By: Danielle Press
From the moment I started working out I couldn't get enough. The harder the better. I wanted them to be more brutal and more demanding. I did, and still do, love being pushed to the brink. I love being exhausted. With a mother and father who have both been in the fitness industry, I pretty much grew up in the gym. I remember going to bed at night, listening to my parents put together mix tapes, mapping out their spinning, aerobics, or training classes to the never ending beats. In addition to the classes they taught, both my parents were avid strength trainers, gym rats who love the pump. I grew up loving that and still do. Yet as they have gotten older, and respectively, as I have gotten older, our bodies are responding to these brutal workouts differently. Tennis elbow, knees that ache, muscles that strain, hips that can’t seem to find relief. I have been reluctant to change the way I exercise, fearing I won’t get the same results or the same feeling. But I have to ask, how long is too long in the strength training world? How much is enough before our bodies start to reject the intensity and we find ourselves in need of alternative forms of exercise, or in the least, a compromise?
Personally yoga seemed like the best addition to weight training, a way to relieve my body, stretch it out, and increase my flexibility. Still, time and time again I would run into a mental block. Despite acknowledging that I needed to incorporate something new, I couldn’t get past the nagging thought that strength training was the only form of workout I would ever really love and be passionate about. I soon came to realize that I was hurting myself, more than helping it. I wasn’t listening to my body and the needs it was desperately calling for. It was then that I realized the first and hardest step in this transition would be the mental aspect of it. I will be the first to admit that I have and still struggle with the concept that yoga is as good of a workout as strength training. I know this mentality is wrong. I have taken yoga classes and struggled with moves that others do with ease. I have watched in awe at people who perform poses that require a kind of strength I have never been able to obtain through weight training. And yet, I still hesitate. However, as more time goes on, as I begin to incorporate weekly yoga classes with my weight training, the benefits are undeniable and like my body, my mind is starting to change.
Unbeknownst to many, myself included, weight training and yoga work wonderfully together, balancing each other for the benefit of the mind, body, and soul. After experience and research I have found they are nearly a match made in fitness heaven.
Stronger On All Fronts:
Strength training and yoga do not have to be mutually exclusive. When combined people have found that each form of fitness benefits the other, enhancing performance and ability. Yogis who incorporate strength training in their routine have found that increased muscle strength help them get into more difficult poses. Weight lifters have found an increased range of motion, flexibility in their movements, a more clear focus, and a greater understanding of their body. (Chandra, Charu. "5 reasons yoga and strength training combine perfectly." Mindbodygreen.com, 25 January 2014. Web. 25 Sept 2016.)
Often times during strength training we perform explosive, powerful movements. We use all of our strength to get in one more rep or increase weight. These compound movements activate the fast twitch muscle fibres which aid in the development of power and speed.
Alternatively, the static movements and slow flow of yoga activate slow twitch muscle fibres, which help build endurance. Balancing the two provides a more holistic approach to fitness, a way to develop strength and endurance symbiotically. (“Ultimate Guide to Combine Yoga and Weight Training for a Killer Fat- Burning Workout." Thescienceofeating.com. Web. 25 Sept 2016.)
The emotional and mental relief found in both practices are amazing and undeniable. During strength training, explosive and dynamic movements aid in the release of stress and aggression. When working out with weights there is an increased stress on our muscles, which activates our body to release and produce more endorphins. This release of endorphins elevates moods and decreases tension (McNary, Trisha. "Working with Weights to Help Relieve Stress." Livestrong.com, 11 Jan 2016. Web. 25 Sept 2016).
Yoga similarly helps relieve stress but offers a unique component in the relaxed and peaceful state most people feel following a yoga class. As one moves from one pose to the next there is a continuously acute awareness of breathe and inward intention. These breathing exercises relax the body and aid in tension release for larger muscle groups. Additionally, the deep inhalations and slow exhalations provide the body and brain with much needed blood and oxygen("How Yoga Helps Reduce Anxiety and Manage Stress." Americanyogaassociation.org. Web. 25 Sept 2016). Once there is an understanding of Yoga style breathing, it can be incorporated in many facets of life, helping people feel relaxed, calm, and at peace with themselves and life’s daily challenges.
One of the key components in strength training is recovery. The importance of which can’t be overlooked, and is something I need to constantly remind myself about. Without consistent recovery strength training can become counter productive, leading to a laundry list of issues which include but are not limited to, fatigue, injury, decreased endurance, tendonitis, and mood swings. (Nowlin, Chelsea. "Muscle Recovery Time After Weight Lifting." Livestrong.com, 18 Dec 2013. Web. 25 Sept 2016. )
While recovery is necessary, activity is still beneficial and welcomed. Yoga is ideal for active recovery days. Strength training leads to tighter and shorter muscles, which translates into prolonged soreness and a decrease in muscle efficiency. The dynamic stretching incorporated in yoga help lengthen muscles and aid in recovery. Additionally, yoga promotes strength, flexibility, and balance, which can all be utilized during weight training. (“Ultimate Guide to Combine Yoga and Weight Training for a Killer Fat- Burning Workout." Thescienceofeating.com. Web. 25 Sept 2016.)