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Generally speaking, most women are very well aware of the numerous health benefits associated with strength training. They understand that adhering to a well-designed strength routine will likely improve body composition, increase bone mineral density, and aid in overall health and function.
For a variety of reasons, however, a large portion of female trainees devote a majority of their time to various forms of nonweight-bearing exercise, often neglecting strength training altogether.
Rather than present you with an external hard drive full of mind-numbing scientific data discussing the potential benefits of resistance training for the female population, I decided to step up my game and interview one of the strongest, smartest, and most inspirational women in the fitness industry.
Allow me to introduce you to Marianne Kane:
Marianne is a staff nurse in a cardiac surgery ward, a certified Fitness, Kettlebell, and Olympic Lifting instructor, co-founder of GirlsGoneStrong, and she runs her own fitness-based website at myomytv.com.
Oh, and did I mention she’s very strong?
Fortunately, Marianne has been extraordinarily generous with her time and knowledge and helped me put together a spectacular interview. Below you’ll find her thoughts regarding strength training, nutrition, fitness, and life in general.
I hope you enjoy the information and are able to use it to the best of your advantage.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Marianne! Through all of your hard work, you have been able to inspire and educate women of all ages about the benefits and joys of strength training. I’m very excited to hear what specific advice you may have for the women (and men) involved in the Wannabebig community.
Hello, Jordan! I am excited to have this chance to talk about this to a new audience. The more people I reach, the better!
Before we begin, would you mind briefly telling us a little bit about yourself, such as where you are from, where you work, your past history in training/nutrition, and what inspired you to start strength training in the first place?
I come from Belfast, in “wee” Northern Ireland, and I work as a Staff Nurse in Cardiac Surgery.
Two years ago I started my fitness blog as a way to inspire others to train smarter from home. Myomytv has also served as a journal of my life and fitness experiences. My presence in the fitness industry has come about rapidly, stemming from a drive to better myself and help spread knowledge to other “everyday” people who otherwise only have access to the B.S. fed to them by the media via magazines, television, internet, etc.
In terms of training and nutrition, my past begins with a long-term diet. I tried for years to control my weight problems with desperate and extreme measures. All of these measures just made me more impatient and forced me to see my “failures” very clearly as nothing seemed to work.
Nowadays, I choose to keep things simple and stress-free. I eat fairly “clean,” make a point to enjoy all of my food, and always make sure I’m satisfied. Intermittent Fasting allows me to chow down on big portions while keeping my calorie intake in check, but that’s a different topic for a different day.
I began to exercise regularly at the end of my nursing degree (Spring 2007) in an attempt to control the symptoms of my inflammatory arthritis, Ankylosing Spondylitis. When I first started, my “training” was like that of most girls – I was clueless as to how realistic my goals were and unsure of how to achieve them. Eventually I fell into the cardio “trap.” It’s not that cardio is inherently bad, but it did nothing for me as my body stayed exactly the same.
A year later I was introduced to the weight room, and I finally got excited about lifting! It was at this time that I started to see significant and positive changes in my fitness and appearance, all from adding heavy weight training to my routine. I was so empowered by the fact that I was getting stronger and consistently challenging my body. The competitive streak in me finally had an outlet!
Fast-forward another year and I met my first kettlebell – I was hooked! I soon decided I could train at home and start posting my workouts online for people to view. One thing led to another, and in 2010 I became qualified as a Fitness Instructor, Kettlebell Instructor, and Olympic Weight-Lifting Instructor.
Each of these experiences has taught me a great deal, and I am keen to spread all that I have learned to the fitness community. My current hope is that more people at home will want to pick up a weight and start strength training with me.
Marianne, what does strength training entail? Could you give us a brief synopsis of your current training regimen and how you employ training for strength with your clientele?
Strength training entails having a goal, a plan, and a drive to improve as well as being able to build on what you know and trying to surpass expectations. Strength training is not just about lifting progressively heavy weights; it’s also about a mindset and a commitment to being better. A certain level of inner strength gets you into the weight room, and it pushes you to compete with yourself and do better each time. As your physical strength grows, so does your self-belief and self-confidence. It’s a pretty nifty cycle of events!
Right now, my training regime is based on how I feel. If I was more organized, I might follow a program, but honestly I would probably rebel against it. All I do is make sure my weekly regime is balanced.
I do deadlifts, squats, reverse lunges, glute bridges, dips, push-ups, pull-ups, and rows. I train with body weight, kettlebells, dumbbells, and the barbell, and I make sure that I train my 1-rep max or max reps in pull-ups and dips once every couple of weeks. The rest of the time I work on moving better and trying different variations and workout designs. I strive to keep things exciting and fresh. I see strength training as getting stronger at moving well. If I am having trouble with my form, I strip back the weight and start with the basics.
On my blog, I try to encourage a mentality to always aim for some sort of progression. Just because you aren’t increasing the weight every week doesn’t mean you aren’t getting stronger in some way.
My clientele/readers want more for themselves and can see value in what they are capable of. One thing I always try to do is nurture their enthusiasm for MORE. Even from your own home, with your children running around, you can get strong – but you must be up for the challenge!
What about other forms of exercise such as yoga, spin, Zumba, step aerobics, etc? Should they be abandoned by all or is there a place for them even in a well designed strength training regimen?
I don’t believe other forms of exercise should be abandoned, but you have to consider what you are gaining from them, especially if your main goal is to build strength.
If it doesn’t negatively affect your strength, then I say fire away with your spin or Zumba! There are other reasons to exercise besides getting strong, like having fun with your friends, enjoying the “zero thought required” spin class, or even reaping the many benefits of yoga that might actually assist in building strength!
Provided you are clear about your goals and you have a solid strength training program in place, then there is no harm in adding other forms of exercise – some of these could actually be counted as active recovery.
However, if you find that your strength is suffering, then you might be doing too much, so just be sure to allow for more recovery.
Many women want to weight train but are intimidated by the men in the gym. What advice do you have for these women and how do you encourage them to push outside their comfort zones?
This is a little non-PC, but it worked for me. I was very self-conscious about entering the weight area because I thought all the men were looking at how shitty I was, so my boyfriend at the time (also a trainer) gave me this advice:
“Marianne, most guys haven’t a clue what they are doing; you have far better technique than most of them. Besides, they are all too busy looking at themselves in the mirror to give two hoots what you are doing.”
This reassured me that I had just as much right to be in there as any of them, so I started going in by myself. At first I just stayed in my own little corner, but over time I gained more confidence and got good at the exercises. I have now left my little corner and roam freely, LOL! If they stare at me now, I imagine it’s because they are impressed with what I can do and maybe even a little jealous 😉
Some other tips: go in with a friend, start going there when it’s quieter, or just put on your pinkest outfit and walk in with style! Seriously, anything new feels uncomfortable at first, but there is only one real way to get over it and that is to feel the fear and do it anyway!
Many women are simply looking to tone up. They don’t want to get big or bulky and subsequently shy away from strength training. As a result, they tend to devote an extraordinary amount of time to the elliptical, treadmill, and other cardio machines of the sort.
What do you have to say about the “lifting weights makes you bulky” argument and what advice might you have for these women?
I could answer this with the whole argument about women not having enough testosterone to build big muscles etc., but I don’t think most women really care about the significance of that. What I mean is that most women know they are unlikely to end up looking like a man, but each woman will have a different perception of what “bulky” looks like.
Generally speaking, I think many women are afraid to have muscle definition. I believe part of the reason for this is because we mostly see females with “bulky muscles” on the front of fitness magazines and in various films. These women are normally portrayed as hardcore, rough, and overly masculine. They tend to have lower than average body fat and are greased and tanned to look extra defined. Inevitably, this leads to a great deal of negative associations with the “muscular female” image.
In addition, society feeds into certain ideals of how people should look. Femininity is highly based on physical traits. The current “ideal” physical appearance is perceived by women as skinny or skinny-fat with zero muscle definition OR very curvy but also with no muscle definition. Women are expected to be thin yet curvy, have boobs and butts yet be toned, have a tiny waist, lean abs, and long and slender muscles–but we must never, EVER, God forbid in a million years, be chunky!!
Additionally, we have “trainers” like Tracy Anderson telling women NOT to use weights over 3 lbs (which is terrible advice)!
The upshot is that mixed messages are everywhere! It’s the perfect environment for confusion and the perfect ingredients for exploitation: the same reason why many women believe the Shake-Weight will rid them of their bingo wings while lifting weights will result in massive muscles and a super-defined physique. Women aren’t accustomed to accepting muscle definition on other women so they shun it.
Maybe what we need to do more of is accept all body shapes and body types instead of supporting stereotypes that all fitness folk are lean and defined. Maybe women just don’t want to be lean and defined, nor should they have to be. This is another perfect example of how fitness industry marketing has actually fuelled these myths.
Quit only showing pictures of shredded women. I certainly don’t look like that and I lift heavy weights!!
In a world where image is everything, we need to be more considerate of the images we make public. Show variety and support reality. This is what I love about Girls Gone Strong – we are all different shapes and sizes, which shows women the ultimate message that you can lift heavy weights and there is no ONE LOOK!
Training and diet go hand in hand. What are three major nutritional concepts that everyone (both men and women) needs to be aware of to optimize their results?
Keep it simple. Give it time. Never go to extremes.
My advice to people used to be: “Change everything now”, “Eat more protein”, “Don’t eat carbs”, blah blah blah. The reaction I got was a glazed-over expression with inner panic setting in. I always preached, “It’s 80% diet, you know”. Since then, I have done a lot of researching, watching, listening, and doing. Now I realize the most important thing about your nutritional principles is that you are able to sustain them in the long-term. In most cases, the only way to make sure of that is to fit your diet in with your life, not the other way around.
Currently, I even advise people not to change anything in their diet for the first 6-8 weeks while they adjust to training. Too many changes at once can cause people to feel out of control. Once they see the positive changes from training, they want to see more, and quite naturally, they start fueling their bodies with better food and more water.
Why complicate life more than we have to? Maybe my approach is too laid back, but it offers people a choice and it lets them have control and responsibility.
Being part of a knowledgeable and supportive fitness community can be of extraordinary benefit. Would you mind explaining GirlsGoneStrong, who it’s for, and how to become a part of it?
GirlsGoneStrong is a group of seven women with one vision: to empower strength of body, strength of mind, and strength of soul in women. It’s for anyone who likes what we stand for!
In the near future we will have a website up, but to keep up to date with everything now it’s best to “Like” our Facebook Page or “Follow” us on Twitter. You can get involved by spreading the word and by sharing your own success stories with us. We want to hear from you, so email us at GirlsGoneStrong@gmail.com.
We want to get our community involved in as many things as possible, and we will keep everyone informed of future events. I am very excited about the future of GirlsGoneStrong!
Well, I think I’ve bugged you enough for one day, Marianne! On behalf of the entire fitness community I would like thank you for your time, effort, and knowledge. You’ve been more than generous and have provided us with a staggering amount of fantastic information. Thank you so much!
Written By: Jordan Syatt
Jordan is a strength training and nutritional consultant. He is the owner of Syatt Fitness: http://www.syattfitness.com