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 life. 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 myself was anxious when Bryan 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 some of them) aren’t exactly dying to help you out. Instead, society has built up this giant myth about why women should stay on their cardio machines and leave the heavy weights to the guys.
Luckily, the tides have been changing as more sexy female weight lifters are making the rounds on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. The amazing #FlexxElite girls @felicia.sanders, @sampaparo, @optimus_primette, @alyssanemesfitness, and @ryianashlea show us just how beautiful strength and muscle can be! 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 (I’m there 6 days a week for 1.5-2 hours), I still run up against some serious bias from some of the guys there. I don’t know whether it’s their own fear, 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.
I’m 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, I can do it. My husband (who is also the co-owner of Flexx) is 6’2” and a lean/muscular 200 pounds. You know who spots him? I do. You know how many weird looks we’ve gotten? Tons. I’ve even had a dude try to help me spot him in the middle of a set (yes, I’m cringing as I write that).
In case people forgot (or didn’t know), the purpose of a spot is to make sure your form is proper when you’re starting to struggle on those final reps and assist with part of the weight if needed. 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. If you need help I can help you. Don’t assume that I’m just going to let the bar drop on your face (although sometimes I think I should).
When I ask 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.
I 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 educate yourself? Do you know how hard it is to actually gain muscle unless you’re seriously genetically blessed? Women do not even have enough natural testosterone in their bodies to build that bulky bodybuilding look you’re thinking of. Plus, even if that’s how I want to look, screw you. I’m building this body for myself, not for you.
Just because I like to wear form fitting workout clothes doesn’t mean I’m 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 (and feel comfortable) showing it off. Plus, when I sweat while wearing pants and long sleeve shirts it upsets my eczema horribly and I become insanely itchy (but that’s a whole other story). Regardless of what I’m wearing, this doesn’t mean that I’m looking for a new boyfriend or side piece. Actually, Bryan 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 means 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 clear sexism, harassment, and/or sexual exploitation.
I will happily accept work out tips as long as you don’t talk down to me. 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 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 my headphones are in and I’m avoiding eye contact, that probably means I don’t want to talk. I mean, this applies to everyone, but I feel like I get sucked in more often than men. For the most part, if my head phones are in and I’m trying as hard as I can not to look you in the eyes 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 cold it is outside or what your meal plan is. You’re ruining my work out. Please go away.
I am not a cardio queen. 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 (with the least amount of cardio I can possibly get away with added in for good measure).
Just because you’re uncomfortable with me lifting heavy doesn’t mean you should try to ruin my 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, some 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 or best friend 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. Keep it to yourself.
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 that comfort zone and pick up a weight that is heavier than your purse! You’ll see the benefits physically, mentally, and emotionally.