Most women are afraid to strength train.

The concern is that they will bulk up and look less feminine. For a woman trying to lose some weight, this can be a big mistake. One pound of fat on your body burns about five calories an hour, just by sitting there. By comparison, only one pound of muscle burns 30-50 calories in that same hour, even if you’re not moving.  Over the long term, you can calculate how many more calories you are burning throughout the day just by keeping muscle on your body. This is why toned/muscular people are able to eat more and not gain weight. In fact, they NEED to eat more if they want to maintain their muscle mass.

It’s not easy for a woman to bulk up to the point that she looks like a man. It will never happen by accident. You would have to train constantly and strategically. It’s not in our nature to look like that. However, if you do decide to take on strength training, you should consult a professional. Half the people you see at the gym using the machines are doing it wrong, activating the wrong muscles and wasting their time. However, if you concentrate on strengthening your core, stay away from machines and use the mats and balls and free weights, your chances of success increase dramatically. You don’t need to be at a gym to do this. You can do it at home.

If you’re one that likes to watch the scale, remember that muscle is heavier than fat. Therefore, it is possible for someone to lose weight because they have lost muscle. In the long run, they would have been better off keeping the muscle on their bodies. It is the quality of the mass you carry, not the number on the scale that will keep you healthy.

I’m 5’3 and I started training at 130 lbs. Although I have been training hard, my weight has not changed. It’s not very likely that it will, although my body composition will shift. My percentage of body fat will go down but my weight will not, because fat will be replaced by even heavier muscle mass. I will look more toned and slightly smaller and much stronger, but I will weigh the same and maybe even slightly more.

My body fat percentage according to my trainer when I started was 26%. My goal is to get it down to about 19 or 20. For a woman, anything lower than 15% can bring serious health risks, all of which are horrifying. You put your ability to conceive children at risk. You may stop getting your period. Basically, you don’t want to approach 15%.

My Body Mass Index (BMI) currently says that I’m close to being overweight. That’s because BMI readings are very poor representations of your health. They don’t take into account the weight of your muscles – they assume that all your weight is fat. So according to a BMI, a body builder would be morbidly obese. My own BMI says that I would still be healthy at 105 lbs. However, the weight of all my bones and organs comes out to 100 lbs. So with only five additional pounds of muscle and fat, I would hardly be healthy. I’d probably be dead.

I know the scale is a tempting way to judge your progress. But if your focus is your general health and wellbeing, it’s not entirely accurate. I have seen overweight people do lunges that skinny people can’t hold for half a second. There’s no point in being skinny if you’re not healthy, people.

You also don’t want to end up like those guys who are enormously top-heavy, walking around with chicken legs. I fail to see how this is impressive. Nobody wants chicken legs. Some of them even have big round bellies. Ew. Really, any idiot can hang out at the gym all day and lift things with his arms. But ask them to support their own weight with their core by holding a plank between two balance balls and watch them cry.

Back when I started running, I used to be afraid that as I progressed I would lose my hourglass shape. I have since learned that will never happen. I’m Hispanic, it’s not in my blood. For me to lose my shape would probably take half a miracle. Even with the running and the strength training. I have learned that my ass can tone up, but it will absolutely never disappear. It’s just not what God intended.

One of my long term, post-marathon dreams is to someday compete in an Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 112 miles bike ride, and a marathon run). To me, this is the most difficult thing any human being can accomplish. I’ve been told that because of my shape I will never get there. The women you see competing in those events have little to no curves. I still think I may get there someday. I may not win it, but I should be able to complete it. And who cares if I don’t look like a block. At least I’ll be the proud owner of the first pair of hips to ever cross the finish line.