What It’s Like to Be a Female Weightlifter
It’s not pretty. It’s not glamorous. But I wouldn’t fight me.
I have no idea how I got here. I just thought I was starting a new gym. Then, everything got a little bit weird.
My gym is insane. It’s a powerlifting gym and, therefore, filled with some of the most hard core, badass people you’ll ever meet. We have no air conditioning. In Phoenix. It’s pretty gross. I love it.
If you asked me a few years ago if I wanted to do this, I would have said no. It snuck up on me.
Now, I wouldn’t trade a single day in the gym for doing anything else. This is just my life now. The experience with this is worth it no matter how good or how bad. What is looks like is not what I imagined.
My entire concept of body acceptance has changed
My scale means nothing to me. I have my trainer pinch me with those calipers of doom every so often. Not the most scientific approach to figuring out my body fat but it’s good enough to make sure I stay on track.
Gaining a few pounds, losing a few pounds? Neither phases me. What I have a hard time accepting has totally changed. I have arthritis in my left shoulder.
This has become a much bigger issue than the stretch marks on my belly. I haven’t been able to bench press over 100 pounds since I had to have a cortisone shot right in my AC joint.
Not moving that bar is the hard acceptance.
Not being able to physically do something I know I should be capable of is the psychological obstacle I now face. Forget what my inner thighs look like. Who the hell cares about that?
My expectations are not always realistic
Hand to God, there are days I gotten up and gone to the mirror to perform an inspection. We all do this. My ass hurts. Walking feels difficult in an amazing kind of way.
I continually go to the mirror after a hard day of squats and lunges. I am convinced that day is the magic day my ass is transformed into perfection. That day is never the day. Ever.
I have been doing this for three and a half years. The growth has been so incredibly slow. Nothing will ever happen overnight. Perfection is not a thing.
My body betrays me on a regular basis
I’m talking absolutely humiliating me in ways I did not think was possible. The following things have all happened to me in the gym:
I have cried. I have puked. I have peed my pants. There was one day that all three happened. Within about 2 minutes of each other.
Oh, I’m not even kidding. There has, more than once, been a split second decision I have had to make. I am either going to abandon this lift or I am going to peed my pants. I think you know what my decision is. Sorry, not sorry.
I will never be huge. It is a total myth.
I go to the gym five days a week. I lift hard. I have a delightful but incredibly hard pushing trainer. If I believed everything I once held as true about the gym, I’d never go.
Building muscle is just as hard. Trust me, if I could slap on 10 pounds of muscle by lifting heavy for three months, I would already have done it.
I know a lot of women that think they’ll turn into the Incredible Hulk if they lift something heavier than 15 pounds. We’re just not genetically predisposed to it. As a matter of fact, no one is.
The men at my gym are our biggest supporters
These dudes could break someone in half. They yell. They curse. They drop really heavy things. The grunt loudly. If I step up to the platform, they become cheerleaders.
Of course, they say horrible things like, “Yeah, you’re going to pick it up if you stop being a pussy.” I take no offense. Because it’s true.
That body acceptance I mentioned earlier? They’re the ones that silence the hard thoughts. They remind me that showing up is the hardest part. It doesn’t matter if I didn’t do as good as I wanted to. My best is okay.
There’s no gender discrimination or sexism. There’s no advances. There’s no creepy behavior. It’s not tolerated. They cheer us women on when we deadlift. They’re on our side. It’s glorious.
Something on me hurts 80% of the time
Soreness is a constant state of being. There have been days I have had to pull myself up in bed using the sheets because my abs have stopped working. I have had to psych myself up to stand up from my desk.
Moving my body after leg day sometimes requires foam rollers, epsom salts and essential oils I never believed in.
The beauty of it is that it means I’m doing something right. It’s a continual reminder that I’ve done something good for my body. I feel strong every day.
There are a lot of people who don’t understand why I do what I do. Why I don’t just jump on a treadmill for a while. It’s simple. That’s just not my thing. I like this weird experience. I like being strong. I like shattering ideas of what a woman can and should be doing in the gym. It feels just as good inside as it does out.