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Gym training for women -- some myths busted
Brinda Sapat
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January 03, 2007

All women dream of a perfectly toned body. Many, however, are terrified at the thought of joining a gym and lifting weights; they believe it will make them look masculine. Trust me, that's a myth.

While many women have started working out at a gym, some of us still fear it. The reasons are varied, and generally stem from lack of knowledge. So let's bust the myths and get the facts straight.

The muscular, masculine look

This is one of the biggest myths surrounding gym training. The truth is that women are unable to build muscles like men do; they don't naturally have high levels of the testosterone hormone, which is responsible for muscle growth in men. So, no matter how heavy the weights you lift are, your muscles will never grow like a man's.

However, as a result of lifting weights, your muscles will get toned and tightened, giving your body a lean and shapely look. Working out with weights is necessary to increase muscle and bone strength, which prevents joint injuries and osteoporosis. All Hollywood and Bollywood stars incorporate gym training into their fitness routines.

Fear of machines

Huge gym equipment can intimidate women. Don't go by the way a machine looks. These machines are built to isolate and work a muscle group, starting at a very light weight. They are designed for both men and women.

Discomfort with male trainers

In our society, a lot of women are uncomfortable being trained by male instructors. The gym, to them, appears to be a male dominated area.

This is not true. Most gyms employ women trainers as well. Some gyms may also offer a separate 'women's hour'. It's important that you feel comfortable with your trainer, so that you can work out with ease.

Fear of manly exercises

Lifting heavy weights, and huffing and puffing, is not a woman's idea of a workout. When you enter a gym, however, this is exactly what you see.

Do remember, gym workouts can be customised to your style and needs. Most gyms will offer a consultation before you start. During this session, you need to outline your goals. Your consultant and trainer will then draw up a workout programme for you.

This is when you need to specify you would like an 'all round' fitness programme that includes five components --cardio, strength training (heavy weights, fewer reps), endurance training (light weights, more reps), functional training (strengthens your body to perform day to day activities) and flexibility training (stretches to mobilise your joints). Also, clearly mention you would like more 'womanly' exercises like floor work.

Feeling lost...

Gyms are big places with all sorts of machines and equipment that can leave you feeling lost. Don't let this stop you from joining one.

Most places will provide a training session with a floor trainer to get you started. A workout programme will be written out for you. The trainer will guide you with the machines, explaining how to use them with reference to your posture and technique.

Sometimes, it might make sense to hire a personal trainer from the gym for a session or two, so that you get their undivided attention. Once you get into the swing of things, ensure your workout regime is updated every month, so that your body continues to see results.

...Or self-conscious

Exercising surrounded by a large number of people makes some women feel self-conscious. You may see people with trim bodies, looking great, and that may put you off.

Remember -- a gym is a place that you go to in order to get fit, healthy and in super shape. Do small things that would help you feel better. For example, wear workout gear that makes you feel good about yourself. Let the people around you be an inspiration; some of them were probably overweight to start off with as well!  Try not to get distracted by self-consciousness, keep the focus on your goal.

Working out in the gym is a great way to exercise. You can go there three to five days a week.

If weight loss is your goal, concentrate on your cardio workouts. Do some weight training, working with light weights. Throw in some functional training and get a lot of stretching into your routine.

Some gyms may offer aerobics classes. Hop into the studio for fun cardio workouts. If you are still not sure of joining the gym, take a free trial session; most gyms offer one.


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