Don't be afraid to build muscle!
There is a fear amongst women that lifting weights will make you bulky, and resemble the incredible hulk. Luckily this is far from the truth, in fact lifting your bodyweight, dumbbells or the barbell will build lean muscle and change your body-shape, giving you a leaner look without the huge muscles you fear. The muscle you build will in turn burn more calories throughout the day helping to boost your metabolism, help maintain muscle tone and also may help prevent weight-gain after a certain age.
The first false I need to cover is the humungous muscles your not going to grow! Men are much more naturally muscular than women, they produce a muscle driving hormone called TESTERONE, we women don’t produce as much of this hormone as men do and we are also not designed to build muscles like men, women who do build larger muscles use help from supplements and they are normally competing in the world of bodybuilding so need these muscles. So ultimately the statement that I hear alot from women - “I don’t want to become too muscular” is in fact scientifically impossible!
Look if you want to look smaller, leaner and toned there are ways to do this such as using a variety of resistance training, such as bodyweight exercises, using free weights, kettlebells or barbell lifts. All of this equipment will help you achieve your aim of building muscle but you also have to aid your recovery after your workout by eating the correct nutrients - protein is super important and vital to the growth and recovery of your muscles-and giving yourself the sufficient rest to help your muscles recover after the strain of training. When these two vital are achieved then your muscles will repair and definitely grow stronger.
A varied workout using a mix of resistance and cardio training is probably the best to help achieve the above results, many women fail here as they just see cardio as the only form of exercise to burn the calories. Yes, running is probably the best form of fat loss exercise you can do, its free and you can do it almost anywhere BUT it won’t tone you and could even help you LOSE the all-important muscle tone you are trying to gain and remember we need MUSCLE in old age to help us function in our everyday life. To combat this you have to add in the strength training to your running program, this will also help you stay injury free in your running as it will help strengthen the muscles around your joints - knees and ankles, and can also start helping you run faster too.
Adding in a HIIT workout into your program is a sure fire way to help get rid of the fat, this short duration form of exercise will help hit the fast-twitch muscles which are important for building muscle, when you run, bike or row for long periods of time then these sorts of sessions will build the slow twitch muscles that aid endurance so will improve your aerobic system but won’t build the muscle your looking for. So adding you 1-2 HIIT workouts a week to mix it up is a great idea, just 1-2 is enough as performing too much high-intensity can lead to an increase risk of injury and illness so remember to balance your program accordingly by adding in low intensity days too.
Another one of the most important ways you can improve your muscle tone is to challenge yourself, do more reps, lift more weight, if you don’t push yourself then you will just stay on an even keel and hit a plateau, this will most definitely also hit your motivation and decease your enthusiasm as you will fail to achieve the results you are working towards. In essence its got to be uncomfortable to get what you want! Don’t just go through the motions, you have to feel sweaty at the end, get your muscles tired these will be the days that help you achieve your end goals, believe me if you get comfortable with being uncomfortable then everything will fall into place.