Power & passion- Why women are lifting weights

Power & passion- Why women are lifting weights Vicki Webber performing a snatch lift. Picture: Peter Stoop
Nanjing Night Net

CHANGED SHAPE: It was curiosity that led fitness instructor Ebonnie Thomas to lift weights and she loves it. Picture: Simone De Peak

“It has completely changed my body shape”: Ebonnie Thomas. Picture: Simone De Peak

Vicki Webber doing a pull up. Picture: Peter Stoop

Vicki Webber and Lee McWilliams. Picture: Peter Stoop

Vicki Webber does a clean and jerk. Picture: Peter Stoop

Vicki Webber doing a pull up. Picture: Peter Stoop

Lee McWilliams doing a front squat. Picture: Peter Stoop

TweetFacebookIT is a hot, humid afternoon and a couple of floor fans are doing little to cool down the large suburban shed that is home to an Adamstown CrossFit gym. Vicki Webber bends down, picks up a chunky 30-kilogram dumbbell with one hand and thrusts it above her head as she stands. She completes 30 ‘‘alternating dumbbell snatches’’ before plunging her hands into a bucket of chalk and moving on to 60 chest-to-bar pull-ups and a stint on a rowing machine.

When Webber is done, she is covered in a sweaty sheen. The broad-shouldered 36-year-old plonks herself on the floor and stretches her legs as she explains how lifting weights has transformed her.

‘‘It’s very empowering,’’ she says. ‘‘It gives me confidence. My body shape has completely changed. I’ll show you.’’

Webber jumps up and retrieves her phone.

‘‘That’s me after I had my first child,’’ she says, showing me a photograph of a pale-faced young woman in an unshapely jumper and jeans. I cannot marry the photo, taken 14 years ago, with the woman standing in front of me in short black tights and a crop top with identical rows of abdominal muscles and enviable biceps.

The mother-of-three is one of an increasing number of women who are routinely lifting weights to boost fitness and transform their physiques. Webber juggles single parenthood with jointly managing a CrossFit gym at Belmont. She also squeezes in two hours of training a day and is a fierce competitor in the popular CrossFit Games.

In case you have been living under a rock, CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program that incorporates powerlifting, plyometrics, Olympic-style weightlifting, and high-intensity interval training. With its competitive, back-to-basics focus, CrossFit has been credited with boosting the popularity of weight lifting among women. Strong, as the popular saying goes, is the new skinny.

Where once the weights area of gyms was the domain of grunting men, women are now moving in. At my local gym last weekend, I watched a diminutive woman complete sets of squats with 60kilograms stacked on a barbell. There were another couple of women lifting dumbbells nearby.

‘‘It’s almost revolutionary the way women are choosing to see that being strong rather than skinny is more important,’’ says self-described gym junkie Megan Cunneen. ‘‘Women want to have a healthier shape and to do that, you have to train and eat well so women are educating themselves about nutrition. Being skinny isn’t as attractive any more.’’

Vicki Webber performing a snatch lift. Picture: Peter Stoop

Cunneen, 30, recently resigned from a public relations role in Newcastle to relocate to Tamworth to help her boyfriend manage his busy sport supplement business. She began weight training about two years ago when a ‘‘gym buddy’’ of hers started doing more lifting.

‘‘I used to be cardio-obsessed,’’ she says. ‘‘I’d do two classes a day – aerobics, boxing, step – but never actually noticed any significant changes in my body other than being exhausted all the time. Now, every time I exercise, I incorporate weights.

‘‘In the shop, we get women coming in and they say, ‘I don’t want to lift weights because I don’t want to bulk up’. That’s such a hard myth to shake because it’s been drilled into women that they have to do hours of cardio to lose weight. Weight training can be just as effective for weight loss, especially if you mix it up with some cardio.’’

IT is easy to spot a woman who regularly lifts because they are athletic, yet shapely. All the women who spoke to Weekender referred to the positive impact lifting has had on their physiques – and self-esteem.

‘‘There’s certainly been a shift in the fitness industry towards incorporating more weightlifting into routines,’’ says Rachelle Mackintosh, acting editor of Women’s Health magazine. ‘‘There’s been a growth in popularity of functional fitness, which is why CrossFit has taken off, and even in your standard gyms, you’re seeing more lifting.

CHANGED SHAPE: It was curiosity that led fitness instructor Ebonnie Thomas to lift weights and she loves it. Picture: Simone De Peak

‘‘Women want to appear toned, rather than skinny. And [lifting] isn’t about looking masculine; you’re looking for a more supple frame. There are the hard-core women who are doing serious body building but for the average punter, it’s about looking strong and toned, but also feminine.’’

According to a Harvard School of Public Health study, weightlifting is the best way to stay trim, as opposed to cardiovascular exercise, which includes running, cycling and swimming.

Researchers found that after monitoring more than 10,000 men aged 40-plus for weight and waist circumference over a 12-year period, those men who spent an extra 20 minutes a day weight training gained less abdominal weight.

‘‘You burn fat faster with more muscle,’’ Mackintosh says. ‘‘If you focus only on cardio, you can do a 10-kilometre run but unless you’re supplementing that with weights, you won’t build muscle.’’

It would be difficult to find a health professional who doesn’t support some form of weight training as part of an exercise regimen, especially for people aged 40-plus. Lifting weights helps to avoid the loss of joint flexibility that comes with ageing. Resistance exercise can reduce bone deterioration and build bone mass, helping to prevent osteoporosis.

Working your muscles can also inhibit the effects of sarcopenia, the age-related loss of muscle mass, strength and function. After the age of 30, there is a loss of 3 to 5per cent of muscle mass per decade, making day-to-day tasks gradually harder to perform and slowing down metabolism – increasing the risk of weight gain.

Weight training helps 47-year-old Lee McWilliams keep up with her two teenage sons and cope with the demands of running her Swansea cafe. She heads to CrossFit Lake Macquarie every morning at 5.30 and completes a weight training and cardio program. In the three years since she began lifting weights, she has lost ‘‘inches’’ off her waist and is fit and toned. She now completes 100-kilogram dead lifts.

‘‘I love that I can now keep up with the younger girls,’’ McWilliams says. ‘‘Now, I’m chasing the men.’’

“It has completely changed my body shape”: Ebonnie Thomas. Picture: Simone De Peak

McWilliams urges anyone who is interested in lifting weights to seek out a good gym and a trainer.

‘‘It’s all in the technique,’’ she says. ‘‘Once you know what to do and how to do it properly, you won’t look back.’’

It was curiosity that led fitness instructor Ebonnie Thomas to lift weights. The mother-of-two was teaching classes with a focus on cardio and would only occasionally venture into the weights room.

‘‘I didn’t really know what I was doing,’’ she admits.

Thomas enlisted the help of trainer Brooke Dunlop early last year.

‘‘She showed me the ropes and now I just love it,’’ says Thomas, 30. ‘‘I have always admired Brooke, who looks so fit and toned. I wanted to see how my body would change with weights. I’ve now got more definition through my stomach, legs, back and arms. It has completely changed my body shape.’’

Thomas trains with weights six days a week and maintains her level of cardio fitness with her instructor’s job at Genesis Fitness. She has watched her strength increase, as well as her confidence.

‘‘I remember the first time I did a training session with Brooke and she wanted me to lift an Olympic bar that weighted 20kilos with another 10kilos of weights added. I struggled. I ended up taking the weights off the bar and just lifting it on its own.

‘‘I was only able to do a few clean and presses. Now, I can lift 40kilos for a clean and press – eight reps – and my personal best was a 50-kilo clean and press.

‘‘But there are also other benefits; it’s like therapy. I’ll go stir-crazy if I miss a couple of days of training. It helps me deal with stress.’’

In September 2014, Thomas competed in the fitness section of two natural body building competitions. Her trainer also coaches women in preparation for the events, which are booming in popularity.

‘‘The competitions are insanely popular and until I started lifting, I didn’t know they existed,’’ says Thomas, who is intending to compete again this year. ‘‘Looking fit and toned is the new skinny. Everyone wants muscles now, and nice abs. I love showing my body off. I work really hard for it.’’

JOANNE MCCARTHY: Shopping trip boils over

“I didn’t end up buying a jug. I hadn’t done enough research … I hadn’t been taking it seriously enough”.SO I thought I’d buy myself a new electric jug to put in the kitchen of the house I’ve just moved into.
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A pretty straightforward exercise, you would have thought.

The old one met its maker when I sold my previous house and moved out in December, and spent the following two months at a friend’s house until I could move into my new one.

Lots of things did not make the cull that comes when you can’t move your belongings into the house you’ve bought, but have to distribute them to five different locations.

It’s amazing what you can dispense with when you’re relying on the kindness of friends and family, and the space in their spare bedrooms, to park your gear.

So the electric jug was punted, although my sons believed it should have gone about a year earlier. It hadn’t cost much in the first place. It was bought in a hurry when an earlier one died. I’d allotted 3.2 minutes of my time for the purchase, which meant price was the only relevant consideration. Plus I’d forgotten my glasses so there really was no point in even trying to compare kilowatts or capacity. The jug was cheap, cheerful and reliable enough, barring the occasional unreliable times when I pressed the start button and absolutely nothing happened.

I soon learnt that if I went about my business it would usually come to life, and it was actually amusing at times to see how long it would take for the thing to get going. Unless, of course, I just wanted a pot of tea without jug capriciousness, in which case it was annoying. I think I tolerated the situation much longer than most, so I tossed it into the bin without remorse.

I set no time limit the other day when I searched for its replacement. A lovely house that I plan to stay in for a long time deserved an elegant new jug, I decided. I pictured myself boiling the jug, filling the teapot – with tea leaves, never bags, of course – and placing it on a tray with a cup and saucer – never a mug – and a biscuit or two.

Then I pictured myself walking to the back deck where I would view the estate – fine, backyard – while reading a good book as birds twittered and soft garden fragrances wafted on the breeze. Lovely.

But I had to buy the jug first.

Now I’m a fan of capitalism. Competition in the market is a wonderful thing for consumers. It ensures – we hope – that we get the best price for goods because manufacturers compete for our business.

But sometimes it just does our heads in.

I compare trying to buy an electric jug the other day with the first time I really took the trouble to distinguish the kind of milk I wanted. Full cream, extra full cream, lo-fat, lite, slim, skim, soy, goat, rice milk, cashew milk, condensed, no-protein, super-vitamin, etc, etc, etc, and that was even before I reached the no-name milk section of supermarket specials.

Jugs don’t just boil water any more.

They come with flashing lights and swirling bars. They’re see-through, turbo-charged or jet-fast. But most of all, they come with piles of buttons.

There’s the button you press if you want green tea. There’s other buttons for chai, oolong, coffee and white tea, and eventually I found a button to get water to boiling point. I think.

I didn’t end up buying a jug. Even though I hadn’t allotted time for the task, I also hadn’t done enough research to safely commit money to a purchase that, clearly, Ihadn’t been taking seriously enough.

That kind of thing has been happening to me recently. Given too many choices, I take fright and do nothing.

Take my experiences in my friend’s house. She kindly allowed me to stay in it while she was overseas, and I was between homes. It is a lovely house, which was great, but also a problem.

She showed me how to use its many features – too many of which came with their own remotes. I’m not good with remotes. All those buttons. And because it was my friend’s house and it was lovely and I didn’t want to break anything, I didn’t use the majority of its many features. The airconditioner looked daunting. The dishwasher flashed too many messages and intimidated the hell out of me. I forced myself to negotiate the command module of the washing machine because, frankly, six weeks of wearing unwashed clothes during a humid summer with no airconditioning did not bear thinking about.

I tried to work through the three remotes associated with the TV/DVD/CD/other- things-with-wires entertainment centre, but gave up and phoned my youngest son who sighed when I explained the situation, and drove round to help.

‘‘It’s very simple,’’ he said, in the patronising way that sons in their 20s adopt with their middle-aged mothers when their middle-aged mothers can’t work out how to get a DVD to appear on a screen.

‘‘You press this, and then this, and then that thing comes up, and then you simply take the other remote and press this, this and this, and then you do a pirouette and press that final red button – not the green one – and voila, the DVD appears, although why you would want to watch that, I do not know,’’ said my son, who was a dear little boy for years until he grew very tall and started patting me on the head.

OUR SAY: When councillors behave badly to the tune of $58,000

MEMBERS of sporting clubs and charities who missed out on donations from Orange City Council’s community grants fund this year must be fuming at the price of enforcing an acceptable standard of behaviour from councillors.
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The $58,000 it cost to investigate and adjudicate councillor Reg Kidd’s breach of the code of conduct last year would buy a great deal of sporting equipment or top up the fundraising efforts of several charities.

And ratepayers must be wondering whether a cheaper, faster way to adjudicate on breaches can’t be found.

The public is yet to discover whether councillor Kidd will accept the umpire’s decision that his conduct towards one of the city’s staff was unbecoming a councillor, but they will know next week.

If Cr Kidd does not agree to publicly apologise for the breach at the next council meeting the matter will probably be kicked upstairs to the Department of Local Governmentfor consideration, but residents will also be concerned about the future.

Most people will concede they say things at times they later regret and councillors are no different. Aside from the question of how to deal with Cr Kidd, there is the question of future breaches, by him or anyone else.

Councils could do a lot worse than borrow from the court system, where an early guilty plea is seen as an indicator of genuine remorse and a clean record often earns a caution for the first offence.

A speedy and heartfelt apology from a first offender in the council chamber might bring the matter to a swift and inexpensive conclusion.

That is how it can work now but, as the Cr Kidd episode illustrates, under the current system a long drawn-out investigation can result in a huge financial penalty for ratepayers but not for the person found to have breached the code of conduct.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Journey into the lover’s world

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LOVE (and sex) are no strangers to art, but Adrian Lockhart’s exhibition Book marks at Maitland Regional Art Gallery was a reminder of how perpetual these themes remain. Large expressive and sensual line drawings are the main course, abstraction a loose guise that never completely extinguishes the body. More overtly, large faces inhabit much of the gallery with an insistent presence.

However, first impressions can be deceptive, and the entre – or sweet – that invites real time are modestly scaled works drawn from the bittersweet intensity of personal relationships, aka creative inspiration. Small books of poetry illustrated by Lockhart are presented alongside his original drawings, monotypes and woodblocks. These offer an experience similar to that of a reading room, inviting an intimate journey into the lover’s world. But before I represent Lockhart as singular in focus, his drawings in second-hand books, from classic literature to auction house catalogues, suggest an inventive artist with a fine sense of play.

– SPIN is the perfect title for Linda Greedy’s fairground paintings in Maitland’s Art Factory, and the appeal is to all ages as she evokes a feeling of nostalgia and a dizzying sense of dislocation.

Neon lights and whacky characters cavort across the canvas in oily twilight. Greedy has proved herself adept at the nocturne, and her compositional style makes her images, especially the smaller ones, evocative and mysterious. More documentary in style, Simone Sheridan hones in on her subjects in The Bus Shelter Project. The poignant, candid black and white portraits taken at a Hunter Street bus stop to raise awareness of homelessness present a microcosm of the local boho-subculture, most notably her image of the late artist Peter Speight with Ahn Wells, whose new venture, Gallery 139 in Beaumont Street, will be reviewed in coming weeks.

– SUSAN Myerson’s white porcelain vases with coralline edges distil The Bigger Picture at Back to Back galleries, a showcase of seven female artists’ work.

Sharon Taylor is at the top of her game with earthy totemic forms that reach skyward, offsetting the painters’ luminous colour which include Shelagh Lummis’ meditations on trees and Bev Leggett Simmons’ abstracted landscapes.

All of the work expresses a holistic responses to nature and collectively delivers a well balanced exhibition.

– COOKS Hill was abuzz during my visit to Phil Stallard’s latest exhibition, Abstract Impressions. Archetypal symbols – circles, grids and hearts, text and numbers, vie with brilliant colour and strong graphic marks and geometry. Hard-edge and the painterly are thrown together so that composition and colour compete, but what is one viewer’s brash is another’s bravura: these are undeniably bold, confident paintings that shout out loudly rather than sneaking up on you.

– OF a very different nature, but also addressing relationships between colour and form head on, are Madeleine Cruise’s Candy paintings at NANA Contemporary in the Hunter Street Emporium.

Finishing today, her visceral and voluptuous abstractions are rich in suggestions of the body, interior emotions and physical space, but the real action is in the juicy palette and the paint itself: this is eye candy, but it runs deep. In the Workroom, Maggie Hensel’s small sculptures beg to be touched, while photomedia lecturer Deb Mansfield’s electrifying textile landscape begs to be remembered, without fail. More developmental, The Project Space hosts emerging artists such as Kerri Smith whose interest in urban environments inform both paintings and prints.

– FOR her second show at Timeless Textiles, internationally acclaimed artist Nicola Henley’s Shorelines is a welcome encounter with the rich birdlife and coastal heath of Laurieton’s tidal environment, the site of her 2014 artist residency.

Using multiple techniques that include dying, stencilling and silk embroidery, Henley creates opulent frescoes that echo the panoramic Italian tradition of wall painting and the vertical Oriental scroll. A single work from her previous exhibition evokes all the silvery greys of her Irish homeland, illustrating just how well Henley has captured the shimmer of the aquatic landscape and the endless blues, green and gold of the Australian coast.

Coenraad rewarded with MVP for Hawks

ForwardTim Coenraad captured the Wollongong Hawks Most Valuable Player award at the club’s end of season dinner on Thursday night.
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Wollongong Hawks forward Tim Coenraad celebrates with wife Nelly after capturing the club’s MVP award for 2014-15.

Coenraad appeared in 26 of the team’s 28 regular-season games, averaging 10.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.7 assists. He made 47.1 per cent of his shots, 40 per cent of his three-pointers and a career-high 88 per cent of his free throws.

The 29-year-old was also acknowledged by Hawks fans for his consistent efforts in 2014-15 by claiming the Members’ MVP trophy.

After playing behind dual Olympian Glen Saville in his first four years with the Hawks, Coenraad has established himself as one of the team cornerstones over the past two seasons.

Wollongong coach Gordie McLeod believes Coenraad deserves all the credit for his growth as a player.

“This is something that hasn’t happened by chance, because ever since Timmy’s been at the club he’s worked his absolute tail off,” McLeod said.

“He had a great mentor [Saville].

“He had someone he really had to battle to get to where he is now. He was against that every day.

“The results Timmy has got this year is a reflection of the dedication and hard work he’s put in over that whole time.

“The one thing with Tim is that he’s leaving no stone unturned in trying to be the best professional he can be, in all things he does.

“It’s great to see him get the results and the reward of having a really consistent year.”

Hawks captain Oscar Forman won the Players’ Player award, while long-serving strapper Phil Driscoll was named Club Person of the Year.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.