The Strength to Ask

Rev. Kahlil Carmichael (author)

This year my mother celebrated her 66th birthday. I am amazed by my parents’ ability to raise children in Newark, New Jersey, keeping us focused, while helping us understand the importance of our heritage and education. It wasn’t easy for Mom, a young woman from North Carolina who migrated to Brooklyn and then Newark.

How did she do it without a role model or mentor? How did my mom bring us this far without the proper information? When I ask her, she simply says, “by the grace of God!”

That’s true, God’s grace is sufficient. But I often wonder what heights my momcould have reached had she not had to figure the basic principles of life out as she went along? How much more could she have accomplished if there had been a mentor, coach, pastor, etc.to guide her.

This got me thinking. I wondered if my mom (and other power moms), are trying to figure out the weight loss, healthy living, and exercise thing? Are our precious moms and mother figures trying to figure out how to improve their health without someone who can supply them with the proper techniques and information?

I must admit, I’m noticing more moms of all ages (especially African-American moms over 50), exercising and becoming more health conscious. But unfortunately, many are trying to figure it out as they go.

Take weight training for instance. In a survey about systemization, (the fear and apprehension most women share about working out in a gym), over 55% of women stated that they did not have a clue about strength training or lifting weights. And the ones who actually do lift weights are more than likely working well below their capacity.

Here is the truth (and information) about weight or strength training for women:

  1. Strength training can help you lose body fat and is likely a quicker ticket to better fitness than just plain cardio exercises. Moms, you can derive tremendous benefit from resistance training and you will not get bulky.
  2. “Strength training is a critical component of any program that emphasizes long-term fat loss,” said Alwyn Cosgrove, co-author of the book The New Rules of Lifting. Think of it like this: Muscles are “thirsty” from a metabolic perspective. The more muscle you have; the more fuel you are constantly burning. This is the advantage strength training offers if your goal is to lean out. A treadmill or elliptical trainer is often seen as the quick fix to shed body fat, and they are certainly useful if your goal is to improve cardiovascular health, endurance or simply to burn some extra calories, but strength training is the path.
  3. Lifting free weights mimics natural movement and creates greater muscle activity than machines.
  4. There has always been debate concerning which is better, free weights or machines. Hands down, free weights are the best.

 Miranda Esmond-White writes in her book, Aging Backwards, “Regular weight-bearing exercises and a diet rich in calcium are necessary to keep the bones healthy and strong.” Weight bearing exercise simply means that you put sufficient stress on the full skeleton to gently stress the bones on a daily basis. Of course I recommend incorporating weight training into your life. But if you are going to do this you will need professional guidance and instruction.

I want to encourage all moms to really consider hiring a fitness professional. It can help you reach your full weight loss, physical fitness, and health goals. I have so much respect for the creativity and ingenuity of moms (especially those who are raising children on their own), but you do not have to try and reach your fitness goals on your own.

I have had the pleasure of offering the mothers within our faith community the opportunity to incorporate weight training into their programs. And I must say they are doing great. I am waiting for my mom to really get serious about her weight training program.

I often wonder what is prohibiting her from lifting weights. Maybe she is secretly trying to figure it out, like she has done so many times before in so many other situations.

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