We asked some athletes their take on getting into lifting and what they've learned through strength. Here are their words.
I started powerlifting two years ago in a garage gym in Brooklyn. I was always scared to lift what I thought at the time were big weights. I was scared to get injured or embarass myself. However, through a supportive gym environment and coaching, I was able to improve my lifting technique and feel confident hitting those heavy weights. It didn’t happen overnight and it took a lot of work, both physical and mental.
Over these past couple of years, I have realized that a lot of strength is mental. I learned that when I start worrying about my lifts, then I have allowed myself to lose. It was excessive worrying and negative thoughts about not believing in my ability to complete my lifts, rather than my physical strength that held me back from making progress.
I learned to rid myself of these irrational and illogical thoughts through a number of ways. The way I do this is by having faith in myself, in and outside of training. I do this through challenging any self-doubt that comes to mind. I do this by providing my mind with positive, constructive thoughts, rather than negative, hurtful thoughts.
My mind tends to race before I make a lift. Rather than thinking “I don’t think I can do this”, I change that thought to “I can and I will do this.” Instead of thinking “this is too heavy”, I think “this might be heavy, but I have trained for it and I will make this lift.” Negative thoughts like “I’m going to hurt myself” are replaced with thoughts like “I’ve been working hard on tightening up my form, so my risk of injury is low.”
What I tell myself before a lift will either help me make the lift or not. Thinking positively has helped meet face challenges, stop worrying about how I’m going to overcome them, believe I will overcome them, and then make it happen.
I love the way heavyweight feels in my hands or on my back. My mind goes blank when I get under the bar and my body takes over to move the weight.
It’s a small change, but a significant change for me. Committing to greatness allows me to move better and be happy with my lifts. Words have power. Use them wisely. What we allow into our minds affect our actions. I love the way heavyweight feels in my hands or on my back. My mind goes blank when I get under the bar and my body takes over to move the weight. It’s a process, but we all start somewhere.
The most stark difference in my body since I have started powerlifting is mental, rather than physical. Sure, I have a few more pounds of muscle and thicc legs, but I also treat myself with more compassion and kindness than I ever have. Strength is so much more than a physical attribute; it is also a mental attribute.
Strength training was transformative for me both mentally and physically.
The story that I had always told my self as I was growing up and for much of my adult life was that I was just not a physically strong person.
The story that I told myself was that smaller was better. My goal each I entered the gym was to work at shrinking up my body and taking up less space in the world. I had visions of being 5’11” and super model thin. I had the 5’11” part but that super model thin body always eluded me.
I was trapped in this space where I never felt enough even when I was at my leanest. I had created this narrative in my head that ‘one day’ I would achieve my dream body and then everything would be perfect.
Imagine my dismay when I realized that no matter how much I ‘fixed’ my body, I still never found the peace and happy ending that I thought would be at the other side of weight loss. It was a harsh reality that was reaching my goal weight didn’t make me happy. As a result, I always felt the urge to ‘just lose 5 more pounds.’
Strength training, powerlifting specifically, was one of the things that changed changed this narrative for me. It’s one of the reasons I’m so passionate about sharing my love of lifting with others because I know how much it did for me.
I finally realized that my body is not an object for consumption. I am not an ornament or decoration for the world, and I don’t have to conform cultural standards of beauty.
Lifting helped me stop obsessing over the scale and learn to appreciate my body. I stopped playing small, and I stepped into the magical power that all women have. I learned to #TakeUpSpace.
I reclaimed my body.
The strength that I gained in the gym transferred into every area of my life. I realized that I can reframe all of the false narratives I believed over the years, and I can accomplish hard things — we all can. Every time I’m facing a new challenge or find myself scared to do a new thing, I reminiscence on that time I thought I could never lift heavy weights because I wasn’t strong. If I proved myself wrong in that situation, I’m sure can prove myself wrong in this new scenario.
Strength training changed everything for me. It helped me step into my power and magic.
"I’ve learned some great things and some bad things about myself that I didn’t know before strength training. I learned that I am not very good with balancing priorities in my life. I’ve become more aware of the fact that I need to work on keeping every priority in my life in moderation, equal amounts, equal attention. I’ve also learned that I am much stronger than I ever thought possible. Beginning of 2017 (January 4) I hit my first 205lbs deadlift. Beginning of August of that same year, I hit 315lbs. My first three plate deadlift. Never in my dreams would I have thought that to be me. Then I competed in November of that same year. I have severe social anxiety, I’m very shy, quiet, and indecisive so signing up for a powerlifting meet was very out of character. I’ve never been more proud of myself for just showing up. I pushed myself through that prep which was a mental struggle in and of itself since I had to cut weight. Not eating cake on my birthday? A nightmare. Then I broke an Arizona state record at that competition. No cake but a gold medal? I’ll take it."
"Strength Training in important to me because it makes me feel beautiful. It gives me an outlet to express myself in a way that I am comfortable.
I have learned that I am a stronger person that I give myself credit for. Strength training is not only physical but mental and there are days where I feel like I can’t do it or don’t want to get out of bed to work out. But strength training has helped me overcome.
I started my strength training journey alone. It was intimidating at first but what I did was I used an app that would really explain the exercises to me, Jefit. And that gave me the confidence to walk into the weight room and at least look like I knew what I was doing. Yes it’s intimidating, but people aren’t going to judge you if you’re trying. Most people won’t say anything to you even if you’re doing something wrong, unless you’re doing it so wrong you can hurt yourself.
I am most proud of the person I am today because of strength training. I have become more independent and more mature because of all the discipline strength training takes."
"I've learned that I am worth it. Period. I was walking through life looking for new ways to try and "get fit" and "be healthy". Realistically, there is no "one way". I had to find what works for me. Bodybuilding through strength training has done just that. Taught me that I am beautiful just the way I am, but I am also beautifully molding into something greater. I see this with the way my body is changing and getting stronger, but more importantly, I am seeing it on the inside. I've learned to be more patient with myself as well as congratulate myself for the small wins. I've also learned that nothing happens overnight. It is all a process. These skills are invaluable and without the strength training platform I am not too sure where I would be-maybe still trying to run from myself instead of accepting myself for who and where I am right at the present moment."
"I come from a very traditional Korean family and culture. Even as a child, I have never truly "fit in" to the stereotypical Korean mold, especially in the health and beauty industry. Growing up, I always noticed that I was never as thin as the girls and women on the TV. Growing up in a culture where it is normalized to critique people on their figure nonchalantly, I know that I have developed a complex about my looks. I have struggled with this for my entire life and it wasn't until I started lifting that this complex loosened its grip on me. Once I started lifting and started PRing, I started to gain some real confidence. I realized that I was a STRONG woman and that people genuinely found me attractive. I won't lie and say that it's always great and that I'm cured because I'm not. I'm human and have hard days too. The difference is, now I have my stress relief and that I know I am a STRONG woman that can push through.
If you're intimidated/scared/worried about starting a strength journey, that's okay. You are more than entitled to your feelings and it is always nerve-racking to begin a new journey. However, I want to encourage you to start because you WON'T look back. Once you reach the moment where you are lifting FOR YOU, you will feel an incredible sense of accomplishment and excitement."
"For women who are afraid to start their strength journey, either because they fear straying from the conventional standards of a beautiful body or because they fear they aren’t strong enough to compete, I IMPLORE you to just give it a try. Everyone started somewhere. Just because you happen across someone in the middle of their personal narrative doesn’t mean your own story wont be equally beautiful and equally valid. You don’t need to be the strongest, or the leanest, you just have to want to be better than you were before. And striving to better yourself can only have positive outcomes. I have never felt so empowered or been part of a more empowering group of WOMEN than I have when I found the powerlifting community. We encourage and support one another. And we want this community to grow!
I am most proud of showing up every day in my life to the best of my ability. Sometimes that just means getting out of bed. Sometimes that means killing it at work and in the gym. But whatever it is I feel or encounter that day, I am here. And I am proud of that."