Five reasons why you should start lifting at the gym

I started doing heavy lifting my sophomore year of high school right after I joined a rowing team. During the winter off seasons, we would train in a private area reserved especially for rowers, but the summer was another story. Because of family vacations and job prospects, I had to train at the local YMCA by myself.

85% of the time, I was the only woman there. The squat racks and benches were occupied by overly muscular dudes that eyed me warily whenever I asked if anyone was using a particular piece of equipment. Some couldn't make eye contact with me while others didn't feel comfortable interacting with me.

Men and women shouldn't feel uncomfortable in the heavy weights area — lifting is actually very good for you. Although I'm still working on building muscle and Xenia Onatopp thighs, you don't have to. Here are five reasons you should be lifting as part of your gym routine.

You burn more calories and fat

A recent study showed that participants who combined diet, cardio and weightlifting lost more pounds than those who only dieted or dieted and did cardio. Weight lifting will replace your fat with muscle, which in exchange will use up more calories to repair themselves. In general, the act of lifting will also burn more calories than regular cardio and will tend to bore you less.

Doing five sets of squats and five sets of deadlifts usually takes me about 25 minutes and burns about 400 calories while a jog at six miles per hour for the same amount of time will only burn about half of that.

Your diet will improve

In order to repair muscles, you need to follow a meal plan that provides a steady intake of protein and carbohydrates. After a lifting workout, you should consume protein within a half hour. If you are working on building muscle, make carbs a part of that immediate consumption too.

Along with good diet and exercise, your body will improve drastically. Your bones, heart and blood pressure all have the potential to operate better.

You will understand that BMI and weight loss are not always important

If you are working to build more muscle, you might end up gaining a bit of weight after you've lost excess fat. This is because muscle is more dense than fat and therefore will weigh more. During my entire high school career, I was hovering near the overweight section of the BMI chart, but I easily burned 1,000 calories during a practice.

Unless you're competitive, your weight will not always matter once you get healthy. Lifting is about building strength and power — not the numbers on a scale.

You'll have the opportunity to destress

Turn your mind off and turn some Kanye on — "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" is a good choice, IMHO. Take out all your anger and frustrations from work, school or just life and put them into curls, squats and cleans. Lifting will release all kinds of endorphins to help out with everyday stress and anxiety.

When you become healthier and fitter, your mind will, too. You'll be able to think clearer, be less tired and become more proactive.

You'll have a better figure

This is at the bottom of the list because I don't think it's really that important but I am guilty of gym selfies once in awhile. When you first start lifting, you'll be able to see those newbie gains VERY quickly. Your butt will be rounder, your quads will be more defined and your arms won't droop anymore.

But be careful not to plateau! Your body will get used to the same old exercises like it does to shampoo or face washes. Mix it up by changing your routine every couple of weeks or so to avoid losing progress. So get out there and happy lifting!

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