What’s it Like to Lift?
If you told me 6 years ago that when I was 27 I would own a women’s strength gym and have a goal of squatting 150kg (330lbs) I would have spat my skinny green tea all over your face.
I always went to the gym, because the gym was how I controlled my weight… and I thought that was all it could ever be. I never thought the gym would be a place I go to to have fun or where I enjoy spending my time.
My headspace was consumed by the concept of training to look good.
I was very confused about what my body was actually meant to do for me.
I was sucked into the social pressures of appearance … flat tummies, thigh gaps, lean arms … this was why I trained.
It was toxic and fuelled by self-hate and shame.
And that never seemed to go away … no matter how fast or how long I ran on that treadmill.
Then I found the barbell.
Now let me say this – I do not think the barbell is the end-all, be-all of fitness. It is arguably one of the least functional tools in my gym. But the barbell does something unique that not many other pieces of equipment can do … it allows us to efficiently and progressively load weight to our structure. In other word’s … we get to lift heavy sh*t with a perfectly balanced piece of metal in very powerful positions. Which helps us to get stronger much more safely & efficiently.
So what’s all this “strong” business about anyway?
When I first started lifting barbells I had a lot of insecurities around what it meant and what would happen to my body. Would I get bulky and feel less feminine? Would my boyfriend still find me attractive? Would I find MYSELF attractive? Would I feel confident? What would my friends think? What would my family think?
The barbell does a great job of finding your fears … and smacking you in the face with them.
Although it is just pieces of metal bound together, the barbell has probably been the biggest and best self-development tool I’ve experienced in my life. I’ve laughed, cried, screamed, yelled, thrown fits, jumped for joy and become a completely different person through lifting… because it forces you to face yourself.
If I am fearful of a lift … it forces me to ask in what other areas of my life am I afraid of succeeding? Or – so fearful of failing that I hold myself back from what I’m really capable of?
If I’m scared of what others might think of me … I’m forced to ask myself what I think of me?
If I’m scared of not feeling feminine or attractive … it forces me to question what it means to be those things? How do I define them?
Although the barbell is the point of commonality and perhaps the catalyst in these instances … it is not what actually has caused the change… It is the development of strength that has done this.
And I think this is where a lot of the confusion and fear around lifting comes from.
Why is she strong? Where does she get it from? Where is she taking it? Where is she going to use it?
I find people become scared of “strong” … and let this fear stop them from stepping outside of comfort. They label it “extreme” or “dangerous” or “masculine” and tell themselves that they’re just fine as they are.
… and maybe that’s true. I don’t know.
All I know for sure is this - lifting has changed how I see myself.
It is no longer about training to look a certain way or to control my body weight… it’s about facing and overcoming the things I once thought I couldn’t. It’s about doing the impossible… overcoming the unachievable. What I face sometimes looks unsurmountable… but I learn something from all those sets and reps when I didn’t think I could lift one more ounce of weight … What I learn is that I am always stronger than I know.
And that strength carries over to all aspect of life.
I see it unfold in various forms …. Maybe it’s asking for that promotion at work that you deserve, or leaving that toxic relationship that is weighing you down, or even just talking some positivity into the reflection you see in the mirror like “hell yes, girlfriend – you are rocking those jeans today”.
How ever it presents itself… ultimately, the way I see it is this … to lift & grow strong is to give yourself permission.
Permission to love and respect yourself & your body … in a society that is constantly telling you not to.
Permission to define for yourself what it means to be beautiful or feminine or woman.
Permission to DO THE DAMN THING… To TAKE UP SPACE … to be ALL that you are.