The likes of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have provided a much needed platform for women to exhibit their inner and outer strengths in a former man’s world. The popularity of using hash tags such as #girlswholift and #strongnotskinny has glamourised strength training for women and put an abrupt halt to it being just for the guys. But what if you’ve never been to a gym in your life or the thought of it completely terrifies you? You’re not alone. Studies show that still over 50% of women fear the gym. C’mon ladies, it doesn’t have to be this way. Read my story in Women: Lift to Find Your Strength Inside and Out!
How did I get into strength training?
I was around 15 years-old when I first walked through the doors of a gym. I had always been into fitness but my experience was based around team sports. As a child, I struggled with my weight and so I had always made a conscious effort to be involved in some form of exercise. As soon as I walked into the gym I loved it but the only pieces of equipment I felt comfortable with were the cardio machines. I had no idea what to do with the resistance machines, and especially, the free weights. (In case you’re wondering, yes, that is actually me in the main picture above.)
It actually took me a very long time, (10 years in fact!), to pluck up the courage to start lifting weights. I actually started attending some Les Mills ‘Body Pump’ classes with my mum and really enjoyed the challenge it offered me. I started to see some changes in my body and decided that I should invest more time into it. So that’s what I did and now, 10 years down the line, I can honestly say it’s the best decision I made.
Your “inner self” will thank you
For the last 9 years I have been working as a personal trainer and the last 3 of those years I owned my own strength and conditioning gym in Manchester, UK. I have lost count of the amount of people I have coached and the number of sessions I have delivered, but what I have noticed is the way women (and women who lift) particularly have evolved in that time, both mentally and physically.
Around 20 years ago, when I walked into that gym, I remember the weight training area being full of men. No women, just men. The cardio machines were where you’d find the ladies. Thankfully, over time, this has changed and it’s now more of an even split. It’s not been ‘easy’ for us though.
Convert fear factor into ‘X’ Factor
The amount of courage it takes for a woman to enter a gym and put themselves into a place of fear and vulnerability, illustrates how important it is to believe in yourself and connect with your inner strength. See, as women we tend to find ourselves over-exerting ourselves; looking after others more than ourselves, which in turn leaves our own cup empty. We can slowly lose grip of our own identity.
Whatever your fear is, regarding making that first step to fitness, then please realise you are not alone. We have all worried about not being fit enough, strong enough, or competent enough but the one thing you have to realise is, YOU ARE MORE THAN ENOUGH. Right where you are now, is where you are meant to be and the sooner you start to acknowledge your strengths, the sooner you will blossom into a better version of you – yep, women who lift find their ‘X’ Factor!
Speaking from experience, the transition period from your decision to lift to actually become accustomed to the workouts themselves usually forms a similar pattern.
Small changes soon start to snowball
First, you’ll start to notice some small changes. Maybe your trousers don’t feel as snug or you’ve noticed you feel more energetic and less sluggish. Then, you actually start to feel physically fitter and stronger. Exercises that you previously struggled with become more natural and you start to think that maybe you are cut out to do this whole gym thing after all.
Then, often the most rewarding stage, others start to complement you. “Hey, you’re looking really well” or “You seem a lot happier recently”. Before you know it, a year has passed and you are a completely different woman to the one who put on those trainers for the first time and embraced the gym.
Making a clear decision brings the power!
Fear is one of the worst feelings we can experience but you know what’s worse than fear? Regret. Don’t be the one to look back in 20, 30, 40 years’ time and say “I wish I’d got into exercise all those years ago”. Embrace feeling vulnerable and instead of allowing yourself to think deflating thoughts, use its energy to serve you; bring on those feelings of doubt and ride those waves of power toward your determined goal; push those boundaries, because you cannot fail. If you get up every day, think about how much you believe in yourself and give it the best you’ve got, truth is, it’s impossible to fail!