Sarah Lindsay, a triple Olympian former speed skater and personal trainer to the stars, reveals the rewards of kicking cardio to the kerb and her beginner tips for weight lifting novices.

There are huge psychological and physical benefits to cardio exercise. Often people practice cardio outdoors which has huge mental benefits but it’s also amazing for cardiovascular health.

While there are many upsides to regular cardio workouts, there are some downsides too. You might get an initial buzz from cardio training, but there’s the risk that doing a lot of cardio could make you feel tired and exhausted. Although you might get better at running over time, the inevitable weight loss COULD also result in muscle loss too. 

Weight training, on the other hand, can be more time efficient, great for postural support and increases lean muscle mass.

As we age, sustaining and creating muscle is hugely important so by lifting weights we create inner armour. It gives our body balance and protects us from problems associated with ageing, including osteoporosis and arthritis.

Muscle also enables your body to burn calories faster. During a weights workout, you create microscopic tears in the muscle fibres, which take several days to recover from and during this time because muscle is an active tissue, you’ll continue burning calories even during periods of rest. Even a couple of pounds of extra muscle boosts the metabolism, which allows your body to burn calories faster.

And unlike cardio conditioning, which drops off after a couple of weeks, strength lasts a long time so after a short period of inactivity, your muscles will remember how to grow. We all know that life sometimes gets in the way of our fitness goals, but the good news is all is not lost if you have two weeks off weight training.

Sarah Lindsay’s top 6 tips to win during a weights workout…

If hiring a PT isn’t an option, learn some basic weight-lifting moves by hitting the internet and finding a beginner’s programme. Watching videos of experts doing the exercises is the way to get to grips with form and technique. In front of a mirror at home, start without weights, copy the movements, listen to the points of technique and ask yourself, ‘Do I look like the person in the video?’. Once you can answer ‘Yes’, take that confidence to the gym and start using weights. 

Don’t expect your first session to feel good. You probably won’t feel comfortable with lifting weights until you start making progress after a few sessions. Give yourself time. Once you start lifting more, I promise you’ll love it.

You can’t walk into a gym and pick up a dumbbell with zero idea of what you’re doing. If you prefer the idea of a gym workout over an online class at home, write down a plan of the exercises you’re going to do during that session. Every athlete takes a workout programme into the gym. Don’t feel like you’re a novice because you’re carrying a bit of paper. That’s what everyone should take the time to do, otherwise, you’re just winging it. Everyone feels uncomfortable walking into a new gym – even me! Just take a deep breath, walk in and execute the plan that you have created. Another option is to download Roar At Home and follow one of the weights circuits in the gym on your Smartphone!

I also recommend working out in the morning because there’s less time for life – emails, phone calls, kids’ demands – to get in the way and you have less time to talk yourself out of the exercise. A 30-minute workout three times a week is adequate for most people to achieve results.

“I don’t want to bulk up” – I hear this almost every time I’m creating a programme for a new female client. Bulk is a horrible word to describe a thought or a look but it’s a very rare result of weight lifting. If you start weight training and focus on the correct nutrition, the body fat will come down and you’ll start to build a physique. Unlike with cardio, you don’t need to spend hours and hours weight training and you’ll begin to see changes to your body in about three weeks.

To continue getting stronger, the muscle needs progressive overload, which means it needs to be challenged. As soon as the movement becomes too easy, you’re no longer making progress so you need to add more weight.

Lift as much weight as you can for the given reps. As long as you’re doing the movement properly, the weight should be challenging enough to make it hard. By ten reps, you should feel it is hard to complete anymore. Between 5kg and 10kgs is a good weight to start. But work with what you’ve got. If you’re doing a lunge, only have 10kg dumbbells and feel it’s too hard to carry weights in both hands, modify the exercise slightly by holding one 10kg weight with both hands, close to your chest.

No one loves the burning feeling when a muscle is being challenged, so learn to love the results that the burn brings. Feeling a sense of achievement after that extra bicep curl or five additional goblet squats, knowing you’re progressing and feeling stronger counteracts the discomfort. That’s highly motivating both physically and emotionally. If you’ve broken your personal best or completed a workout that you didn’t feel up for that morning, you feel badass and that confidence carries through into other areas of your life. If, however, you’re experiencing pain or discomfort that can’t be attributed simply to “the burn” it’s important not to push through that. If you need to, stop and it might be worth reaching out to a physio to help you get back on your feet.

Eat after you train to aid your recovery by rebuilding your body’s glycogen stores and muscle protein, which get used up during exercise. Generally, whatever you eat for 20 minutes after a workout will unlikely be stored as fat. Instead, the food you eat will go to the muscles and be stored as energy for the next session so plump for a carb and protein-packed foods such as eggs and avocado on wholemeal toast, chicken with salad and rice or Greek yoghurt, berries and granola.  If after a hard session you find it hard to digest food, a protein shake may be a relevant option.

If the day after a weights workout you feel fatigued and don’t feel able to workout, take a rest day but if you’ve still got energy and want to exercise, do so! Recovery is a very important aspect but equally, I believe in doing some form of exercise every day. Aim for two/three weight training workouts a week and throw in other forms of exercise on other days – a half-hour walk to and from the shops, some stretching exercises, particularly if you sit at a desk all day and even doing laps of your garden while on a work call, which I often do!

Head to www.roar-fitness.com for details of live ROAR workouts, studio classes and how to subscribe to the Roar At Home platform.