I’ve been both a cardio fiend and a couch potato. I’ve been injured and afraid to turn my head. I’ve gained (and lost) extra weight after having a baby.
During all these times, I felt soft and weak and I knew I should be doing something about it. But since finding strength training, my life has changed forever – and in ways I never would have imagined.
When I first started strength training, I was relieved that no one gave me strange looks as I screwed up my face, exhaled loudly, and pushed and pulled unfamiliar objects.
After a while, I didn’t care if they did.
When you start using muscles you’ve never felt before, and move an iron dumbbell over your head – even if it’s only five pounds in your living room – you have a sense that you’re quite possibly stronger than you ever imagined.
But this was only part of a discovery I made. Strength training tapped into something inside me that was waiting to be expressed – released, even. And it wasn’t just being stronger physically and loving my body more.
After an initial period of awkwardness (which I mitigated by learning a few basic movements at home first), I became a little addicted to how powerful I felt when I lifted weights. But what surprised me more was the confidence I was building when I put them down.
While I was becoming more comfortable inside the weight room, I was becoming more confident outside the weight room.
I wasn’t afraid to show it in public, either. No apologies – I worked hard in the gym and felt good about my body. Over time I became fearless about showing my body love in public.
I call this owning your power – and it doesn’t mean strutting around the weight room like a fitness model or acting like you’re better than anyone else.
The Nice Girl Syndrome
Women unconsciously tiptoe around in public, trying to be nice and not offend anyone. We learn this as children because that’s how our culture says “good girls” and “ladies” should behave. Unfortunately, this mindset pits us against one another as we judge other women using the “good girl” standard.
That’s why there’s something liberating – and life changing – about strength training. And possibly why you haven’t started yet.
If it makes you uncomfortable to try something new, you’re not alone. If you’re afraid of looking silly or unladylike, join the club. But if you also wish that women would admire each other instead of envy each other, you’re in the quiet majority.
Part of our cultural “training” as women is to look at each other with suspicion. We may gossip with our friends about women who embrace their outer beauty and even envy another woman’s self-confidence. Come on – we’ve all done it.
The biggest gift strength training has given me might be that I no longer look at other women as competition. When I see an attractive woman marching across the parking lot in high heels and a little skirt, holding her head high, I smile to myself.
“Look at her,” I think. “She’s all that and she knows it. Good for her.”
Then I wonder if she pumps iron.
Living the Sisterhood
Strength training has given me permission to be who I really am – confident, beautiful, and fearless. Pumping iron helped me release my need to be a “nice girl” who hides who she is to please others and make them feel comfortable.
There’s something emotionally transformative about knowing you’re stronger than yesterday. And when we feel confident and strong, it helps us to look at other women with respect and awe, even if they’ve never strength trained and never intend to.
Yes, starting a new type of exercise feels daunting: there are logistics to address and fears to overcome. There are a million and one excuses. But sometimes you have to start something before you can see what it’s going to do for you. You have to trust that it’s right for you.
Making the First Move
So if you’ve been thinking about strength training, the transformation starts now. Pick up a beginning weightlifting book and learn a few basic movements at home.
Practice in front of the mirror without weights until you feel confident enough to hold light dumbbells (five pounds will do to start with). If you’re nervous, go the gym when there are no crowds and you can feel comfortable making a mistake or two (although I promise no one will notice if you do).
And then? Release your inner badass beast and join the new sisterhood.