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10 Characteristics of Truly Strong Women

strongwomen.jpg

You've probably seen the meme, "Strong is the New Sexy," usually accompanying a photo of a muscled female in a skimpy outfit. As a competitive bodybuilder and coach who is deeply entrenched in the world of wellness, it can be tough to break free from the idea that strength has anything to do with the way a person looks. In reality, true strength has nothing to do with washboard abs, deadlift PRs or yoga inversions.

Here are 10 characteristics I've observed of truly strong women:

1. Strong women do not let rejection deter them. They push through criticism until they reach their desired destination. Their self-worth isn't hinged on the judgments of others.
2. Strong women honor their inherent creativity as a divine gift. However dark or painful, they dig deep into themselves, mining the unique contributions they have to offer up to the world.
3. Strong women recognize that not everyone has good intentions. They put their intuition to work, they ask the right questions, and they keep both eyes open. They are sharp, quick-witted and discerning.
4. Strong women are able to tell the truth about their past because they've committed to learning from it while guiding others. They view the past as WISDOM instead of shame.
5. Strong women set an example for their children instead of employing, "do as I say, not as I do." They accept their babies as watchful, intelligent and autonomous beings.
6. Strong women aren't afraid to ask for help when they need it. They won't hesitate to reach out to a friend, counsellor or a coach.
7. Strong women respect and take care of their bodies. Their bodies are their homes. They don't flood their homes with booze and drugs and other garbage.
8. Strong women say what they mean and mean what they say without apology. They are experts at conveying the word, "No."
9. Strong women rise from the ashes of their former selves. They are built from the fires of hardship and struggle. They earn every bit of their strength.
10. Strong women carve out their earthly successes by helping other women succeed. They see their life-force as plentiful. Strong women help their friends surpass them with humility, not envy.The big picture is clear to them.

Our strength isn't built in a gym- it's built from the trials and tests we encounter in our lives.

How would you define true strength? What are some characteristics of strong women that you've observed?

 

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April Update: Finding Fun in Fitness

Skating around the park in my new (SUPER COOL & HIP) Rollerblades.

Skating around the park in my new (SUPER COOL & HIP) Rollerblades.

I've got a question for you- does fitness ever feel like a total drag? Are you the type of person who resolves to get into shape every single New Year’s Eve, only to give it all up by the time April rolls around? Are you that lady in the gym, lethargically pedaling on the stationary bike while watching reruns of “Downton Abbey” on your iPad? Listen up: it does NOT have to be this way!

Today was one of the happiest afternoons I’ve had in a while…because today I bought a fancy pair of rollerblades and spent a good hour zooming around the park. You see, rollerblading was my absolute favorite thing to do as a child, and it was how I got around my former home, New York City, throughout my early twenties. But then, people started saying stuff like, “are you still skating around on those things?” or “rollerblading is so nineties,” and I soon noticed that I was one of the only folks traveling through Central Park on four wheels. Reluctantly, I tucked those rollerblades under my bed, giving up my favorite pastime for ten whole years. 

I share this with you because I truly believe that staying fit can be a total blast and that our exercise preferences should never be dictated by the fashion of the times. If you’re dragging your fluorescent trainers to Zumba class or spending your mornings showing off your Lululemons in downward facing dog just because all your girlfriends are doing the same thing, I can tell you right now that in the long run, this approach is not going to keep you fit (or happy).

Movement is meant to light you up, to energize you, to restore that sense of freedom and buoyancy that you experienced as a kid. Maybe you used to pass your afternoons climbing every tree or rock in town, or spend hours perfecting your dance moves in your bedroom. Perhaps you were a gymnast or a volleyball player or a track fiend in high school. Maybe you get your thrills from the weight room or the boxing ring or an MMA class.

Immerse yourself in activities that ignite you and invite play into your life, and you’ll uncover a fitness plan with some actual sticking power. Weightlifting might not be considered “ladylike” and rollerblading is apparently still passé, but they put a smile on my face like nothing else. Find your fun in fitness and you’ll never again worry about having to do something you hate in an attempt to feel good… which doesn’t make much sense in the first place, does it? 

Alright my fitness friend, that's it for now. Time to find some fun to get into! 

Love, light and lifting,

Aimee 


 

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Seeking the Fountain of Youth? Head to the Weight Room

I will be the first to admit it- I have no intentions of aging gracefully. Frumpy polyester dresses will not find a home in my closet, nor orthopedic shoes or a stockpile of prunes bought with a senior discount. There will be no complaining over a plate of mashed peas, and you're not going to find me flapping my dentures at the local bingo hall. I will be that fifty year old figure competitor, that seventy year old marathoner, that octogenarian in red lipstick and heels...and if the words "auntie" or "granny" are ever hurled at me, watch out! 

The truth is, I am excessively sensitive about aging. I lament the years I lost to cigarettes, booze and depression, along with all the bad decisions and wasted time. Moreover, since I've made my amends and changed, I feel like I deserve those hours back, as if 2003-2008 in particular should be deleted from my genes. And let's not forget about vanity, a sin far more favorable than sloth. Can someone please tell me why splurging on hormone-free meat and gym memberships is worse than spending all of one's dough on junk food, beer and big screen TVs? 

This post is for all of you who believe that aging is a choice, who do not subscribe to the all too popular idea that getting older should be a reason for giving up, who balk at the words "retirement" and "can't." If you've been looking for the fountain of youth, I have it on good authority that you may want to sniff out a gym, a personal trainer, or just a set of dumbbells for the home. Consider Dr. Mariam Nelson's highly publicized study, which found that "after a year of strength training just twice a week, women’s bodies were fifteen to twenty years more youthful.” Or, take a look at the photos on the side of this post. Still doubtful? Keep reading on for eight reasons why weightlifting is the fountain of youth:

Reverses Loss of Muscle Mass and Strength:
As we get older, we lose about 20 percent to 40 percent of our muscle tissue. Research suggests that, after age 30, our muscle mass decreases by about 1 percent per year (or 10 percent every decade). This decrease in muscle mass results in loss of strength and accordingly, the ability to carry out some types of activities. According to The Framingham Disability Study on disability among the aging, 45 percent of women between the ages of 65-74 years and 65 percent of women between the ages of 75-84 years were unable to lift ten pounds.  A minimum of thirty minutes of resistance training three times per week is shown to not only reverse age-related muscle mass loss, but also build new muscle. And, there’s no real limit on when the benefits of strength training max out, so whether you’re turning thirty, fifty or sixty-five, you still have time to build a new physique. 

Increases Bone Mass:
An estimated 1 in 3 women over the age of 50 will experience at least one osteoporatic fracture, and 1 in 10 older adults are diagnosed with osteoporosis (which means “porous bones.” Falls are one of the primary causes of injury in senior citizens and bone density can make the difference between whether you are active or an invalid during your golden years. Many studies indicate that strength training can increase bone mass, particularly spinal bone mass. A study conducted by the incomparable Dr. Len Kravitz found that high-intensity and moderate-intensity resistance exercises improve musculoskeletal health and reduce the risk of falling.

Increases Growth Hormone:
Human growth hormone (HgH) has been all over the news recently, ever since Dr. Oz touted its benefits in slowing down the aging process, which is hotly debated in the fitness and medical communities. HgH is a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland and is responsible for regulating muscle and bone growth, metabolism, and body composition. HgH is often referred to as the body’s natural “fountain of youth,” and as we age, the pituitary gland produces less of it. By the time we reach 60, we’ve lost an estimated 75 percent of naturally occurring HgH. While illegal to purchase without a prescription, you can stimulate its production with regular weightlifting and high intensity training. Cited increases range from anywhere between 300-770 percent following exercise, which is quite significant!

Improves Body Posture:
If one thing will age your body, it’s bad posture and unfortunately, in an age where most of us are huddled over our laptops, upper-crossed syndrome (hunched back, forward head posture and rounded shoulders) is becoming an all too common sight. Loss of bone density also contributes to poor posture. By engaging in weight training and focusing on corrective exercises that target muscles like the rhomboids and posterior deltoids, body posture can be improved. The confidence you get from regular exercise should also help!

Prevents Disease:
It’s well established that a fitness lifestyle in general dramatically decreases illness, improves cardiorespiratory fitness and immune function, and reduces inflammation- one of the primary causes of disease. New studies also indicate that weightlifting may prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Japanese researchers from the National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology found that older adults with amnestic mild cognitive impairment who participated in a program that included strength training, balance training and aerobics experienced improved cognitive performance. Another research group from the University of Pittsburgh discovered that, after a year of regular moderate-intensity activity, older adults showed increases of volume in the hippocampus and improved memory overall.

Controls Body Weight:
Once again, the age of 30 tends to bring some often unwelcome physical changes, including a reduction in muscle mass and overall ability in physical fitness, which can lead to weight gain over time. Our metabolism also slows down, and if you’ve been dieting frequently throughout your life, metabolic damage from very low energy intake can begin to catch up with you. Menopause and a sedentary lifestyle add to the challenge, and before you know it, you may find that the jeans you wore in high school would be better suited as socks or bracelets. Regular weight training will increase muscle mass, thereby boosting your metabolism and creating a more conducive physical environment for shedding weight while gaining definition.

Promotes Healthier Eating:
When you’re engaged in an exercise program, the last thing you want to do is sabotage all of your hard work by bingeing on empty calories that attack your waistline and starve your muscles of the lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and amino acids they need to grow and perform. A fitness-oriented nutrition plan that includes colorful fruits and vegetables, fatty fish, nuts and whole grains can slow down the aging process, thanks to the antioxidants, omega-3 acids and other nutrients these foods contain. 

A Word on Creatine:
Creatine is a naturally occurring acid produced in the liver that supplies energy to muscle cells. Creatine supplements have become widely popular for their ability to increase muscle mass, improve strength and aid in recovery. They're also being recognized for their potential to offset the aging process by increasing strength, muscle mass, long-term memory, and even life span. Researchers in Germany found that mice fed a daily supplement of creatine lived an average of 9 percent longer than their cohorts. While more studies on the connection between creatine and anti-aging need to be conducted, this supplement is definitely one to watch.

So, did I convince you? Are you ready to drink from the fountain of weights? What concerns you most about aging and how are you being proactive in slowing down the process? Leave your comments- I'd love to hear from you! 

-Aimee 






Fitness expert and figure competitor, Laura London, age 47- a mom of 3 who began weightlifting regularly in her 40s. Image:   http://www.lauralondonfitness.com/

Fitness expert and figure competitor, Laura London, age 47- a mom of 3 who began weightlifting regularly in her 40s. Image:  http://www.lauralondonfitness.com/

Ernestine Shepherd, the oldest female bodybuilder in the world, age 76. Image:  http://ernestineshepherd.net/

Ernestine Shepherd, the oldest female bodybuilder in the world, age 76. Image: http://ernestineshepherd.net/

Maxine Johnson is a 55 year old figure competitor who decided to make the change and get fit at the age of 36.

Maxine Johnson is a 55 year old figure competitor who decided to make the change and get fit at the age of 36.

Singapore's own Agnes Lee, still fierce at age 60. Image:  http://sg.sports.yahoo.com

Singapore's own Agnes Lee, still fierce at age 60. Image: http://sg.sports.yahoo.com

Fitness model and mom, Kim Dolan Leto, age 44. Yep, she lifts heavy weights. Image:   http://www.kimdolanleto.com/     

Fitness model and mom, Kim Dolan Leto, age 44. Yep, she lifts heavy weights. Image:  http://www.kimdolanleto.com/

 

Fitness author, triathlete and Paleo promoter Mark Sisson is 58 years old.     I mage: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/   

Fitness author, triathlete and Paleo promoter Mark Sisson is 58 years old.    Image: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/
 

Tosca Reno, weightlifter, publisher and creator of the "Eat Clean" series, who is age 54.  http://www.toscareno.com/

Tosca Reno, weightlifter, publisher and creator of the "Eat Clean" series, who is age 54.
http://www.toscareno.com/

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