"I'm going to get ripped" announced Sophie 48, (and owner of a top chain of gyms), on our walk round Bewl Water yesterday. "I'm into German Volume Training" she went on. "Oh yeah," I replied, "how many reps, how many sets?" "Six sets, 10 reps, I walk like a cowboy afterwards!" Whilst we discussed free weights vs machines our husbands discussed whether the Great Sewing Bee was a poor substitute for Bake-off. Joke. Well the first bit wasn't, far from it. And Sophie isn't the only woman to be taking her weight training seriously, very seriously.
An increasing number of women are rejecting the aspiration of a Kate Moss figure for the proud stature of Arnie Schwarzenegger - or should I say Annie Schwarzenegger. Sophie's husband doesn't like the comparison and is keen his spouse doesn't start to put the bins out. But he really shouldn't worry. It is extremely hard for women to gain sizeable muscle bulk, we simply don't have the right level of hormones. Instead with weight-training we get firm, trim and strong, strong, strong...
I have been using weights since my early 20s when I first started in an intimidating gym in Brixton. Despite my nerves I was secretly proud to be rubbing deltoids with more serious body-builders - pussycats all of them, of course, but scary none the less. I tried to take it as a compliment when one bloke praised my 'footballers calves', and I resisted numerous offers of help and advice (as being a girl I was clearly not able to perform any of the exercises properly...)
But walking the streets of Brixton afterwards in my Silverfish T-shirt proudly stating Hips, Lips, Tits, POWER I did feel extremely powerful, and confident, and alive. Striding down Coldharbour Lane, sturdy thighs in Lycra shorts, (I felt) just like my muscular musical heroines Salt 'n' Peppa, who were telling us all 'to push it good'. Remarkable as I was only 21, an overweight middle-class white girl, who was desperately insecure about my body. Having some muscle definition, even hidden under soft flesh, made me feel like a goddess, or maybe even a god. No one was going to tell me how to look - I looked fabulous.
And that is the beauty of weight-training for women. It is NOT about being thin, taking up less space, making excuses for your thighs or your bottom. It is about being more, in a healthy, constructive, disciplined way. And for those of you who crave to still be a little less, muscles burn more calories and weight training will raise your metabolic weight - as well as help to stave off osteoporosis, increase proprioception, and aid co-ordination.
If you don't want to look like Arnie, Annie or even Jodie (Marsh), then just lower the load of your weight, increase your reps and decrease your sets. You can even increase you muscular strength (without adding bulk) well into your sixties. Move over Supergran...
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