We live in a world where we’re surrounded by social media images showing unrealistic and unachievable images of waif-like figures. This unfortunately gives us a distorted perspective of what is healthy. Whilst it is important to look after ourselves by getting regular exercise, the real goal should be to be strong not skinny.
This doesn’t mean you have to be competing in strong woman competitions or have the ‘perfect’ set of abs. But, it does mean striving for a lean figure which gives you the ability to take on anything that life throws at you. This could be anything from lugging heavy shopping bags home to carrying around a toddler.
Before starting out, it is essential to have the right mindset so you know what you want to get out of your training and what your nutritional goals are. Being strong not skinny is not necessarily about losing a few pounds but about reducing body fat percentage. This will make you leaner, boost your confidence and, with consistent training, will make you stronger. There’s a number of ways to be strong not skinny whilst still retaining a feminine shape.
If this is the first time you have done sustained weight training, build up slowly to reduce the risk of injury. Those athletes on Instagram are likely to have been training for years and real results don’t happen overnight. It may be worth considering a personal trainer, particularly in the early days. Look for someone who has both the qualifications and experience to help you safely and successfully. See who else they have worked with and what professional progress they have made, either for themselves or with their clients.
No matter where you are in your training, it is important to breathe properly. This ensures that your body, particularly the muscle, is getting the oxygen it needs to perform at an optimum level. When breathing out during exercise, try to draw your ribs down and your belly in to engage your deep core muscles. Also, try engaging your pelvic floor muscles at the same time. This will provide a solid contraction of all of the muscles you want to work with, particularly when lifting heavy weights.
Keep up the cardio training
Being strong not skinny is not all about lifting weights, although it will make up the majority of your workout. It is important to keep up your cardio training too, such as by using the treadmill, cross trainer or exercise bike. This will increase your fitness levels so you’re in a better physical condition to take other the other types of training too. If exercising on a machine isn’t for you, there’s plenty of other options out there such as boot camps or HIIT programmes. The benefits of cardio training go so much further than helping to be strong not skinny too. It will contribute towards stronger heart and lungs, increased bone density, reduced stress, better sleep and a reduced risk of heart disease and some types of cancer.
You are what you eat
When you are strong not skinny, you may find that your appetite ranks up a notch. This is perfectly normal and acceptable and, when this happens, you should listen to your body. Lots of us are scared to eat enough calories or may not know the right calories to eat. Food and calorie intake helps to both make you stronger and aids recovery. Do not deprive your body of what it is asking for but do ensure you’re eating the right things and in moderation. Plenty of fruit and vegetables is a no-brainer but also fill your plate with carbohydrates like wholemeal pasta and bread, protein from meat and healthy fats like avocado and eggs.
It is especially important to eat well before a workout to give your body the fuel it will need to do what you want to do. Eat a healthy combination of carbs, protein and good fats around two hours before a workout. You should be able to achieve your workout goals with a good level of energy without feeling heavy or bloated. Afterwards, have a meal of carbs and protein to aid your body’s natural recovery. Also, stay well-hydrated with plenty of water before, during and after and maybe also a protein shake afterwards.
If you are aiming to be strong not skinny, rest days to give your body a break are just as important as the days you exercise. This is because you need to give your body the time it needs to recover, particularly those muscles which you have put through their paces. This reduces the risk of suffering an injury, particularly when weight training. This type of exercise is basically tearing muscle fibres so you need rest days to repair and grow the muscle to really feel the benefit of the training. A good exercise pattern is to focus on different muscle groups on different days throughout the week as well as have some days where you do no exercise at all. This won’t set your training back – it generally takes two weeks of no exercise to have a real impact on your fitness regime.
Being strong not skinny is not a fitness fad – it is a healthy way of life which means you’re looking after yourself by eating right and keeping your body in peak condition.
About Farah Fonseca
Farah Fonseca is currently England’s Strongest Woman for the second time. She is currently training to hold on to her title. Farah is also fifth Strongest Woman in the World (under 64kg). In addition, Farah is a personal trainer who runs boot camps and fitness retreats in Hampshire specifically aimed at women who want to improve their strength whilst holding on to their feminine shape. Farah is also a naturopathic nutritional therapist and offers advice on how to eat yourself healthy to meet your body’s needs. To learn more, please visit www.farahfonseca.com