Issue 02 of 10 USA – DARE TO DREAM – is on newsstands March 25th. Pre-order your copy here




Heather Moore settles into the leg press machine’s cockpit. “This one is my favorite!” she tells me as she clenches her jaw and prepares to straighten her limbs to push 300 lbs—more than double her body weight—toward the ceiling. Moore has invited me to work out with her at the Park Slope, Brooklyn, gym where she trains six mornings a week. She takes a deep breath and executes a stunning press before locking the weight bar back in place. Turning to me, she smiles. “I hate cardio but this is fun.”

Moore’s form is immaculate, and so is her figure. Taut as a rubber band, the beauty and fashion photographer immediately dissuades any preconceived notions I have about weightlifting being a recipe for a bulging Popeye physique. Over the past seven years, she has engineered a transformation from a scrawny 93 lbs new mother to the toned and radiant 118 lbs woman standing before me and taking sips of water from an enormous pink Stanley cup. She still keeps track of her diet, she tells me—but not like that. More calories mean more energy. Protein, especially, is edible progress

While weight-loss drugs like Ozempic are dominating the body conversation, a growing band of women are in on another secret—that lifting can achieve similar physical outcomes, minus the gastrointestinal distress and without the uncertain long-term effects. Victoria Beckham keeps lean by lifting. Taylor Swift, too, has said weight training helped her get ready for her super-aerobic Eras tour.

“It’s never too late to start weight training,” Ayla Donlin, Ed.D., a lecturer in the department of kinesiology at California State University, Long Beach, tells me. The svelte fitness expert weight- trains three times a week, using dumbbells, barbells, and plate- loaded equipment for eight to twelve reps in two to three sets, always with a weight that is challenging but not impossible to complete. It’s all in the pursuit of a healthy metabolism, strong bones, and a lowered risk of chronic disease, to name a few things, she says. “It helps the bone get blood supply,” adds Nonna Gleyzer, Pilates trainer to the stars (Natalie Portman and Gisele are clients). “I focus on Pilates but I also do weights with clients, especially when women get older.”

For women of, ahem, a certain age, lifting holds a promising scepter of possibility. “One of the biggest complaints women have around midlife is that they’re gaining weight and gathering belly fat,” says Vonda Wright, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon based in Orlando, Florida. Heavy weights—something you can lift onlythree to six times—offer a solution, she says. “Women should notconfine themselves to little pink weights,” Wright tells me. “If we want to revitalize our metabolism, we have to commit to heavy weights for three to six reps—for four full sets,” she continues in no uncertain terms. “You lose fat, you gain longevity, and you can prevent Alzheimer’s. It’s a no-brainer!”

As a woman of a certain age myself, with a mysteriously growing gut despite my healthy diet and regular treadmill trots, I’m an easy sell. I start with the strength- training workouts that Ben Alldis, a buff track and field star-turned-banker-turned- fitness instructor leads on the Peloton app. “It’s not a path towards becoming bulky but it’s actually a way to burn calories and be healthy and feel good,” he tells me over a video call from his London home. Alldis uses 20 lbs weights in his classes, and while Wright’s “heavy weights or go home” mantra rings through my head, I stick with my three-pounders as we go through his arm and shoulder “quickfire” exercises. All along he smiles and grunts motivational messages like, “Without challenges, there aren’t changes.” By the time he gets to “push press” tricep curls, I’m panting.

My determination to keep going, and work toward heavier lifts, is affirmed when I talk to my friend Ellen Schiller, a textile artist who lives in Salem, Massachusetts. Her recent decision to join a lifting-focused gym has been validated, slowly but surely. “I feel very solid. I look better than I have in a few years, but that’s not even the point,” she says, explaining that the steady, sustainable approach means she’s no longer focused on working for a dream body. Adds Schiller, “My body’s working for me now.”

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