Lifting Weights, Strong Women and Challenging Social Expectations
The number one thing I hear from women when it comes to lifting weights is, “I don’t want to get huge”.
Firstly, you won’t get big and bulky by adding a few lifting days to your fitness routine. You just won’t. Simply put, unless you’re a genetic freak, you have to try really damn hard to put on muscle mass.
Growing muscle comes from months and years of strict training and solid nutrition. I’ve been active my whole life, and consistently lifting for the last three years. I train four to six days a week, when I train I train hard, and I’m nowhere close to being built like a gorilla.
But what’s wrong with being a strong female, anyway?
Everyone has their own opinions of the ideal body, but what challenges me the most in terms of understanding beauty ideals are women’s fears and hesitations around looking strong. Why does being strong nullify your femininity? Just like “real women have curves” or “strong is the new sexy” tropes, I find associating strength with masculinity to be a very exclusionary way of looking at bodies.
Our bodies tell stories. Every scar, every muscle, every bit of fatty cushioning speaks to the things we’ve done. Muscles don’t equate to masculinity; they’re just part of our story. They say, “Hey, remember when we climbed, sweat, swam, jumped, ran and played?”
Like scars, muscles are earned and should be treated like badges of honour.
I’m tall, athletic, tough and very much a woman. Being strong is incredibly empowering—knowing and testing your physical limitations instils confidence and teaches a person humility. I’ve trained hard and exceeded expectations, but I’ve also failed tremendously. Hitting new personal bests and overcoming failure is all part of building physical and mental strength.
So why do women shy away from looking and feeling strong and empowered? It’s so easy to buy into someone else’s idea of what we should and shouldn’t look like, or how we’re meant to act. But I for one have no desire to let social expectations dictate how I navigate this world.
I lift heavy things, run, cycle, and stay active because it keeps me sane (but sanity is relative), and because I feel it would be irresponsible not to use my body and understand it’s potential. For the short time I have on this crazy earth, I want to do and grow as much as possible…and that includes pushing myself and watching this body of mine adapt, transform, and become the most bad-ass version of itself.
Cheers to strong women; we’re a good thing.