Usually, mornings are full of promise for me.
But this morning wasn’t. It was full of loathing and grumpiness. Yet somehow I managed to drag myself to the gym. I used to workout first thing in morning, but dropped the habit a while ago. Hence me feeling like one of Lovecraft’s monsters, only less cool.
But as crappy as I felt, I was really glad to get it out of the way.
And I was also able to avoid the usual annoying morning characters. (Mainly the guy who, for months, tried to hook me up with his son and constantly referred to me as his “granddaughter.”)
While I was there I noticed, as I usually do, the lack of women in the weight room. There was one bunch working with steps and stability balls along with a trainer, but no ladies pushing any iron. Except for me. I have to say that about 80% of the time, I am the only girl lifting weights in the gym, especially anything that weighs more than 20 lbs.
If you’re at all curious about my routine, here’s what I did today:
Split squat – 4 sets of 12 – 90 lbs.
Barbell bench press – 2 sets of 7, 2 sets of 6 – 90 lbs
Seated row – 2×9, 2×8 – 95 lbs
Leaning lateral raise – 1×12 – 8 lbs, 1×12 – 10 lbs
Standing lateral raise – 2×8 – 15 lbs
Glute-ham raise – 3×8, 1×7 (body weight)
(Yes, I record every lift that I do.) I don’t know if you’d consider that heavy, but I consider it decent for a small girl like myself. And guess what? I’M NOT BULKY!
That’s what I’m trying to get at. Ladies, lifting weights is not going to make you bulky. Women do not have the hormones to grow “big, bulky, manly” muscles. I feel like I need to dispel this notion because I still hear it all the damn time.
If you exercise in a gym, but don’t want to lift weights just because you don’t like it, that’s fine (although you really should.) But if it’s because you think you’re going to turn into a bodybuilder, I promise you that’s not going to happen. Even if you did have the body type to put on muscle easier than most women, getting bulky doesn’t happen by accident and it doesn’t happen overnight. Serious bodybuilder women look the way they do because of years of hard training and steroids. If you’re just an average woman who cares about being healthy, you shouldn’t let these baseless fears stop you from weight training.
There are so many benefits that come with lifting weights. It makes you stronger and helps to prevent osteoporosis. The more muscle you have the more you can eat, and generally the easier it is to stay lean. It helps to prevent injury and diseases like diabetes. It can even help to alleviate lower-back pain. And maybe I’m just speaking for myself, but I feel like a badass moving something that’s as heavy as I am. (I’m not going to site this stuff because it is literally all over the Internets.)
So why is it that women have such an aversion to lifting weights? I figure because it’s traditionally a manly thing to do. Some men even think that women shouldn’t lift too heavy. But why not? Because women shouldn’t be physically strong? That’s some sexist BS if I ever heard it.
Personally, I find strong, athletic-looking women attractive, but I know a lot of people are turned-off by the idea of a woman with muscle. But I think that a lot of women (and perhaps men) don’t realize how large a role muscle–even a small amount–plays in defining and re-shaping your body. I think it’s pretty common to hear a woman say that she wants to look “toned.” First of all, all toned means is losing fat so that the muscle underneath can show. You can lose all the fat you want, but cuts and definition in your triceps and hamstrings aren’t going to show unless you have a little muscle going on.
I also realize that bulky is relative. What I find to be the optimum level of muscle in a woman might seem bulky to someone else. So let’s say you prefer a softer look for yourself. You can still maintain that by doing strength training (albeit a load that’s a bit lighter), and by doing so you would achieve your goals faster than by doing cardio alone. You don’t have to be bench pressing and squatting loaded barbells to improve your strength and trim your waistline either. You can get good results just from doing intense body-weight workouts (push-ups, chin-ups, etc.) But if you really want to take it to the next level I’d still recommend lifting weights.
In my opinion, the payoff of lifting weights far exceeds cardio. Don’t get me wrong, cardio is great. But still, weights > cardio in my book. I’d rather lift weights all day than run for 30 minutes. Doing weight training is almost like a form of meditation for me. I don’t mean to get all Rollins on everyone, but the man had a point when he said, “The Iron is the best antidepressant I have ever found. There is no better way to fight weakness than with strength. Once the mind and body have been awakened to their true potential, it’s impossible to turn back.”
It’s not just about lifting weights. It’s about being strong, inside and out. Mentally and physically. It’s about pushing yourself to be better than you were the day before. That’s why I like to lift. The empowerment.
And for women who do make an effort to lift weights, congratulations. Just don’t be scared to move up. The next time you’re in the gym, go for a slightly heavier weight, even if it means you won’t be able to knock out as many reps. That’s how you make progress.
So now what I want to know is who out there lift weights? Why or why not?