Content Provided By Merritt Athletic Club

About Meighan Sweeney

Thirty year old former heavy weight , avid runner, lifter of heavy things, and cheese and wine enthusiast currently resides in Baltimore Md with her very patient fiance, and less patient cat. She is a graduate of Towson University with a BS In English and has spent the last decade pouring beer for the good people of fells point. Currently she is a certified Less Mills Body Pump instructor , Madd Dog spinning instructor and now the newest Life Style Consultant at Merritt Athletic Clubs Canton. Are you interested in making a lifestyle change like me? Please feel free to contact me! Meighan Sweeney at OFFICE: 410-563-0225 x1537

Hey kids, how are we holding up? Anyone signed up for/done any races yet? My triathlon is approaching quickly and I’m feeling rather unprepared to be honest. I’ve been in the pool a whopping two times now so I am pretty sure I won’t drown, not because I’m an awesome swimmer, but because they always have those nice people in kayaks waiting to pull you out of the water when panic begins to take you down.

Lift it Up and Put it Down

Anyway, this week I want to talk about strength training, and the importance of it. I know when I first started my weight loss battle (some people call it a journey but for me it’s always been a fight!) I was a cardio junkie. Cardio was all I did. Thirty minutes here an hour there – I would jump from stair stepper, to treadmill, to elliptical, to arc trainer, to whatever else I saw that would get my heart rate going. I was Meighan Cardio Sweeney, that’s what they called me. I eventually started to get into some distance running as well. I did some ten milers, half marathons, and even marathons. I would pound the pavement for hours to get that calorie burn in. I was never impressive as far as speed goes, but I could go the distance that was for sure. I had fallen into the cardio trap that so many of us fall into, especially women, because we just want to drop those pounds and often overlooking the importance of building of muscle.


Here’s the thing about running, biking or elliptical training – it’s great for you, it’s great for your cardiovascular health. Don’t stop doing it, especially if you enjoy it. However, if that’s all you’re doing you’re missing an ultra important piece of the weight loss puzzle. Resistance training or weight training is the key to weight loss! You need to add it to your workout routine ASAP.


Why you ask? Here’s the thing about cardio. It’s good for you, yes, you will blast calories and yes, you will build stamina, work your heart, all good things. Let me break it down for you. You will do all this cardiovascular stuff and the second you stop running, biking, stepping or whatever, you will stop burning those calories, and working your heart. In other words your fat burning stops the second you stop.


The reason we love lifting heavy things is because when you finish lifting them you continue to burn calories long after. The more muscle you build the higher your metabolism will function allowing your body to burn calories at a higher rate when you are at rest. You know what this means right? You get to eat more and work out less! Yes!! BRILLIANT!! Oh, and it will also make you feel like a bad ass! I probably should have mentioned this sooner come to think of it, but let’s not dwell on that.


Okay ladies this is directed at you. I have more women come up to me and say “I don’t want to lift.” “I don’t want to get bulky.” I swear to God I want to jump off the roof every single time some 89lb stick figure says this to me, but I don’t. I tell them the same thing that I have been saying to my classes, my friends, to random women I see on the street for years…LIFTING WEIGHTS, HEAVY WEIGHTS, WILL NOT MAKE YOU BULKY!!! I repeat, lifting weights will not make you bulky! Ladies I want you to say this over and over until you ingrain it in your brains. Lifting weights will however give you an awesome ass, toned arms, a higher metabolic rate, and all around better self esteem as a happy side effect!


Okay, it’s true, if you’re consuming massive amount of protein, a super high calorie diet, and lifting super heavy weights six days a week, oh and taking testosterone, then yes you will bulk up, but if you are any normal female you won’t. Why? How do I know this? SCIENCE PEOPLE, that’s why, and you can’t argue with that. Women do not have the natural testosterone to get super bulky unless they are seriously trying to pack it on, and even then you would mostly likely have to take something illegal that might make you grow a beard, so just stop worrying about it will you? You’re making me nuts!


Still don’t believe me? I strength train a minimum of three days a week. I lift heavy. I dead lift 205, I squat close to 200lbs, and I do this with low repetition. Meaning three sets five to eight times per set, just like the big boys. Hey, guess what? I am not bulky; I do however look awesome in a tank top! BOOM! Oh and guess what else? Since I got seriously into lifting I have taken more then a minute and a half off my mile – I used to run my ten milers and half marathons at a 9 minute mile pace. The last race I did was 12 miles long and I averaged a 7.16 minute mile, finishing seventh in my age group…I’m thinking my legs are getting stronger!


Okay I’m assuming that I’ve talked you into it, right? Lifting can be scary if you are new to it I know. There are a ton of machines and contraptions to choose from. Here are a few tips for getting started. First of all start at two days a week. Focus on upper body one day and lower body the next. You never want to strength train the same body parts back to back. Building muscle is a process. When you lift you are actually tearing the muscle fibers and then they naturally repair themselves to be bigger, stronger fat burning machines, but in order to do this you have to let them repair themselves by resting a day or two in between lifting.


If you are brand new, and you have the money, I recommend hiring a personal trainer to help show you the ropes. Just a small investment in a few thirty minute sessions can be enough for you to get the lay of the land and feel more confident. Here at Merritt we have some amazing trainers who all have nationally recognized certifications. I still hire a trainer once a year to keep me up to date on the new science out there and keep me in check. If you are looking for any recommendations I have to give a quick shout out to my man David Benmoshe at our Fort Ave location who is pretty much the only reason I get in my car and drive over there! Also to Canton veteran Becky Conti who is always going out of her way for her massive client list. All of our trainers here are amazing and dedicated to their clients, but finding a trainer is a lot like finding a doctor. You want to shop around and find the right fit for you.


Okay so maybe your gym doesn’t offer personal training, or maybe it’s out of your budget. Don’t get frustrated, you can do this! Here’s my suggestion for you. Ignore free weights in the beginning. It’s too easy to let your form fall apart and hurt yourself when you’re a beginner with some dumbbells and a squat rack. Instead, use machines to get started. Machines will be there to catch the weight if you go too heavy and guide your form so really it’s a win win. These days there is a machine for every thing. For lower body hit the leg press, squat machine, seated leg extensions, and hamstring curls. For upper body hit the lat pull downs, bicep curls, triceps dips and chest press. Start here and build the foundation of strength before you move on to the trickier and less forgiving free weights! Go for 3sets of 10 to 15 (reps/times) with ample rest in between each set. Your last three reps should be almost impossible. Go big or go home!


One of the cool things that we do here at Merritt Athletic Clubs is the “6 week Results Guarantee Program.” Like I said, strength training is tricky, especially when you are new to it. Form is important to prevent injury and in developing quick results. We know this and we choose to invest in our members by never throwing them to the wolves. When you start with us you are paired with one of our trainers for a consultation and training session so you can ask those questions and go through a proper workout with actual guidance. You can then follow up so you can plan for the future. If you choose, you can get together with that trainer once a month for the rest of your membership to ask questions and get some guidance, so you never have that confused I’m all alone feeling!


So there you have it folks, what are you waiting for? Go lift something heavy! You never know, you may just love it!



Above content provided by Merritt Athletic Club

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