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Prioritizing Resistance Training for Busy Mamas

In my younger years, I was a runner, completing five full marathons and more halves, 10Ks and 5Ks than I can count. However after finding myself with tendinitis in my foot following my third marathon, I also found myself in a walking cast. While it was a total man magnet (no, seriously…), it was not so great for running.

My mindset at this time was ‘exercise or die’ and I quite literally thought would have a nervous breakdown if I did not exercise daily.

After a little research, and creeping around in the gym, I found myself in the weight room. Soon thereafter my body started to change and people started to notice that I was leaning out and showing more definition. In all of the years I had been running I had stayed fairly stagnant but, after just a few short months of lifting, was seeing changes that running had never allowed me. The boot came off and although I continued running, it was no longer my primary method of exercise. I became an advocate for resistance training and never looked back.

Anecdotal evidence aside, I still have a hard time convincing some of my friends and clients how important resistance training is. Like many of the women I work with, most of you likely have the goals of leaning out or losing weight and, becoming toned or creating definition. Additionally, you probably have a limited amount of time available to work out- you want to get in and out or, complete a quick circuit at home. Yet chances are, if you’re not lifting weights I’ll likely find you spending most of your (very) precious time on the machine watching the calorie counter slowly tick up until you reach your goal, right? But what if I told you that the calorie counter you’ve so heavily relied upon could be off… up to 70% off [3]? Well, it’s true.

And, what If I told you that you’d be able to reduce your workout time and perhaps get better results, would you be interested in learning this secret?

That secret, my friends… is lifting heavy shit.

Look, I get it, I really do. The weight room and weights in general can be intimidating- they’re bulky and cold, and you probably don’t feel like you’re doing it right. But, it gets easier. It really does. Some day when you’re deadlifting your own body weight you’ll remember back to that first day when you thought you looked like this guy:

…but realize you didn’t and it wasn’t so bad after all.

The Case for Weights

Increased Caloric Expenditure: In order to lean out or become smaller you have two options- lose weight or lose fat. Many confuse weight loss with fat loss and set their sights to becoming skinnier or smaller and turn to cardio to make that happen. While yes, cardio helps burn calories, it has been shown as being somewhat ineffective for weight loss alone [4]. So, if you aren’t taking other measures (adhering to a fairly strict diet) you may not be doing much good.

Additionally, simply focusing on weight loss can also consist of losing muscle mass leaving you a smaller, flabbier version of your previous self. At a rate of 5.9 calories/pound per day, the caloric expenditure of muscle tissue is almost three times that of fat tissue (2.0 calories/pound per day) [5]. For example, A 120 lb. woman at who is 20% body fat would burn 20% more calories per day than a woman at the same weight with 30% body fat.

Increased metabolism at rest: Lifting weights has been shown to have greater effects on post-exercise metabolism when compared to steady state cardio [1, 2]. This elevation can last up to 24-36 hours and varies based on the intensity of the resistance training session. While cardio can also increase resting metabolism it does so to a lesser extent and doesn’t last nearly as long [1]. Therefore, aiming to maintain your muscle mass via resistance training will keep your metabolism elevated for a longer period of time.

The Case for Cardio

Listen, I don’t have a problem with cardio- I actually think we need to be performing cardiovascular exercise and that it’s important for many, many reasons. Cardiovascular training has a bigger impact on cardiovascular function (obviously), and if performed at the proper frequency and duration can actually help improve recovery between sets and workouts without causing decrements in strength [6]. But, your goals should play heavily into your methods- and if your goals include fat loss and muscle definition, prioritize the weights!

Some cases where you should be doing cardio:

  1. Obviously, if you’re training for a marathon, you should be running. If you compete or have intentions to compete you should likely be doing that form of exercise and sticking to a tight training plan.

  2. If you genuinely love your preferred method of cardio, by all means, throw it into the mix. Enjoying your exercise is huge factor in adherence and maintaining consistency.

Of course, resistance training is just one piece of the fat loss puzzle. It must be met with a good diet and consistency. Additionally seek the assistance of a qualified coach who can teach you proper form.

For more information about fat loss and resistance training stay tuned-there’s more to come in the next few months!



1.Braun, W. A., Hawthorne, W. E., & Markofski, M. M. (2005). Acute EPOC response in women to circuit training and treadmill exercise of matched oxygen consumption. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 94(5), 500–504.

2. Laforgia, J., Withers, R. T., Shipp, N. J., & Gore, C. J. (1997). Comparison of energy expenditure elevations after submaximal and supramaximal running. Journal of Applied Physiology, 82(2), 661–666.

3. Swain, D. P. (2009). EXERCISE EQUIPMENT: Assessing the Advertised Claims. ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal, 13(5), 8–11.

4. Thorogood, A., Mottillo, S., Shimony, A., Filion, K. B., Joseph, L., Genest, J., … Eisenberg, M. J. (n.d.). Isolated Aerobic Exercise and Weight Loss: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. The American Journal of Medicine, 124(8), 747–755.

5. Wang, Z., Ying, Z., Bosy-Westphal, A., Zhang, J., Heller, M., Later, W., … Müller, M. J. (2012). Evaluation of Specific Metabolic Rates of Major Organs and Tissues: Comparison Between Nonobese and Obese Women. Obesity, 20(1), 95–100.

6. Wilson, J. M., Marin, P. J., Rhea, M. R., Wilson, S. M. C., Loenneke, J. P., & Anderson, J. C. (2012). Concurrent training: a meta-analysis examining interference of aerobic and resistance exercises. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research / National Strength & Conditioning Association, 26(8), 2293–2307.

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