soft tissue conditioning that occurs with road running. (Does not occur with treadmill running because the plate or base on the treadmill “gives” more than road surfaces)

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That being said, outdoor running is definitely beneficial when training for a race, but I will continue doing both. But it’s always good to have a back up, either way.

Happy running!

5 MUST do’s to assist your running training

The word is out, I have officially been entered into the KFM Gun Run, where I will be doing the half marathon #prayforme. In reality, I could struggle my way through a half marathon tomorrow. I’d probably be crawling over the finish line with a really crappy time…but I could. However, I want to do this properly and also enjoy it. I’m putting my years of researching for previous clients into action, to hopefully cross the finish line with a smile and while still standing.

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A lot of people begin training for running events thinking they just have to run and keep running further and further until they can run the length of the race; which probably does work, but it’s not optimal. So here are my five tips which if you consider during your training, You will become fitter, faster and less prone to injury!

  1. Don’t forget to Cross train. If you find a running program online, it will probably have a day or two of ‘cross training’. NO this does not mean, jump on the cross trainer, but in fact, it means, your strength and power work in the gym or at home. A lot of people neglect their strength training when running, which is why runners can be so prone to injury. You need strong glutes (butt muscles), legs, back and core(abs) to enable you to run with good posture and prevent putting pressure on your joints. Remember, strength training is the foundation of EVERY training. I will be continuing my strength training plan and ebook while preparing for this half marathon.
  2. Warm up and cool down… BLAH BLAH BLAH you’ve heard it all already. But the question is, do you do it? I used to just wake up and run, without activating and stretching my muscles and mobilizing my joints. Likewise, I would return from a run, and carry on with my day, without cooling down. But now that I’m a bit older, a warm up and cool down is definitely needed! As soon as your muscles become too tight, you’re pulling your body out of alignment and again are making yourself prone to injury. Spend 5-10 minutes before a run warming up and foam rolling and the same when you return. (Let me know if you want me to post my foam rolling routine video on my Instagram stories.)
  3. Even if you’re training for the 10km or the marathon it’s still important to incorporate sprint training and hill sprints into your workouts. Adding sprint training into your plan will be the key to increasing your speed. You can switch up the distance too. I live on the side of a mountain, so you can find a hill close to your house and try 8-10 hill sprints and rest until your back to the bottom of the hill. You’ll probably want to vomit after your sprint sessions, but you’ll thank me when you’re knocking time off your next marathon!
  4. Track your sessions. I’m currently using a Polar watch I’ve had for years, and it’s awesome because I’m able to track my pace,  my heart rate, and log all of my workouts so I can look back and see progression throughout my training. If you don’t have a fitness watch, try log to the best of your knowledge in a notebook so that you can use your improvements as motivation.
  5. Recovery, Refuel and Re hydration.  If you ask any other ASICS Frontrunner athlete what the most important thing is throughout their training, they will tell you it’s the things they do away from the training itself. Recovery is VERY important, especially when you’re putting your body through so much stress. Things like adequate amounts of sleep, and I might start taking some extra magnesium to help muscle recovery. It’s also important to make sure you’re Refueling properly. You can do all of the training in the world, but if you’re not giving your body the fuel it needs you will eventually reverse all of your hard work. Eat well-balanced meals of proteins, fats, and carbs and have regular snacks throughout the day. And finally Re hydration!

I hope these tips have helped you guys, and if there are any more specific things you’d like me to blog about, drop me a message on Instagram and I am more than happy to share some tips along the way as I take on the next 13 weeks.

Training starts today with a short and easy treadmill run just to get my blood flowing again after 2 weeks of barely any training. (I was in Mozambique on holiday)

All my love!

​How To Brave The Weights Room

I know the feeling. You’ve never set foot in the weights section of the gym or you are entering a new gym, you don’t know where anything is or how anything works, and honestly, you’re dreading it. Thoughts are racing through your head: “What will everyone think? Won’t I stand out? What if I make a fool out of myself?!”. Even after years and years or weight training, I’ve been there, I’ve felt that. And I’ve been dealing with multiple girls feeling the same way!

You’re probably well aware of all the benefits of lifting weights, improved muscle tone, increased bone density, inner and outer strength. Now, you just need to get started with it, which is easier said than done.

I want to empower you to get in the “testosterzone” and start making positive changes for your health and happiness. By stepping in there you will gain access to all the equipment you need to sculpt your body and build your strength, so what are you waiting for?

Plan Ahead.
Write down a workout plan or even just a rough guideline of the exercises you want to do, including sets and reps if you can. Ensure you’re familiar with the correct form for all the exercises – YouTube videos are a great free resource you can take advantage of for this. It is much easier to get started if you know what you’re there to do.

Plug In & Dress Up.
Make yourself an awesome empowering gym playlist full of your favourite songs. Pop it in your ears before you head into the weights section to make you feel like a badass! And don’t forget to wear a gym outfit which flatters your body and makes you feel fabulous. Ensure your leggings are comfortable and secure. Nothing ruins your vibe more then when they slip down as you squat. Why not try some clothes from ASICS ZA. (Bonus points if you find 2 photo’s of me on the website :P)

Get an Induction.
The vast majority of gyms will offer a totally free induction, an interactive tour of the whole gym, including the weights room. Use this to your advantage. Ask questions, request demonstrations and familiarise yourself with your surroundings. Some gyms even offer a complimentary personal training session which you can use to check your form on key exercises such as squats and deadlifts.

Take a Friend.
Grab your girl and drag them to the gym with you. The weights room is much easier to enter when you have your bestie by your side. You can train together, experiment with different machines and encourage each other to be brave. Or like I’ve done with my challenge girls, I go with them, its not as aggressive as personal training, it’s just me training with them and giving them little tips and hopefully making them feel comfortable.

Tactical Timing.
If you’re going it alone, a great way to build up your confidence is to head into the weights section at an off-peak time (i.e. not early morning or just after work). This means it will be more quiet, leaving you able to explore everything the gym has to offer in peace.

Get Talking. 
If you’re worried about your form on an exercise, then remember that the gym staff are there to help. They wont judge you for asking for assistance. Every master was once a beginner and it is much wiser to ask for advice then to injure yourself through performing exercises incorrectly.

A Finally, Remember…
Most of the people in the gym are too focused on themselves and their goals to even bat an eyelid at what anyone else is doing. They aren’t there to judge other people. If someone does notice you, they will most likely be thinking how much respect they have for you for working out. You’re doing this for you, not for anyone else. Don’t look for external validation, instead focus on why you’re in the gym in the first place… to better yourself, by yourself, for yourself. – inspired by my other half, JD….

The first time you enter the weights section, it will feel a little bit daunting. However, it gets easier and easier until eventually it becomes second nature. One day you will look back and wonder why you ever worried about it! If you want to know more about how to lift weights, how to formulate a workout program and how to build mental and physical strength; you can purchase my 8 week Gym guide through this link to help guide you. CWF Gym Ebook

Have fun training!

 

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If all else fails, just hit the road for a good old road run. haha

WHAT EXERCISE EXCUSES ARE YOU MAKING?

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We all have exercise excuses we’re often unaware of. We put the alarm clock on snooze, forget our gym clothes at home, or simply don’t make the time to fit in that exercise class. But what if I told you that for all the common exercise excuses out there, I have a bunch of solutions…

Firstly, if you try rebounding, I can almost guarantee that exercise excuses will be a thing of the past.

EXERCISE EXCUSE 1: I’M TOO TIRED TO EXERCISE

The feeling of impending doom is sometimes all too real when anticipating your gym session at the end of the day. A lack of sleep, lack of exercise and lack of nutritious foods can also add exhaustion to a busy schedule

WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT 

  • Make the commitment. You’re also too tired to wake up for work, but you still go! Exercise needs to rank high on the list of priorities.
  • You will never regret a workout, unless you’re feeling unwell. But generally, it gives you a guaranteed good feeling once you’re done.
  • Just show up. If the thought of a really tough or intense workout is putting you off, just make it your goal to arrive – doing a little versus doing your whole session is still better than nothing. Once you’re there you can decide how much you’re up for, and chances are your energy levels will pick up and you’ll forget you were tired!
  • Try low impact exercise. It helps to energise and oxygenate the body. Exercise also helps regulate circadian rhythms and can improve your quality of sleep.

EXERCISE EXCUSE 2: I DON’T HAVE TIME 

Between demanding schedules, traveling, working two jobs or perhaps kids, it really can feel like there’s simply no time for exercise. But I’m here to tell you otherwise!

WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT 

  • Make a choice and prioritise exercise. It needs to be one of your non-negotiables like brushing your teeth. Our bodies are designed to move and exercise helps us to feel more energised, to build strength and stay healthy. Remember why you need to do it when you’re tempted to skip!
  • Commit to 20 minutes. You can torch serious calories in just 20 minutes of exercise if you’re prepared to get intense. And anybody can make time for 20 minutes, right? CWF Home workout are perfect for just that! You can buy it here! CWF Home ebook
  • Make the effort to prepare before bed. A 20-minute session of meal-planning and packing gym clothes is often all it takes to make your morning run smoother.
  • Make one activity on the weekend fitness based. Go for a family run on the beach or a challenging hike to a pretty destination instead of watching a movie. You’ll sneak in an extra workout, and have less to try fit into the working week.

EXERCISE EXCUSE 3: IT’S TOO EXPENSIVE 

Most people associate exercise with two things – gym contracts and personal trainers. And both of those can be pricey. But that isn’t the only way to exercise!

WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT

  • Explore free options: You’d be surprised at the free exercise opportunities available in your area!
  • Train at home. This is one of the best and easiest options. You can find free online sessions, no gym clothes required, and only minimal equipment is needed. Fitness DVDs are also a big help, or ebooks like my CWF Home ebook on my e-store. CWF Home ebook for sale

 

EXERCISE EXCUSE 4: I DON’T KNOW HOW TO EXERCISE PROPERLY 

Exercise feels like a big time waster when you’re not sure how to perform specific moves or even which exercises to do in the first place. Gyms can often feel intimidating for this very reason.

WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT

  • Attend fitness classes: the trainers are in charge of keeping you in check.
  • Exercise with an informed friend. Shadowing someone who knows what they’re doing gives you a good guideline of what to do and how to use specific machines.
  • Follow youtube tutorials – any information provided by a professional is going to touch on good form.

EXERCISE EXCUSE 5: I DON’T SEE RESULTS QUICK ENOUGH

The truth is, quick fixes such as extreme exercise plans or fad diets, seldom work. I always say there’s no magic formula when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight and feeling your best. The trick is to accept this and find something you enjoy so it doesn’t feel like hard work, but rather slots into your lifestyle.

WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT

  • Choose a better reason for being fit: health, energy and happiness are stronger reinforcements than simply looking in the mirror, especially when visual results take their time.
  • Be patient. True healthy habits are a slow burn; energy will creep up slowly, kilos will drop off slowly. Don’t expect immediate results.
  • Take a selfie – it’s true! Photo evidence really is the best way to measure your success, especially when it’s slow.
  • Make sure you set a goal and know how to achieve it. Ask a fitness friend what type of exercise you need to be doing to get the look you want. This will prevent you wasting time on moves that don’t earn results.

EXERCISE EXCUSE 6: I’M TOO OLD TO EXERCISE

With arthritis, potential osteoporosis and brittle bones often getting the better of us, it’s easy to think that exercise will only do further damage or aggravate pain. Plus, many of us have old injuries from school sports that tend to flare up later.

WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT 

  • Remember that exercise is the number one preventative against a list of illnesses. It is a form of defense you can’t afford to neglect.
  • Stiffness and soreness is normal after a few initial sessions, you need to push through for a few weeks to really feel the benefits and even alleviate pain.
  • With ageing comes a loss in muscle mass, and bone density lessens as a result. Exercise is crucial in building muscle strength, strong bones, improving posture, helping us heal quicker from injury, improving range of motion, improving balance and preventing falls.