As a female who loves strength training, I often find myself defending what I do in the gym. When other women find out that I'm a trainer, they typically ask what I do for my own workouts. When I say that I mainly focus on strength training, I get a variety of responses.
"Oh, I don't want to get bulky." (Okay, but I thought you asked me what I do...)
"What does that mean? What do you actually do?" (Yay, they're genuinely interested! Here's my chance to talk more about what I love!)
"What are your thoughts on pure barre?" (Where do I start...)
What I've come to realize is that a lot of the time, people just want to feel validated in what they're currently doing. And don't get me wrong, if someone is doing something other than being completely sedentary, then that is awesome and I have nothing negative to say about it! But when people come back at me with responses like "oh, I don't want to get bulky" I typically feel the need to defend myself.
As women, how should we defend strength training?
In the past, I used to use myself as an example of how strength training won't make you bulky. I would say something along the lines of, "well I can deadlift double my bodyweight and I'm not bulky..." I've heard this type of defense time and again from not only myself but my peers in the industry as well. Here are a couple things I realized:
- Not everyone desires to look like me, and to assume they do is super narcissistic! I have muscles that I'm proud of, but maybe other girls don't want that. Maybe I'm what some girls would actually consider bulky. That's cool! Whatever! Why did I ever think that using myself as an example was at all appropriate?!
- Often times the "bulky" response is more of an excuse for why they haven't tried strength training before. More prevalent than the fear of getting bulky is probably just the fear of the unknown.
When I really think about why I love strength training, one of the last things that comes to mind is what I look like. I LOVE feeling empowered. I LOVE feeling independent. I LOVE competition. There are aspects of strength training that go so far beyond what I look like.
So here is how I will defend strength training from now on:
Strength training has made me feel better than anything else I've ever done. I have watched countless women transform from feeling depressed and insecure, to feeling confident and empowered just from lifting weights. The fact that these women have lost body fat, gained muscle, and feel better about their bodies is a bonus, but it isn't the main reason they lift weights. They lift weights because feeling strong is one of the most empowering feelings you can have. They lift weights because it has finally given them the power to stop caring so much about what other people think about their bodies. They lift weights because they love it, and you might fall in love with it too if you're willing to give it a shot.
Let's shift the way we defend strength training. We don't need to focus on what strength training won't do (make you bulky, turn you into a man, or whatever else has been said!) Let's just talk about why we love it, because that positive energy is contagious, and maybe we'll just inspire someone to pick up a weight and try something new.