by Niamh Hayes uploaded 23rd January 2014
I am a girl and I lift weights. I go to the gym and I often walk straight to the weights section. Do I get funny looks from 6 foot tall guys who are looking down on my 5 foot 3 head? Sure! Do I take any notice? Absolutely not!
Nothing can beat the feeling you get when you have a good day in the gym. You go in, you have a plan to follow, and you get it done. The best part, for me anyway, is seeing the looks on people’s faces when I get stuck into a heavy set. I’m not sure if is it because they’ve never seen a little woman lift or if they are embarrassed that I might show them up. Either way it gets a giggle out of me!While it is nice to get looks of admiration or jealousy sometimes, I don’t lift weights because of this. I lift because of the changes it has brought to my life.
Let me begin with how I got involved. I was always interested in fitness and sport, being a rower from an early age and a keen gym-goer from the minute I started college. I was always a cardio junkie though and struggled with my weight and body image since I was a young teenager. After starting college I really wanted to get my life and body in order but I could never get the balance right and looking back now it’s purely because I didn’t have the right knowledge when it came to my health and fitness. I would either bust my butt at the gym and eat whatever I wanted all day long or I would get my diet fairly ok and skip my workouts.
The balance just wasn’t there.I then took up rowing with the college club and I was introduced to strength training. We did this to complement the rowing and make us go faster on the water. I fell in love with it straight away. The squats, the lunges, the deadlifts, the curls, the bench press – I enjoyed them all. Then amazing things started to happen. My body was changing. I was getting stronger, I felt healthier than I ever did and I started to see muscle.
Over the next couple of years I varied what sort of strength training programmes I followed. I’ve tried German Body Composition, German Volume Training, Strength 5x5, 5 3 1, as well as mixing and matching other ones. In the meantime a powerlifting club was set up in my college and I was persuaded to join by the founder. I have taken part in three competitions so far and I must say there is something different and special about the sport.
When you are up on the platform it is you against you. You are always trying to beat your last lift. That is what I have found with the sport anyway and I don’t think it just happens in powerlifting, I think this happens in every type of strength training. You always want to do a little bit more than you did in your last workout, push yourself that extra little bit harder.There has always been a fear there that women will get big and masculine if they lift weights and although you’d still hear this sort of nonsense from time to time, I think that we have moved on from that perception. More and more women have taken up strength training because they are starting to realise the huge number of benefits that come hand in hand with it.
Every time I go into the gym now I see a new female face at the squat rack or on the bench and I must say it is great to see. Women finally understand that weights are not the enemy, in fact they can be your best friend if you treat them right. They will help make you stronger, burn away fat on your body, build your muscle, make you look better and most importantly make you feel better.
The wonderful thing is that to get these benefits you don’t have to take up a sport like powerlifting or enter competitions, you can just lift weights at a recreational level and still reap the changes.My advice to any girl who wants to try out a bit of lifting - talk to someone who knows their way around the weights section. It would be very easy to go in and pick up 2kg dumbbells but these will have little if any benefit to you.
Any good gym instructor should be able to help you out and don’t be afraid to push yourself and pick up something a bit heavier than your handbag! Every girl has her own goal. I know mine and I tailor my strength training to meet that goal. No matter how much that goal might change in the future, I will always keep lifting weights because I think they are necessary to, and can benefit, every fitness and health venture. The positive thing is that women lifting weights has taken off at a ferocious rate and it shows no signs of slowing down or stopping. Why would it? Strong is the new sexy and the sooner everyone knows this, the better!
Girls Who Lift
Niamh Compete in the -58.5kg Juniors Divison out of the CIT Powerlifting Club
Niamh is currently studying for her MA in Journalism with New Media in the Cork Institute of Technology.