First off I want to thank you for creating this site. You have no idea how much it has changed me and my life (actually you probably do have some idea since I am sure I am not the first person to tell you this).
I guess my story starts out like a lot of women’s stories. As a kid I was always slim and could eat whatever I wanted. I participated in dance classes on a regular basis and was just an all around active kid (but was never really “good” at anything).
However when I turned 18, I suddenly started to gain weight like I had never before. In my life I had never been told that I was fat or ugly, but suddenly now my mother was commenting on my weight and diet and the boy I was sating was telling me that my butt was starting to look too big and unattractive. Needless to say, I was devastated. My already fragile just out of high school self-esteem was being broken down like never before.
But I didn’t let it get me down and that summer I decided to join a gym that was close to my house. I did my fitness assessment and of course they told me that I should stick to cardio and weight machines which I honestly did not like. I had terrible endurance and I hated running on a treadmill or doing step aerobics classes.
Then someone on the now defunct technodyke message board guided me over to your website. I was 19 years old at the time and willing to try anything. Plus I was ecstatic that I found a website that was created by someone who had the same interests as me (Women’s Studies!!) and was also a Canadian So after reading your website thoroughly ands learning everything that I could about weightlifting I decided to venture into the free weight room. I was addicted the moment that I did. Suddenly my outlook on the gym changed and I was in there all the time lifting my weights and pushing myself. Finally I was actually GOOD at something!! I noticed changes in my body but not a ton. Still, it did not matter to me because I finally felt like I could use my body in an efficient manner. Carrying bags of groceries in the house all at once was no match for me!!
My biggest hurdle however was facing the objections of everyone around me. My mother was so afraid that I was going to “get bulky” or “get too big” or even hurt myself. My boyfriend at the time told me that my legs were going to get too big if I did squats and that if I bench pressed anything my breasts would get small. After about a year and a half I started to feel discouraged and I slowly stopped training like I had before. It sucked that everyone around me was not supporting me in what I enjoyed doing.
Flash forward to the present: I finished my undergrad degree and at 25 years of age moved from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Dallas, Texas in order to pursue my JD. The warm weather and large gyms was very condusive to getting my butt back into the gym. I started going to my apartment gym which is right across the street from my building and worked out with friends. Then about 5 months ago I met my boyfriend Brian. Only a year older then me, Brian is a former competitive bodybuilder turned Strongman with an amazing personality, a Taoist philosophy on life and an amazing body. On our first date I asked him what he did to look so good and he told me “deadlifts and squats”. I think I wanted to kiss him at that moment.
As we started to get more serious, he and I started to train together along with a good friend of his who is a seasoned Strongman. Not only is he supportive of me lifting heavy, he encourages it!! He has helped me change my workout and eating habits and I have done a total 180. At 5’4” I now weight 111lbs but am trying to put on a bit more muscle. My abs and legs have never looked this good and my arms and back are amazing.
But most importantly, my self esteem and how I see myself has never been this great. Not only do I look and feel good, but I have someone else around me who thinks that me being a strong woman is cool!! We are in the gym together every week challenging ourselves and encouraging each other. He has got me doing things that I never thought were possible for me:
1) I have pulled his car (a Pontiac Vibe)
2) I can now do one-armed push ups
3) I can do chin-ups
This past weekend we trekked out to Metroflex, a hole in the wall gym that is the Home of Mr. Olympia Ronnie Colman. There we trained with some competitive strongman and I flipped a 400lbs tire and maxed out my deadlift at 150lbs (the most I have ever pulled…but I do have a goal of 200lbs my summer’s end).
I introduced Brian to your website and he loves it as well, and he has even taken your advice on patellofemoral syndrome (he injured his knee after his first strongman competition while lifting an Atlas stone). We are both huge fans!!!
Again thank you a million times for creating this website. I really have no idea what my life would be like without it.
I don’t have any before and after pics just yet, but here’s one of me pulling Brian’s car.
Your site is always top on my list to recommend to people asking about exercise for women, especially weight lifting. I recommend it to everyone even the guys, especially the gay ones who can’t stop cooing over you. I can’t remember when I first read your site but it was at least 3-4 years ago. I do remember DEVOURING it, every single word, and learning so much while unlearning even more. I’m sad to say that I didn’t apply all that knowledge to my own life until a good while after that; mostly I walked around lecturing other people using your site as my reference (while remaining fat and unaffected by the advice I was handing out). My favorite bits that get passed around to people are the diatribe on pushups, your focus on the importance of the squat, your advice about being a girl in a weight room full of guys and the importance of rest (that’s where I first learned about muscle being torn and rebuilding better so as to protect itself).
I was just reading rant #48 and was reminded of where I was when I first read your site. Eerily, so much of what she describes was also my process several years ago. All that has changed for me, I say at the risk of jinxing myself. I wanted to share the story of my motivation with you in case it might spark something for someone else. My story is the same ole boring late 30s married woman who has given up trying to be healthy and fit, plenty of excuses, none of them at all important now. I was always athletic and always ate pretty well but I didn’t really keep it up enough as I got older, thinking that I could worry about my health later.
I was very fortunate to have a series of things happen in my life that I found extremely motivating. Looking back I’m not even sure what order they all came, they just seemed to pile up on me but they are divorce, death of a parent, possible loss of job/hating job, possible crippling health condition, depression. Such a tangled web of causation that I can’t even parse it but that isn’t even important. Divorce (stretched out over 3 years) and the thought of dating again actually wasn’t a very potent motivator.
I think what started me off was my therapist saying that he thought I was suffering from depression. My response was, “oh you did NOT just say that! I am NOT depressed! Take that back! So how do we cure this not-depression?” Being someone who barely will take an Advil I wasn’t going to medicate my depression away and in defiance of my diagnosis I did EVERYTHING to fight it, including exercising. Maybe exercise cured my depression all by its lonesome but maybe it was all the other changes (getting out more, meditating, seeing friends, taking care of myself, trying new things etc.) and again, it really doesn’t matter.
Work sucked and when they refused to pay me for working through my dinner break (even though I sat at my desk and worked while I ate) I decided to stick it to the Man and go to the gym for my dinner break. Away at the gym when they looked for me to do something, I felt a rush of vindication that I was somehow beating them at their game. Before I knew it, my gym visits had become a habit. I no longer care so much about sticking it to the man, I just go to the gym for the awesome way I feel when I finish my workout. I could drone on and on about my workout, what I do in the gym and why, what I eat but that is maybe another story.
Somewhere in all that with my divorce inching along and being generally icky, my mother passed away suddenly and at a young age. This was really the kicker for me because it was such a personal loss to me on top of so much other crap, crap that my mother was so good at helping me through. My mother’s death somehow became my own near-death experience. She died of a heart attack aggravated by diabetes, two health conditions that I was well on my way to inheriting. Seeing my mother die at the young age of 67 was a big fist right in my face. I finally realized that there is no future time to start being healthy, there is no time to waste, there is no other life I will lead later.
It became crystal clear to me that “enjoying” my life by eating whatever I wanted and not exercising was not any kind of joy at all. At the age of 42, on the track I was on, I had 25 years left to live. A few months after my mother’s death I woke up with terrible joint pain in all my joints; Lyme Disease was ruled out and I was sent to a rheumatologist so I started reading up on rheumatoid arthritis, assuming that my symptoms matched. Until I had a clear negative diagnosis (and the pain went away entirely) I spent a lot of frantic and sleepless nights worrying about what my life was going to be like single, crippled and motherless. This incident just deepened my epiphany that I really didn’t have any reason to not be the healthiest person I could be.
All of this has unfolded over the last 3+ years meaning this wasn’t a situation where I woke up to a choir of angels bathed in golden sunlight and my life was forever altered. It was an excrutiating process through to learn my lessons, one that I wouldn’t wish on anyone and yet I feel very very fortunate to have learned at all. I’m still learning because I find I need to keep that motivation flowing. My increasing health and fitness and happiness fuels my efforts and has now become a way of life for me, one that I hope can withstand whatever else is up for me in life. I didn’t mean for this story to become a “profile of courage” or to even go on so long. This is the first time that I have put it all together and down on “paper” for someone else. Feel free to share this with your readers if you think it could be of use. I don’t think my story is inspiring for others but I think that maybe it could wake people up to find motivation in their own lives, even in the most shitty aspects of their lives.
Oh, did I mention that your site rocks?!
I just want to thank you for your articles about weight lifting during pregnancy! I have been reading your site for years, and I have always appreciated what you have to say. However, I am especially grateful for what you’ve written about pregnancy.
I am currently in my 3rd pregnancy. I have worked out while expecting my first two kids, and this one is no exception. As the years have passed, I have gotten stronger, and, not wanting to lose too much of the ground I’ve gained, I have tried to maintain my usual lifting regime as much as possible during each pregnancy, with the inclusion of a little more caution.
Now, I am proud to go to the gym to do my 30 lbs. dumbbell curls at 29 weeks and my unassisted triceps dips and military style push ups, just as I did pre-pregnancy, despite the funny looks and occasional comments (“You still feeling like exercising?!”)
That said, I have read many articles regarding pregnancy and weight lifting on other sites, and the majority of what I’ve read is just downright ridiculous! What to Expect When You’re Expecting’s website says never to lift more than 12 lbs! Others say don’t lift at all, just raise your arms above your head to “stretch” the muscles.
Childbirth is one of the most demanding physical challenges a woman will ever face; why weaken your body for 40 weeks before meeting that challenge? It makes no sense to me, as does the fact that the people who support these views seem to ignore the fact that women have been carrying heavy burdens throughout pregnancy for centuries and still do in many areas of the world. Considering the human population continues to grow exponentially, it must not be harming women’s overall childbearing ability too greatly.
It is so sad to me how our society weakens and stereotypes pregnant women, and sites like yours help to dispel some of those myths and re-empower women. Now if only the word could spread further! We haven’t come as far as we might like to think from the Victorian era-views of “lying in.”
More women need to see what they are capable of. So many of my friends give up on their bodies — and by extension themselves — after they have children, saying the weak muscles, weight gain, etc. is just part of the sacrifice of motherhood. It’s not. In fact, it damages our children as much as it damages us.
So, once again, thank you for your articles; keep up the awesome work! It doesn’t just help people to build their muscles; it helps them to reinvent their lives!