Something that will put a pit in my stomach every time is watching a woman downplay her assets, sell herself short, or put her true desires under wraps in an effort to avoid subtle shaming about her goals, aspirations, or body. That’s why I talked about training-for-aesthetics shaming in a previous, passionate post. All this has me thinking about why owning it is a huge, non-negotiable part of getting fantastic results and staying motivated when it comes to strength training for women.
In and of itself, I still maintain that training for aesthetics is a good goal. Sometimes seeing results is motivating and can lead to intrinsic motivation. But unless a woman learns to own it, she will probably never achieve the results she wants. Boredom and discouragement set in, which lead to quitting, and we know that getting results with weights requires a long-term commitment.
What is Owning It?
What “owning it” means varies based on individual experience, of course, but for myself and what I’ve heard other women say, owning it means you:
- Self-identify as a strong, powerful woman. The act of weightlifting makes you feel powerful, yes. But you’re also shaping your own body using your own strength. You’re not settling for a flat booty anymore – you’re changing it day by day.
- Feel confident and unapologetic. This confidence not only pertains to lifting and making all your workouts happen. You’re also unapologetic about your strengths, do not poo-poo compliments, and do not hide your beauty so as not to threaten fellow females. Strutting it – whether via selfies or short skirts – is ok and beautiful, not shameful. So is training for aesthetics. It’s what you love and you’re sticking to it.
If you can’t stand up to questioning about whether you really have to train today, you’ll never get the body you want. Owning it also doesn’t mean modestly hiding your assets or your passion just because it makes someone else uncomfortable. When you do these things you’re undercutting yourself and are less likely to stick with your goals.
In my years of interacting with women online and in person as a coach and fitness writer, I’ve observed a continuum when it comes to women and weights. These might be pure generalizations, but I hope they can help someone commit to moving to the next level (it really is worth it).
Level 0: No Interest in Lifting
Women who aren’t interested in lifting may not be able to understand why any woman would be. She has other priorities – running, yoga, being healthy, losing weight, or maybe nothing related to fitness.
I find that the less a woman understands the intrinsic benefits of weightlifitng, the more likely she is to judge women who train for aesthetics. I could be totally full of shit here, but that’s my experience. Regardless, strength training for women is not on everyone’s radar nor everyone’s passion. Not everyone’s gonna dig it and that’s ok.
Level 1: Fighting Intimidation
Women who are newer to lifting want to feel confident with weights but may still suffer from gym intimidation. Or strength training for women and getting fantastic results feels complicated and confusing.
Intimidation isn’t confined to women who’ve only been lifting a short time. I’ve had clients who had strength trained on and off for years and still didn’t feel confident with weights. It was only until they received instruction and support around what to do and why that they started owning it.
You can sense who owns it and who’s not there yet. I’ve seen personal trainers wandering around the gym in a sort of timid fashion. You expect a trainer to feel “in their element” when working out in the gym where they coach clients, but this is not always the case. You can feel confident as a trainer but not as a trainee.
I will say that people who give off that vibe probably do not achieve kickass results, either.
It’s key that women with any insecurities around lifting to follow a structured plan they trust. You will never gain confidence – or fantastic results – by approaching lifting aimlessly. Once you feel confident in your plan and have the knowledge you need, you can begin to build confidence and better results.
Level 2: Owning It
It’s a beautiful thing to witness a woman move from that uncertain, insecure place to confident and powerful. Even the people close to her notice the change, as one of my group client’s husband did:
The changes go beyond just physical. Carey, you have confidence at the gym and you address the barbell and dumbells as if they were friends. I’ve noticed such empowerment, it is incredible to see. Suzanne you are a very smart and wise trainer.”
… Of course I am! Well, I own it, don’t I?
Leading by example aside (wink), the most important thing I want to drive home is that there is a turning point you can look for. I’ll add that when my clients start owning it in the weight room, they begin to gain strength in all kinds of areas – pull ups, deadlifts, bench pressing, et cetera.
Sometimes owning it can manifest as feeling tough against the male forces that sometimes come into play. This is important because that’s the very force that can stop some women from lifting. I often hear stories like these:
“I had a guy a few months ago ask me how many sets I had left on the squat rack – I said 10 – I’d JUST started – he tutted, rolled his eye’s and said ‘seriously?’ – I said ‘no, I meant 12 and your’e being disrespectful’ – he then hung around doing something useless with dumbells until I finished. I decided to super set my squat set’s ….I thought I might as well give him a ‘show’.” ~ Janine
“I actually had some dude take both my 45 plates once. I just walked over, took them back and said I have 2 more sets, there’s some 35s over there… he just looked at me like he was annoyed… I looked at him like he was a dbag. Haha!” ~ Jennifer
“It definitely takes time to build confidence. Now I have no issue telling a big dude to get off my squat rack.” ~ Emma
“I’ve discovered it’s about body language and the facial look. Feel it, think it (but don’t over think it), walk it, show it!!” ~ Jessica
Well, now I’m all teary-eyed. Feeling proud is the damndest thing.
This article originally appeared on www.workoutnirvana.com.