To Lift or no to Lift

Why I weight lift and you should too

A woman (me!) about to lift a barbell

My first memory of a workout takes me to when I was about 8 or 9 years old. My mom signed my younger sister and me in ballet. While she shined in her cute leotard and her demi plié, I felt as graceful as a monkey in skates, doing the first position while they were on the third, with my hair pulled so tight that I could look behind me without turning. If I lasted a week, it was too much.

My next attempt at exercise, besides school’s PE (in which I sucked) and an aerobics session here and there, was when I turned 18. I joined a gym with a group of girlfriends, mostly for the eye candy and to hang out. Between joke and joke, we lifted our dumbbells and did our reps. I didn’t know anything about exercise so I would do whatever the trainer told me to. This was my first interaction with weights, though light, because I didn’t want to get “bulky”. I can say I enjoyed it after a while, but it didn’t last enough for me to love it; my friends started leaving the gym and I didn’t want to go by myself, so I quit.
Throughout the years, I kept working out, on and off. I did aerobics a few more times (don’t judge me), tried running, kickboxing, yoga, went back to the gym, got bored of the gym, did home workout videos from Beachbody (I’m looking at you, Tony Horton!), until my husband convinced me to try something that his friends were doing: Crossfit, a weird mix of Olympic lifting, gymnastics, calisthenics and cardio. I took a couple of classes; it was love at first try.

That first week of Crossfit I was reintroduced to the barbell. I had used it at the gym to do back squats, but that was the extent of my experience. When I first attempted to do a Clean and Jerk, I was reminded of my ballet days, fearing that my lack of grace would make me drop that thing on my head. I didn’t like it one bit; I would grumble every time the WOD had Olympic Lifting. Nevertheless, I persisted because I liked everything else.

I won’t lie, it took me a couple of years to get used to the barbell. To this day I still need to work on technique from time to time. But I went from “I hate this freaking bar” to “why aren’t we lifting today? “. I can honestly say that I love barbell work and I love lifting heavy. I’m not afraid of weights anymore because I’m not afraid of muscles.

Besides being fun, weightlifting (whether with barbell or dumbbells) has a long list of benefits for us girls. The physical ones you probably know, because they’re all over the internet:

  • You’ll burn more fat: Muscle growth contributes to a faster metabolism, which in turn helps burn calories. When you weightlift, you’ll keep burning calories even after your workout is over.
  • You’ll get stronger: Weightlifting produces a stronger body, more resilient to injury and able to easily perform daily tasks that involve any kind of lifting, with proper form. You’ll only need one trip to carry your groceries.
  • You’ll get leaner and toned: The main reason why women lift light weights or don’t lift at all is because they fear getting bulky. Us ladies lack the amount of testosterone to develop muscle the way men do. Thus, instead of getting “manly”, we get an athletic, healthy look.
  • You’ll fight osteoporosis and muscle loss: With age, we lose bone density and muscle mass. This weakens our bones, making us more prone to fracture. Weight training helps prevent both and, to put the cherry on top, it gives us balance and coordination which are critical to prevent falls.
  • You’ll heart will thank you: Lifting weights helps you decrease your diastolic blood pressure, (the smaller number) reducing your risk of stroke and heart attack.

The mental benefits, on the other hand, are not that obvious, but that doesn’t make them less important:

  • You’ll have a stronger mind: Weightlifting is as much a mental exercise as a physical one. Not only you need to clear your mind to be on point with your form (which translates to mental focus), you also must use all forms of will power and positive self-talk when lifting heavier weights.
  • You’ll be happier: Exercise in general increases the production of endorphin, one of the happiness hormones, which will boost your mood and help you relieve stress. But when you lift heavy, two things must happen: you need to get angry and you need to give it your all. The result is a level of effort (sometimes accompanied by a scream) that lets you release all your negative emotions. If on top of that, your lift is heavier than the one before, you’ll end up completely elated.
  • You’ll feel empowered: There’s something about putting chalk on your hands, grabbing a barbell and lifting weights which, physically, you shouldn’t be able to lift, that makes you feel like a superwoman, like there’s nothing you can’t accomplish, that it doesn’t matter how life shakes you, it won’t be able to push you down. This feeling translates to every aspect of your life, increasing your self-esteem, which takes us to our next point.
  • You’ll be more confident: Lifting weights will help you improve your posture, get toned up and grow your self-love, making you feel more confident. You’ll walk straighter, take up new challenges, be less fearful of change. You’ll even eat better because food will become fuel instead of just meals. And you know what they say, #confidenceissexy.

If you haven’t given weights a chance, I hope these reasons help you make up your mind. Start light and make sure you listen to your body before increasing the load. As usual, consult a doctor before starting a new workout routine.
If you’re already riding this train, isn’t it great? How has weight lifting helped you? What do you love most about it?

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C.S. Servigna

C.S. Servigna

Writing about fitness, wellness, life and other stuff that come to mind.