Last night, I left a party around midnight because I have a weightlifting class first thing in the morning. When I explained this, a couple of the other girls looked absolutely horror-stricken. One asked how much I lifted and I 'fessed that my arms are still rather weak and depending on the muscle -- shoulder, chest, tricep, bicep -- I could lift between 10 to 20 pounds, but I could leg press 120 pounds. One girl said, "Wow, that's a lot. Aren't you afraid of becoming muscular?"
I get that reaction a lot when people -- mostly women -- find out that I lift at least twice a week. The first question is invariably about whether I'm going to turn into a bodybuilder. The short answer is no. In order to actually turn myself into a mean and fierce bodybuilder, I'd have to lift more than two hours a week, change my diet to eradicate all fat, and get hopped up on a handful of steroids -- none of which is likely. If there's one misconception I'd really, really like to eradicate (okay, there are a dozen, but right now, it's just this one), it's that women lifting weights will turn into hulks of muscle; it's a biological impossibility. However, what will happen is that lifting twice a week will help me gain tone, build muscle, strengthen bones, and help me burn more calories while I'm sitting, help prevent osteoporosis, strengthen ligaments and tendons, and much, much more.
I like the feeling of being toned, of knowing that when I stop waving my arm at someone, my tricep doesn't continue to jiggle after the action is through. I also like the easy goal-setting that comes with lifting weights. I never quite work hard enough on aerobic activities and it's hard to maintain a particular goal for 30 minutes, but with weights, I know exactly how much I lifted last week, how many reps I did, and what I'm aiming for this week. Of course, I admit, sometimes I choose strength training over aerobic activity (with the exception of biking, which is recommended by my physical therapist), but a lot of that also has to do with an ailing right hip and a "don't look at me wrong or I'll rupture" left Achilles tendon which rules out pretty much all aerobic activity except for the aforementioned biking.
I should also mention that in any workout program, variety is key, and upping resistance/speed is also necessary. Your muscles get used to a particular excercise or workout after a while and the benefits from that activity eventually dwindle. To ensure one gets the maximum benefit out of any workout program, it's necessary to mix it up and 'trick' your muscles so they don't get stuck in a rut. Alternate aerobic activity with weight lifting and yoga, for instance, or concentrate on a different body part every day of the week. The key is not to let your body get 'bored' with what it's doing and to constantly up the time, the reps, the resistance, etc.
LotD: Weight Training for Women