Friday, May 15, 2015

Toastmasters Speech: Strong is the New Healthy

The fifth speech in the first Toastmasters manual is called "your body speaks", used to focus on body movements, gestures, eye contact, and such. I was afraid the topic I chose might be taking that "you body" concept a bit too literally, but it's what I was able to come up with on short notice right after tax season for my scheduled date! I don't think I did a great job with the actual body movement focus, but liked where my topic ended up and how I presented in other aspects.

Title: Strong is the New Healthy

We're finally on the other of tax season; a lot of things get put on hold for those few months each year. It’s only temporary, and it’s a lot of work and stress, but one nice thing is that it’s sort of a natural break to make a fresh start, to evaluate goals, and modify my routines to meet those goals. I met up with my mom last weekend for a girls weekend to celebrate the end of tax season, and in our talks, realized we have a goal in common, right now, that I’m trying to not just incorporate more regularly into my life, but nag her into incorporating in her: weightlifting.

I’ve talked about my running and triathlon before - I participate in and train for races because I really do enjoy it, especially the running. Though it started as more of a means to an end, just a way to do cardio exercise in a planned way, but I’ve grown to truly enjoy it, the act itself and the feeling of accomplishment in meeting goals. It’s takes up a huge amount of my time, but it’s not just exercise, it’s a hobby, my biggest hobby. Now, enjoying something like running, as I said, gets in my cardio exercise, and it doesn’t feel like “exercise”.

My mom, also, does tons of walking and aerobic dance videos, and things like that for aerobic cardio fitness. But neither of us do much strength training. I think there are a lot of obstacles to weight training, especially for women. It’s not really encouraged in the same way other sports are, especially in terms of being shown as accessible.

Not that running wasn’t kind of scary when it was unknown, but it’s a pretty visible activity, in general. Not so much weight lifting. There’s power lifting, something like that is in the olympics. In PE in high school, there was some time spent in the weight room, but it was all about maxing out on squats and bench presses, and you needed a spotter, and maybe even a weight belt. Not really something that makes it sound like I can just pick it up in my basement a few times a week. It’s also boring.

Getting past the “maxing out” and such that I don’t pay any attention do, when I have tried some programs, and it’s so slow moving - literally and figuratively. You do a set, and then you wait, for a minute, before moving on to another set. If I run for 30 minutes, I’m moving, enjoying, feeling alive for the whole 30 minutes. Even if you’re doing intervals, faster intervals with recovery in between, you’re still jogging, or at least walking on the in between.

In weight lifting, you spend half of the “workout” just sitting and waiting! But, it’s something I need to do, for a variety of reasons. It will help my running. I’ve only been doing it sporadically over the past few months, but I also set a half marathon PR by over a minute per mile, and I think that’s a big part of it.

 Even without running - for example, for my mom - it’s part of being healthy. Cardio mainly works one muscle - your heart. Which is important, sure. And it works other muscles - running does build up your legs. But whole body strength training is important for life. I may only be 30, but I already feel aches and pains and twinges from getting old. I don’t want my body to start getting weaker as I get older. My mom can’t even lift her suitcase for a 3 day trip. I don’t want to be in that position in another 30 years. I don’t want her to be in that position right now, either. I’ve used the lure of future grandchildren as motivation - she wants to be able to easily lift and carry a baby, right? 

 Both my mom and I are trying to lose weight, too - and though cardio burns more calories while you’re doing it, strength training builds muscle, which means you burn more calories all the time. It’s an investment that can really pay off, even if it’s harder to see in the moment. 

So if we know we should do it, what’s the best way? I actually listened to a Freakonomics podcast recently on a run, about what’s the best type of exercise in general, and the answer applies to the best kind of strength training, too: the best method is the one that you’ll stick with. 

For me, that means a program that progresses and makes it easy to set and reach goals. I’m currently using the “new rules of lifting for women” book, which has 7 phases, just two workouts within each phase that you repeat for a number of weeks, so you get to know the workouts, feel competent at them, and have a clear basis for comparison to show improvement. For my mom, what’s most important is having clear guidance and making it more fun - so videos are her thing. A DVD with a peppy host giving instructions and fun music in the background is what she knows will keep her going. 

Whatever method it takes, I know this is a really important aspect of being healthy to fit into our lives. As much as they talk nowadays about just fitting in “activity” into our daily lives, much of that activity is easier if we’re stronger, and that’s what will keep us in able to continue being active, in whatever other ways we enjoy. It’s not just, as they say, that “strong is the new skinny” - strong is the new healthy, and something I think everyone should consider making a priority.

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