As a woman in the fitness world, there are a lot more obstacles that I have to overcome compared to my male coworkers. I am NOT trying to make this a feminist post or argument but it is a basic fact. Less men are willing to work with me as a female trainer and I get questioned more about if my education and information is trustworthy. I’ve been told straight to my face that I “don’t know what I’m talking about” when in fact I know exactly what I’m talking about. Deadlifting dude if you’re reading this, enjoy that herniated disc you’ll have in a few months. Not that I’m bitter about that or anything haha!
However, yes there can be a lot of gym bros (I went with a nicer term 😉 ) that I have to deal with but then there is also the outpouring of support that makes up for most of it. The funny thing is that I find it’s the older men and women who are more accepting of what I do versus guys my own age. I would’ve thought it’d be the other way around when I first got into weightlifting but it’s totally the opposite!
Last week, I had finished my shift at the gym but stuck around to do some squats and leg day. The biggest pro of lifting at the gym that I work at is that I know everyone but the biggest con is also that everyone knows me haha! This means I’m constantly getting interrupted as people approach me with questions about what I’m doing, what they’re doing, what they should be doing, advice, etc. And I truly don’t mind because I love what I do but it can increase the time of my workout considerably haha! So, I’m like mid-set during my squats and even though I’m now off the clock, an older gentlemen approaches me and asks if I can help him out on a machine when I get the chance. I ask him really quickly if I can get in one more set if he doesn’t mind waiting, and as I do my next set I’m very conscious of him standing there watching me and to be honest I’m not sure what to expect from him in terms of a reaction.
He starts chatting with another member and I’m concentrating on my lift at this point so I’m not really paying attention but I suddenly hear him say “females didn’t do that in my day”, and honestly at this point I’m thinking “oh boy, not this again”. Because I have also been told by an older gentleman that as a woman I should not be working but should be at home so I can make sure dinner is made on time. I’m dead serious people, I can’t make this stuff up.
Back to this guy, though, so I finish my set and walk back over to him and the first words out of his mouth: “you’re amazing”. And I’m completely taken aback but at the same time in a good way. I was not expecting that at all! He goes on to explain that when he was younger he would lift nearly every day, but that women were never lifting. He thought it was a good thing and loves seeing women lifting now! He was so impressed and we went on to talk for a long time about it.
So why on earth am I rambling about all of this? Well, the main point is just to think about how far women have come in the fitness industry. I was at a work event last month and the main speaker was a woman who revolutionized training at the gym she started out at. It was only back in the 80’s but personal trainers didn’t even exist yet and when she said she wanted to teach women how to strength train, her bosses thought she was insane! They said flat out that no woman would touch weights.
Yet here we are only a couple decades later. Women lifting. Women bodybuilding. Women powerlifting. Women kicking butt! I think it’s amazing how women have broken into the industry and made it their own. I’ll admit I used to be one of those “lifting makes you manly” type until I actually started lifting and realized it was physically impossible to happen. I love my muscles. I love how strong I’ve become. And I get ridiculously happy when I see other women kicking butt with lifting.
I legitimately don’t care if someone thinks I’m better off on a cardio machine or not exercising at all. I legitimately don’t care if my lifting weights makes anyone uncomfortable or challenges their stereotypes of what women should be like. And I sure as heck don’t care if anyone sees me lifting weights as “taking up their space in the gym”. BUH-bye.
I think that women lifting and getting strong is something to be celebrated. I’m not saying all women should do this because you know what I’ll say at this point: do whatever exercise makes you happy. But I will say is don’t ever let what someone else thinks holds you back. Back when I first started lifting three years ago, I felt extremely self-conscious and constantly worried about what other people in the gym might be thinking of me. I was intimidated and I let that rule me for about a week or so. Until I got to the point where I told myself “Sam, you can either let that fear win and nothing changes or you can go out and kick it in the face and get stuff done”.
I realized that nothing would change if I let myself be intimidated and chased off the free weight floor by guys. I wouldn’t reach my goals by hanging out on the sidelines and not going after what I wanted. I wanted to lift. I wanted to get strong. And so I did just that.
Fast forward three years later and I have learned so much about myself. As cliche as that sounds, it couldn’t be more of the truth. I have gained a new confidence in myself and what I can do because I proved to myself a long time ago that I could do it. It was a new challenge, one that was somewhat scary, but it was so rewarding to complete.
So when women come to me asking if lifting weights is a good idea my immediate response is always “heck yes!!”. It’s a challenge, one that is new and intimidating, but you will grow in more ways than one (I’m not talking about the gains 😉 but those are wonderful too!). I never would’ve thought that I’d fall in love with lifting like I did, and I think it’s so empowering and encouraging to see other women lifting, too.
And in no way am I saying that all men seem to be against women lifting because my experience so far has been mostly positive with some negative across the board, including comments from both men and women. I’ve been told by both men and women before that it’s better to “not go too heavy” so again I’m not trying to turn any of this into a lady-lifters-revolt-against-the-men-type thing. However, the majority of more negative comments have come from men but also the majority of the positive have also come from men.
In the end, though, I think it’s awesome that strong women have made their presence known in the fitness industry and that there are people out there who think it’s something to praise and be proud of. Sure, women might not have done it “back in the day” but we do now and that’s what matters. There will be those who maybe make negative or degrading or condescending comments about it or to actual women who are lifting but we, as people in general, can’t let the negative stuff get to us. There will always be those who have something to say against anyone or anything so there’s no point in paying it any attention. We can either choose to let it bring us down, stop us from reaching our goals, and keep us sitting on the sidelines or we can recognize that those words have no influence over us and let it roll off our shoulders. Boulder shoulders that is…sorry I couldn’t resist haha! And with that I’m signing off before I make any more bad jokes.