Strong is better than Skinny… Heck YES!
Besides, ‘skinny’ is such a subjective term. I mean, what exactly is skinny? Where is the boundary between skinny and anorexic? Because surely to get to skinny one must learn to survive on a few green leaves, right?
Society these days is slowly waking up to the fact that skinny is not just ridiculously hard to achieve let alone maintain, but it is also impractical in terms of being able to get through a big busy day involving work, running around after kids, keeping the house, looking after other responsibilities… all while running on low fuel.
Now, take strong. A strong woman is able to work or study a full day, do the housework and gardening, lift her baby/babies, shift furniture around, play chasey with the kids, help the elderly do tasks requiring strength and agility, throw in some sport or exercise routine plus simply enjoy life… now isn’t that more inspiring?
From a physiotherapist perspective, strong means having a good movement pattern where your muscles are all working synergistically together and timed to perfection so not one bit is pulling extra weight and another part of you slacking off. Strong means you don’t get hurt so easily because your body is working at its best and recovering well.
So how do you get strong? Simply by doing things that even out the load on your body. Keeping the muscles and joints well-oiled. Being strong and fit are two things which go together hand in hand.
For strength, lifting weights is not a bad thing. You will not become huuuge with lifting weights. In fact, depending on what you do, you can even develop long lean muscles. If you are a gym junkie, then my suggestion is to exercise your body is an even balance of push and pull exercises so you load your body evenly, as well as a combination of slow and controlled exercise balanced out with faster-paced plyometrics – as long as it is within your ability to perform it correctly and comfortably. I am a massive fan of Pilates as a way to work the whole body as Pilates not only trains your core and abdominals, but also hones in on your stabiliser muscles and helps you develop muscle and joint awareness and control. The exercises are designed to help you strengthen your muscles also in a lengthened position, so you regain flexibility too.
For the fitness side of things, my suggestion would be that if all you do is sit all day, then get out and walk and move! If you are always standing and bending and lifting, try doing a sitting exercise or one that is going to load you in a different way like swimming or cycling. Do what gets your heart rate up and breathe in some deeper breaths!
Regardless of what exercise you decide to do to keep you strong and fit, stretching is also a very important part of being strong. Stretching helps your muscles recover their full length which in turn enables a better contraction. If a muscle is kept in a shortened position without stretch, over time, it can become overloaded and painful, and can even tear or rupture. Make sure you recover well with the appropriate hydration, nutrition, massage therapist or other appropriate health professional!
And don't forget-enjoy the process of living a fit, strong and healthy life!