I’ll admit, I’m not your typical girly girl. My knees are scarred up from old (really old) soccer or track falls, I’ve got bruises on my legs from an occasional multiple bangs in the power rack, my hands are calloused from not wearing gloves or wrist straps, I hate getting my hair done, Metallica is my favorite band, and I really, really hate shopping. I also love lifting heavy weights, the way my heart pumps HARD after a set of deadlifts, the little rush of fear that I get when I stand under a barbell with enough weight that would probably crush me. But my love of lifting doesn’t make me less of a woman, in fact it makes me more of one. So, how do you get off the couch, or out of the group fitness room, and into the weight room? How can I convince you to take that leap of faith?
The women that I know that enjoy strength training all tell me how empowering it is. I never thought the simple task of spending an hour, 4 times a week, stroking the steel, racking and unracking the barbell, picking up a pair of dumbbells, pulling my body up to the bar would be so rewarding. I’m not going to waste time proving this point, but if you need more evidence, feel free to scroll though to Will Brink’s article on the matter: http://www.brinkzone.com/general-health/women-and-weight-training-debunking-the-myths/ I’ve heard it again and again, and you may have too, but it bears repeating, because the message WILL resonate with one another woman out there, and it could be you. Girls who lift all know something you don’t, and that you could be missing.
The reality is, at least where I train (independently and at the Gold’s Gym locations in the Alexandria and Arlington, VA area) I rarely see many women out in the weight room. They’re either on some cardio machine, or in the group fitness room. There’s nothing wrong with that- I teach a group fitness class and enjoy it. It gives me a chance to teach women and men, (yes, there ARE men in there) that working out with weights is fun (yes, it’s fun, I said the f-word), to demonstrate correct form, and make the point that strength training can transform the shape of your body. Yet the group fitness room is where a lot of the women stay.
The trainers I’ve spoken to all think we stay out because women think it’s “too intimidating” or that they’ll “stick out.” Though I can’t relate to this fear, I have to say that the gym where I train has got a lot of fit lookin’ dudes. Because of my gym’s proximity to the Pentagon, a lot of these guys have to stay fit for their routine physical tests. There’s also the occasional powerlifter, bodybuilder, runner, and average dude just trying to “stay in shape.” The one thing they ALL have in common is that despite their seemingly tough nature, they’re also among the nicest, most gracious people you’ll ever meet. They’re usually happy to give you a spot, let you “work in” between sets, clear the floor for you when they see you doing walking barbell lunges, and some of them even cheer you on! There’s a great camaraderie and a lot of chivalry that goes on. Granted, there is the occasional outlier who lacks manners but those people are few and far between.
I encourage you to hop off the treadmill or elliptical, and give it a go in the weight room. If you’re completely unfamiliar with the gym setting, enlist the help of a personal trainer, a knowledgeable friend, a good book from your library (hey, we all learn differently!), a good online support network like the one I found on the Body Building Revealed members forum, or a DVD. Figure out the best way YOU can slowly and gradually test the waters. Once you get there in there, you’ll never want to turn back.
Sumi Singh is an Austin-based personal trainer with nearly 2 decades of experience in fitness. She holds specializations in pre-and post natal fitness, group fitness, and sports nutrition. She’s the author of Stay at Home Strong, a complete workout program for new moms. She’s also an online diet coach, a busy single mom, has set various world, National and state records as a powerlifter, and holds an BSc from Tufts, and a Masters from Duke University.