by Sarah Wilson
It's kind of crazy how therapeutic the simple act of picking up and putting down various metal objects can be, right?
For me, it was love at first lift, but it wasn't easy getting there...
When I was a little girl, I was extremely shy. I was especially shy at the gym. My parents started taking me to workout with them when I was in middle school (which in retrospect was incredibly awesome of them). I was really into running track at my school, and they wanted to help me become better at something I loved. They paid no mind to the fact that I was the only thirteen-year-old girl at the gym, whereas I couldn't help but notice. It was one thing to run laps with my team in the comfort of my own school, it was quite another to step into an actual gym with grown men and heavy weights.
I loved running, so I ignored the fact that I felt completely out of place, and hopped on the treadmill with relative confidence. When I was running I was in my happy place, but the idea of stepping off of the treadmill and heading over to the free-weight section was incredibly intimidating. That area of the gym was dominated by men. I was safe on the treadmill. No one questioned whether or not I knew what I was doing or whether or not I belonged there at all. I preferred the treadmill where I could blend in without being bothered, sprinting my heart out in an imaginary race where no one could judge me.
I was safe on the treadmill but eventually, I realized I was also bored. I wanted to lift all the things! I just didn't want to do it if some guy was going to strut over and try to tell me that I was doing it wrong. Or if someone was going to laugh at the way I struggled with the small dumbbells and say "Aw, that's cute, that little girl she thinks she can lift." I didn't want to perpetuate the stereotype that women are weak because, at the time, I was. I felt stronger than I looked and I just wanted the chance to prove myself... but I was scared.
It was over 20 years ago (holy crap I feel old) and I still remember feeling so awkward as I quietly walked over to the weights for the first time. It felt like everyone was towering over me. I was Olive Oil in a sea of Popeyes. I kept my headphones on and didn't make eye contact with anyone. And then for the first time, I just did it. I just started lifting... and I loved it.
To this day I can vaguely recall a handful of instances when someone made a condescending comment or shot me a look that made me feel like I was out of my league. But here's the best part - I also remember not giving a shit! I felt so good doing what I was doing that I stopped caring about the sideways glances or occasional dumb comment.
And do you know what's even more empowering than lifting heavy weights?
- Overcoming a "silly" fear and participating in something that you thought you couldn't or weren't supposed to do.
- Being strong enough or happy enough not to care what other people think of you.
- Realizing that you can change if you want to. I'm not weak anymore. I'm not even just "strong for a girl" anymore. I'm just strong.
It was in those very formative teen years, amongst the dumbbells and the Popeyes, that I had an epiphany: I am happy here. If you don't think I belong, that's your problem, not mine. I understand that this may not make sense to you, but it makes sense to me.
This is why I have such love for "the simple act of picking up and putting down various metal objects". Because it's not simple at all. I needed that scary weight room as a young girl, and now I realize that I actually needed there to be obstacles and fears. There are very few things that have taught me as much about myself as my experiences in the gym. And if you are reading this right now, I'm sure you can relate... or you will soon.
I could have kept running, but I'm so glad I didn't. I'm so glad I stopped worrying about being judged and playing it safe. I want the same for you, inside and outside of the gym, and that's exactly why I started Fashletics in the first place. I hope you can find something here that serves as a reminder of the happiness that comes from overcoming fears, claiming your strength, and being fit in both mind and body.
Whatever intimidates you, whatever your version of "the scary weight room" is- run towards it, not away from it.