This is not intended to be a list of reasons why "you" should train with heavy weights. Although I do believe that everybody (young, old, male or female), after developing safe technique, should train with heavy loads. That is an article coming early in the new year. This is more of a personal thing. So personal in fact, that I my body was literally shaking while writing parts of it.
I want to share with you why I lift heavy stuff. I say heavy stuff, because for me it doesn't have to be weights perse. It could be a sandbag, rocks and stones, beer keg filled with water, etc. In fact you could also call this article, "Why I Train With High Intensity," because it's the same reason I love to do my conditioning/cardio work in High Intense Intervals.
As I said previously this is a personal thing for me, so you'll have to bare with me a bit. When I was 18 my mum died of cancer. She had been originally diagnosed with breast cancer 4 years before. Cancer treatment was not what it is today (20 years later). The doctors had given her 3 to 4 months to live, but my mum was a fighter. She silenced them and kept going as long as she could.
She had one of her breasts removed, but not in time to stop the spreading. After infecting her liver, it was eventually a brain tumor that got her in the end. My mum, Beverly Legg, died on Christmas Day of 1991, at only 44 years of age. Yes I know, great Christmas present wasn't it! Probably part of why I am not big on all the celebration Hooha, even though I do hold solidly to Christian beliefs.
I'm very sorry if you too have had a loved one effected with "The Big C," as they call it. It is a horrible thing to go through, and I realise that the details explained above may be bringing back unwanted memories for you. They definitely have for me. The details, however, are important. Why are the details important? Looking back on my teenage years, I see a kid desperately trying to escape the reality of his mum dying. Involving myself in various harmful activities to avoid the feeling of, what these days would have been diagnosed as depression.
Depression can be serious, and sometimes debilitating. According to the National Health and Medical Research Council; at any point in time, up to five percent of adolescents experience depression that is severe enough to warrant treatment, and around 20% of young people will have experienced significant depressive symptoms by the time they reach adulthood. The below alarming points on depression are from the Beyond Blue website:
• Depression and anxiety are the most common mental health problems in young people.
• The statistics for teenage boys and young men are a concern. In the past 30 years, the suicide rate for males aged 15 to 24 years tripled.
• Depression in men is associated with an increased risk of a variety of disorders, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Does our escalating rate of depression and resulting suicide in young people have any correlation with the obesity epidemic in the same the same age bracket? There is much evidence to suggest that it does, and I for one definitely think so.
My personal story is that during my late teens, when I got serious about my weight training, the feelings of depression disappeared! At 38 years of age, I have never felt depressed since those teenage years. Sure I've had some days when I felt a bit down (usually because of the rubbish food I had eaten), but never depressed.
So why do I lift heavy? To me, lifting heavy is like a form of meditation. When you have 200 plus kilograms on your back and you are walking it out from the squat rack, you can't afford to be thinking negative thoughts. You need absolute concentration, otherwise you'll stuff up and be unsuccessful with your lift (best case scenario). Worst case scenario, if you're mind is wandering and thinking on crap, you'll do something totally stupid and injure yourself. So you learn to be disciplined in your thinking. You learn to shut off all the other noise in your head and focus on the task at hand.
In my experience this mental skill also begins to permeate through the rest of your life. You learn to shut off the crap thoughts, and focus on the good ones. It's pretty hard to get depressed when you are thinking good positive thoughts! You also start to apply the goal setting skills you've been using in your training and your whole life becomes more focused.
As I mentioned at the start, this is also true for intense cardio/conditioning training. If you've ever spent any time on a treadmill, jogging, or riding a bike, you know it's easy for your mind to wander and think on all sorts of other things. In fact that is the exact reason some people enjoy that type of training. They find it a good way to think! Personally, I like more intensity. When I am racing against the clock to see how many burpess I can complete in 12 minutes, Or how many turns of the skipping rope I can do in a 60 second block, there is no time to be thinking on other things. There is no time to feel depressed! Again, it is focused attention. There are stacks of other benefits to High Intensity Interval Training as apposed to slow steady state cardio, but that again is another article.
My advice to you, lift heavy and do intense cardio. Will you be like me and never feel depressed again? I don't know, but I hope so. I do guarantee your mental health, as well your physical health will improve, and you'll be glad you did it!
Always moving forward,