Girl Talk: Why women should lift weights

woman lifting weights

My name is Cristina and instead of starting by telling you who I am, I’ll tell you who I am not. So let’s break this old-fashioned blog-post stereotype and have a heart-to-heart conversation.

I’m not an influencer, I don’t have thousands of followers on social media, I’m not a fitness model, I’m not a personal trainer and I am not a bodybuilder. What I am, on the other hand, is a woman just like you with a 9-to-5-sit-at-a-desk office job, who a while ago found herself drifting into a sedentary lifestyle.

How I decided to do “boy’s workout”

After a certain age even the best of us struggle with the eternal question: “Am I getting fatter?”

We all know those people who seem to be able to eat anything and somehow don’t get fat, while others seem to balloon after eating one cookie. I used to be in the first category. One of the many who were “blessed with good genetics”, but after I reached 22 years old, doing whatever I was doing prior to that moment, didn’t seem to provide the same results anymore. This is mainly due to changes in metabolism, lifestyle and diet.

As we live in a fast-paced era, we tend to think that watching over every single aspect of our life is too much of a hassle and we easily fall into the trap of fast-food and a sedentary lifestyle. Once you take your eye off of the calorie intake and forget about your daily physical exercises, fat sneaks in and takes control over your body, confidence and metabolism. By the time we notice, we are already feeling unattractive, insecure and overall emotionally and physically demotivated.

This was the moment I decided to wake up and change a few things. While the first things women tend to do in order to lose weight are to start running or join a Pilates class, I decided to do something different. I was never a fan of jogging (although I can acknowledge its benefits) and Pilates didn’t really excite me so, I decided to venture into weightlifting, or as I called it back then, “boys workout”.

My journey into weightlifting

First, I did my research and educated myself to dispel the myths that “weight-training will make a girl bulky and overly muscular”, or “it’s dangerous”, or “its super intimidating going to the gym if you’ve never been before” etc. So, let’s deal with these.

Firstly, women don’t really have the sort of hormone make-up that allows the growth of huge muscles. I think this is a worry for a lot of girls and it deters us from heavy resistance training. Think of it this way – for men to build big muscles it takes a lot of work for a long time in addition to the right diet. Now consider that men have around 5-times the testosterone levels that women do, allowing them to build bigger muscles and do it faster than us. It just isn’t in the female biology to obtain this kind of look. We don’t have the hormones for it. Girls who achieve such impressive muscle-mass are going to extraordinary lengths to achieve it. So don’t worry, lifting weights won’t make you ‘bulky’.

Second, there are always some dangers when you exercise but a little education can help you take the right steps to avoid injury. For example, if you run, you warm up first to avoid pulling a muscle or twisting a joint. If you cycle, you wear a helmet and make sure you are lit up like a Christmas tree to avoid crashes with other road traffic. Here are some really simple tips to make weightlifting safe:

  • Know your exercises – you should know how to properly perform the movement of an exercise with good form before you ‘give it a go’. This is especially true for compound (whole body) movements like squatting.
  • Don’t overload – work with a weight that you are comfortable with and get used to the movement before you go loading more weight on.
  • Warm-up – Get some blood flowing to your muscles before you begin working sets.

Lastly, I will admit that the gym can be an intimidating place when you first start working out. This is especially true when you venture into the free-weights section mostly populated by big, muscular guys. If you keep going you’ll become more comfortable and confident there and you realise that there is really no need to feel intimidated at all.

The next step, obviously, was to join a gym. The moment I was handed my gym pass I knew there was no going back. As one of the trainers was showing me around, pointing at the treadmills, ellipticals and bikes, I gathered up my courage and asked to see the free-weights section. The trainer raised an eyebrow and with a hint of a smile, guided me to the place that changed my life.

I won’t lie, the reaction I got from other lifters was surprising. I was the only woman in that part of the gym and it was a little scary at first, but that was where I wanted to be and it was where my discipline and willpower would be truly tested. Even today, I can still say that I have a lot of workouts in which I am the only woman in the free-weights section and this has to change!

Day One

I spent the afternoon watching videos of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s workouts, excited for my first weight-training session. The next day was chest day and let me tell you, I stepped into the gym convinced that I would get weird looks from the men like “What is she doing here?” What I actually got were looks of appreciation, respect and help and advice with my sets. I was encouraged not to give up and I got tips on how to do certain exercises. I also learned loads of new exercises just by watching what other people did. I felt accepted and for that my dear gentlemen, I thank and salute you!

I train 4 days a week in the gym, where I split my workouts based on different muscle groups and my whey protein is my best friend. Recently I developed a passion for boxing to improve my cardio and I run twice a week as I am currently in training to do one of those Tough Mudder runs with all the military style obstacles. Now I’m all about lifting weights and I still don’t look like a she-hulk so, fear not!

Ladies, there is no need to fear the bench press, the dumbbells or the deadlifts and here’s why:

You’ll burn fat more effectively – If you think that weightlifting it’s only for building muscle, you need to think again! When compared against cardiovascular exercises, weightlifting comes first in the battle to burn fat as you burn calories during and after your weightlifting training, since you continue to consume additional oxygen after your strength training. This is known as post-exercise oxygen consumption. Basically, weight-training raises your metabolic rate, not only while you train but for hours afterwards.

Curves, ladies, curves! – Let’s face it, that’s why you’re reading this! There is a difference between being slim and being fit. Weightlifting will give you that hourglass shape we all dream of. While cardio exercises can help you lose weight, that weight is made up of fat and muscle. Weightlifting helps you burn fat while sustaining and improving your lovely curves. All the right stuff in all the right places.

Lots of positive side effects – Caution! Weightlifters will suffer from the following amazing side effects: better quality sleep, increased stamina, better heart and bone health, stress reduction and many more. So watch out!

Happiness booster – Weightlifting is also great to fight off that dark cloud above your head. Wave goodbye to depression, anxiety and insecurity. Weightlifting increases the release of dopamine and serotonin into your body – the happiness hormones. It is chemically proven to make you feel great.

If fear of something new or the myths you read online are the reasons you’re not embracing the weights, you’re missing out on a lot of health benefits, not to mention, a jaw-dropping bikini body! Remember, you only get one body, so you better treat it right!

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