An article by Gretchen Reynolds in The New York Times about how weight training can ease anxiety, inspired our Get Strong challenge. We both figured we could use a little internal and external fortitude right now, and it was an easy one to tackle, since the article came with a handy nine-exercise, nine-minute strength workout. Our goal was to complete the workout six times over two weeks. One of us clearly succeeded and one of us was a little lacking, even though the challenge wasn’t that hard (not like we were running a marathon in two weeks!).
Laura (the loser!)
Before the pandemic, my workout routine did involve weights. I worked out twice a week at Sweat (conveniently located on my block), which specializes in High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts. Each day’s workout is different, but all combine cardio and weight exercises and all of them (as promised) are intense! When gyms closed in March, my husband and I bought a Peloton, and I shifted to all cardio, all the time. I did up my yoga, but that was mostly for the mental health benefits—at my level, it’s just not that strenuous—so I was ready to get back to some weights.
I started the strength workout with 8-pound weights, but quickly moved up to 10 pounds and I even eked out a few exercises with 12 pounders. I felt it in my glutes and shoulders, which obviously weren’t getting their usual workout, but even with that encouragement, it wasn’t enough for me to successfully complete the challenge.
Because: Boredom! I missed the group energy of the gym and I missed the variety of workouts. My last two workouts were full of cheating, as I just didn’t feel like doing this same routine one more time. Since I’m still not ready to go back to an in-person gym, my solution is to add Peloton strength workouts to my fitness schedule instead of this always-the-same routine. Peloton strength classes are as short as 10 minutes, and they offer a lot of variety, so I can keep my interest level and motivation up. For this challenge, Marjie is the clear winner!
Marjie (the winner!)
Isn’t is nice how graciously Laura conceded? I think I won this challenge simply because I took more pictures of myself doing it. But hey, if selfies are a measure of enthusiasm, I’ll gladly take the W. Unlike Laura, I’ve never included much strength training in my exercise routine, so I do think it was a bigger change for me. And I stuck with it for two weeks as planned!
The workout is zippy and pretty easy, even for a newbie like me, although it’s surprising how much I sweat in just nine minutes. I began with five pound weights but moved up to eights in the second week. After the first two workouts I could feel it in “ALL my thighs” as I told my husband. The lunges and squats were effective, and I felt more power in my legs when I played tennis—not bad for two weeks. But the biggest benefit of the challenge is how empowered I feel by sticking with the program. The world feels kind of out of control right now, yet I was able to achieve something new and good for me and build physical and emotional strength as a result.
The workout is almost too short. Getting ready to go down to the gym was as big of an effort as the set itself. And Laura’s right about the boredom, I was pretty sick of doing the same routine at the end of two weeks. I am going to continue doing strength training, but I’m going to switch up the workouts and extend them to make my trip to the gym (usually empty) worth the trip. My son and husband are Crossfit freaks, so I know they’ll happily program a variety of WODs (workouts of the day) for me.
I think the fact that Laura and I now want to do more strength training means this challenge was a big success. Congrats to both of us. And for our friends who took the challenge along with us, thank you. Would love to hear what you thought in the comments. For this one, we’re all winners.