How did life change for you when you started lifting? Does any of this sound familiar?
We’ve come a long way in recent years. Women are well represented in every strength and physique sport from powerlifting to strong(wo)man. But have other people’s attitudes – or our own feelings – always kept pace?
Think back to your early days of lifting. When you first started noticing your physique changing, your appetite getting bigger, your passion for training sky-rocketing. How did it feel?
You’re bigger now… but happier to show it
When you started lifting, phrases like “thunder thighs” were the stuff of nightmares. But these days, when you do indeed have thunderous thighs (and humdinger hamstrings), it feels great. Who wouldn’t want to have big, powerful legs? If anyone doesn’t get it, they’re not your people. Back in the days before you lifted, you couldn’t imagine being happy showing your legs off in shorts. These days, the legs are bigger, and they’re in shorts more often.
You have to leave some friends behind
The friends you make through lifting are the best. They understand your love of deadlifting, and share your secret loathing of paused squats. They’re always hungry, and they know the best places to go for lunch (or brunch, or dinner, or snacks). They share your experiences of being a female in the weights room at the gym. And they’ve probably joined in training for a competition, and you know they’ll always be happy to come watch you compete. But some of your non-lifting friends just don’t get it. They don’t get your passion. They think you’re obsessed, and they worry that it’s unhealthy. It becomes a problem when you won’t go out drinking, or prefer to stay in rather than party all night. Of course, some of your non-gym buddies are great about it! They ask the right questions, and listen to you talk about training. And you still have plenty to share But sadly some of your “before lifting” friends might have to fall by the wayside. There’s enough negativity to be found when you’re a female lifter. You don’t need it from your friends.
You learn discipline
Growing up, you maybe through discipline was a boring concept. But lifting and training shows you that it’s anything but dull. Discipline, focus, organizational ability and time management enable you to juggle training alongside the rest of your life. Your new skills show you how to get the most out of every training session, every recovery day, and every meal prep. And all of a sudden you discover that you can apply your new-found discipline to your career, relationships, and to challenges outside of the gym. You’re stronger in more ways than one.
Your circle gets tighter, but everyone in it is awesome
Your new-found confidence and drive has enabled you to cut out negative people from your life. People who belittle your passion or try to cut your dreams down to size have to go. In their place come new friends, the people you meet through lifting, competing, and coaching. And something else happens, too. Old friends come out of the shadows, inspired by your dedication to lifting, encouraging you every step of the way, and surprising you with their positivity. You learn how to close your ears to those who don’t support you, and welcome good friends who really want the best for you.
You learn to stand up for yourself
Times are changing, but women who lift still come up against misinformed, patronising, or downright sexist comments. “Why do you want to do that to yourself?” “Are you trying to look like a man?” “Women with muscles are disgusting.” “Don’t get too big now, will you!” You know the kind of thing. But this is your passion, and you know how amazing training and competing is, not just for your body but for your health, your emotions, your stress levels and confidence. So you learn to respond to the silly comments. You find ways to educate and inform. You work out when it’s worth responding, and when it’s better to turn away and save your breath. You learn to draw on your own confidence and inner strength.
You become an ambassador
There’s a strong chance you’re the only female strength athlete in your family, at your office, or in your circle of old friends. You have a fantastic opportunity to educate, inspire and fly the flag for what lifting weights can really look like for women. You’re an ambassador for strength sports, for lifting, for training and being strong. You might find yourself a role model for young women in your life, or for your own daughters.
You amaze yourself, every day
There’s an old saying that the iron never lies. Weights are weights. There’s no cheating and no luck in strength sport. And as you progress, you amaze yourself in what you can do. Old limits are blasted away and new ones set. Before long, those new goals are old news too. You can do more than other people thought you could. And more than you realize.