I had a really rough day at work. Like so rough I could barely mentally process anything by 3pm. All I wanted to do was get home so I could go to the gym and relieve some stress. It has become my home away from home where I can just let the world go and focus on me.
While this blog is mostly focused on career development, I also think confidence, health, nutrition, and physical activity are all extremely important to a well-balanced (and successful) life and career. One of the things that helped empower me (both in my personal and professional life) was lifting weights. I’m not talking about those 5 pound pink dumbbells. I’m talking about legitimate weight lifting like bench pressing, squats, and all those other good things. Not only have I become stronger both mentally and physically, I have built up my confidence to a level that most definitely impacts my daily work. All of this was obtained through something as simple as going to the gym consistently and learning something new.
Throughout my journey towards becoming a fitness fanatic, though, I realized why a lot of women avoid that part of the gym. It’s intimidating. I was anxious when my husband first started bringing me to the free weight section. God forbid I had to work out alone one day. I spent more time making sure I didn’t look foolish those first couple of workouts instead of focusing on the task at hand. That’s why I get it, ladies. There can be a lot of things you don’t know as a new lifter and the men (at least most of them) aren’t exactly dying to help you out. Instead, society has built up this giant myth about why women should stay on the cardio machines and leave the heavy weights to the guys.
Luckily, the tides have been changing slightly as more sexy and strong female weight lifters are making the rounds on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. We’re starting to see the true benefits of weight lifting such as toned physiques, better nutrition and overall health, and improved self-esteem and confidence. However, even after being a regular at my gym for the past eight months (I’m there 6 days a week for 1.5-2 hours. I know, I’m crazy), I still run up against some serious bias from the majority of the guys there. I don’t know whether it’s their own fear of being around strong chicks, a lack of respect for women in general, or something else, but there are some things I want all you men to know when it comes to females in the weight room.
We’re stronger than you think. I think the term that was once used to describe me was “fragile.” I’ve also become accustomed to hearing things like “that’s an impressive amount of weight for a girl.” While I think that’s meant to be a back-handed compliment, stop assuming that just because I’m petite with a baby-face I can’t pick up more than 10 pounds. Not only can I lift serious weight, but emotionally I’m not quite as fragile as you think either. This delicate flower needs you to get over yourselves and realize that strength isn’t just for men.
If you need a spot, that strong chick next to you can do it. My husband is 6’2” and a lean/muscular 190 pounds. You know who spots him? I do. You know how many weird looks we’ve gotten? Tons. How many times have I dropped the weight on him? Zero. In case people forgot (or didn’t know), the purpose of a spot is to assist with part of the weight and to make sure your form is proper when you’re starting to struggle on those final reps. If you can’t lift the majority of the weight yourself, you probably shouldn’t be lifting it at all. That means I don’t need to be able to lift 200+ pounds to spot him.
So, if I’m the only one around don’t be afraid to tap me for a spot. Don’t assume that I’m just going to let the bar drop on your face (although sometimes I think I should).
When a girl asks for a spot, don’t act weird. Speaking of spotting others in the gym, in order to get stronger you need to progressively lift more weight. This means that sometimes I need help lifting that weight, ya know, just like any other person in the gym would need. Unfortunately, I don’t have too many girls to ask for a spot. So, when I politely come over and ask for help for a set or two, don’t be weird. Don’t stare at me like I’m crazy, smirk with your friends, or give me way too much extra assistance because you don’t think I can lift it. Spot me like you would spot one of your bros.
We will not get too bulky. Another favorite back-handed compliment is “you look great, but make sure you don’t get too muscular.” Why don’t you read a few research articles and realize that you sound like an ass? Do you know how hard it is to actually gain muscle unless you’re some type of genetic freak? Women do not even have enough natural testosterone in their bodies to build that bulky bodybuilding look you’re thinking of. Those women are often on steroids to attain such a physique. Plus, I’m building this body for myself, not for you so you don’t have any say in how muscular I get.
Just because we like to wear form fitting workout clothes doesn’t mean we’re looking for a date. I will be the first to admit that I love wearing short shorts and tiny tanks to the gym. I’ve earned this body and I want to show it off. Plus, wearing baggy clothes is a pain when I’m trying to lift weights because they just get in the way. However, this doesn’t mean that I’m looking for a new boyfriend or side piece. Actually, I’m happily married and my husband lifts at the same gym and is well aware of the type of clothing I wear there. Stop feeding into the rape culture where we assume just because a woman is showing off her body that it’s up for grabs. It’s not! While I appreciate the positive approval I’m getting for my looks (at least to a point), do not step over the edge into clearly unwanted sexual advances. I will gladly smash your face in with a dumbbell if I have to.
We will happily accept work out tips as long as you don’t talk down to us. I love to learn new things. Like seriously, I could read up on different topics all day because I truly think knowledge is power. But, just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I don’t know anything about lifting. I’ve read all the articles you have (probably more actually) and have asked many seasoned lifters tons of questions. Actually, I still ask questions because it’s beneficial for me to learn new movements and add variety to my workouts.
So, while you think you’re being helpful or are simply trying to start a conversation, don’t do it in a condescending tone. If you have a legitimate tip that could help me, I’m all ears. Otherwise, keep it to yourself.
If our headphones are in, that probably means we don’t want to talk. I mean, this applies to everyone, but I feel like women get sucked in more often than men. For the most part, if my head phones are in and I’m looking straight ahead that means I’m focused on my workout. I don’t want to talk to you. If I wanted to talk, I’d take out one of my earbuds and you’d have a clear signal it was time to chat. If that’s not happening, don’t assume that just because I’m a woman I’m open to spending 10 minutes in a lame conversation about how hot it is outside or what you ate today to get so ripped. You’re ruining my work out. Please go away.
We are not all cardio queens. Actually, I hate cardio. I’d rather lift for 1000 hours than do 15 minutes on the treadmill. Just because I’m a lean woman doesn’t mean you should assume I spend hours schlepping away on the elliptical (and then making comments about how surprised you are at the little amount of cardio I do). I earned this body through lifting heavy just like most men do.
We can re-rack our own weights. I know you’re trying to be helpful, but I got those 45 pound weights on there and I can get them off. Unless I specifically ask for your help or you see that I’m struggling (which happens now and then when a machine is taller than I am), don’t come running over to me like some knight in shining armor. I’m not stupid and I know you’re just trying to use this as a time to chat me up. Learn to be respectful and appreciate the fact that I can do a lot of things on my own.
Just because you’re uncomfortable with females lifting heavy doesn’t mean you should try to ruin our confidence. I have had men actively talk down to me while I was lifting at the gym. I have even gotten into a verbal “argument” once because a guy asked me why I was in the free weight area. While I’ve gained a small group of male friends who totally support my hard work, more men are intimidated and respond in a negative fashion. However, just because you don’t like what I’m doing or the body I’m building isn’t exactly what you think a woman’s body should look like, doesn’t mean you should be putting me down in any way. Instead, you should be building up my confidence by praising the fact that I am strong, independent, and willing to step outside of my comfort zone. It’s these types of women that you want as your significant other because this type of confidence usually transfers over to other parts of your life.
If you don’t like what I’m doing, I don’t care. Strong people lift others up. They don’t put them down.
In the end, I wish more men understood how their behaviors keep women from engaging in an awesome sport that can really build up their self-esteem and confidence. Get over yourselves and all the myths you’ve been told about women being the weaker sex. And ladies, step out of your comfort zone and pick up a weight that is heavier than your purse! You’ll see the benefits, physically, mentally, and emotionally. If you need any tips, just drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will gladly start you on the path to a more confident, more sexy you built by lifting weights.
Now, it’s your turn. Do you exercise regularly? How has it helped build your confidence?