Weightlifting is one of those things I didn’t really know that much about. I’d say I was really introduced to it about 5 years ago when I flirted with Crossfit (yes, I was one of those assholes for a little bit). I faffed around with ‘lifting’ – poorly using the machines in the uni gym – but for a long time after I stopped doing sport in highschool my exercise consisted of off-and-on-again yoga practice.
I really got into the weightlifting when I started working with a personal trainer last year. I was lucky in that my sport in high school meant that I had foundational muscles still (rather than starting from all fat, which would have succccked), plus I had a quasi-working knowledge of muscle groups and generally how things worked together, so the language of lifting – delts, tris, squats, deadlifts, lats and all the other quasi-bro-ish abbreviations…didn’t scare me as much as it could’ve. If you’re thinking about wanting to get stronger or fitter and want to work with weights I strongly suggest getting familiar now with muscle names and functions. Body-awareness really helps with lifting.
Weightlifting is one of those things more often than not I love to hate and still do because I know how much it helps me. I was a hockey goalie in school for 7 years, and oddly enough, it’s leg day I dread the most…though my legs are probably stronger than my upper body. Ask me to do weighted walking lunges and I’ll give you the death glare while motioning you to hand me the weights and just fucking get it over with.
The progress I’ve seen though is pretty incredible when i think about it. When I started deadlifting I could barely lift 70kg. 70kg is now one of my warmup reps and while I haven’t tried a one-rep max in about 8 weeks, at that point I was at 95kg, and that was 2 reps. I can now comfortably lift more than my bodyweight, even when I was at my heaviest almost a year ago. This has all been overlaid by my ongoing battle with PCOS. (If you want to hear a little bit more about that side of my journey, head over to the interview I did with Amy at The Balance).
As you can see from all my Instagram photos, and the images of myself I share on here, I’m not some hulking she-beast. When properly training, women tend not to bulk up with weightlifting (even heavy lifting like I’m doing), we tend to lean out. Also, weightlifting is a really good way to burn fat. Seriously. Plus, if you’ve ever done 3xwhatever heavy sets of compound muscle movements (like deadlifts, or squats), you will be out of breath, sweaty and have a racing heart by the end of it. This shit isn’t easy.
Having said that the progress I’m seeing is worth it. Losing weight and getting stronger is an incredible feeling. I’m one of those people that needs at least a degree of external motivation to get going – knowing my trainer is waiting for me, or telling my friend I don’t want to go and them saying I have to…stuff like that is what gets me off my ass when all I want to do is stare at the wall on Sunday morning instead.
While I’ve been lucky enough to work with a personal trainer, there are lots of other ways to get started with weightlifting. If you’re new to the concept, definitely get some assistance – ideally in person, because while a video can show you proper form, a person can tell you your hips are the wrong way or your shoulders are too tight, or your back needs to be flatter, and adjust you so you know what the exercise is supposed to feel like in your body and your muscles.
Have you or do you weightlift? How do you stay motivated?