Every time I walk over to the weight section in the Life Fitness Center with my blond hair in a ponytail, mascara on my eyelashes and pink water bottle in hand, people stare at me as I grab the 30 pound dumbbells.
Last week when I was working out and doing bicep curls, the guy next to me said, “Wow, you’re really strong for a girl.” Because women are not supposed to be strong, right?
When I turned 17, I decided to go against the odds and start lifting weights in the gym. Heavy workouts, strict diet and hours in the gym became a part of my daily life. Nobody thought I was serious or that I could keep my discipline, not even my mom.
Three years have passed and I’m still going, but what has become clearer to me with time is the fear many other girls have of adopting this kind of lifestyle. And I understand them. There are many myths about how girls will look masculine by building muscle. Even worse, social norms say that women are not supposed to be lifting weights.
Few people have done enough research to realize the extremely hard work and specific dedication required for a woman to achieve what is seen as “manly.” The truth is that women are not biologically and physically able to build muscle in the same intensive way as men, because a woman’s body naturally does not produce the same amount of testosterone.
Yet there are women who have achieved a masculine physique, like those who compete in bodybuilding. What’s left untold, however, are the years of hard work this person has dedicated to get there. Some of the biggest stars in competitive bodybuilding have spent their lifetime building their dream body.
No matter what goal or purpose a person may have with their training, others should accept and support their dedication.
Unfortunately, strange looks and comments from people are simply something I’ve come to expect because I am a woman in the gym. No matter what size or shape a person may be, chances are that person will be judged based on appearance, experience or gender. But no one should hesitate to walk up to those weights in the gym because of fear of what others will think.
Social media plays a big role in making bodybuilding more gender neutral and socially accepted. It is an easy way to inspire, be inspired and gain knowledge. People commonly share their diets, workout plans and recipes via apps like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
Female bodybuilding is slowly on the rise, thanks to a new trend freeing women to be healthy and strong instead of just skinny. More women are breaking new grounds in the gym, but it is still often seen as bold, brave and different in contrast to social norms.
There are several fitness courses available at City College and it is very satisfying to see more girls taking advantage of this by discovering new ways to exercise.
Weightlifting is much more than just building muscle, it’s about becoming stronger as a person and challenging our mental limits.