About a year ago, I started casually lifting weights — almost as a joke. My boyfriend had started weight training at home, but at the time, I was still committed both philosophically and financially to my barre, aerial yoga, and spin regimen. A few homebound workouts and one gym membership later, I can actually see my muscles. I'm in better shape than I have ever been, and I've learned a few things about strength training that no one ever tells you about before you do your first rep.
Let's rewind to those workouts marketed to women for just a minute. As a human female and sucker for clever marketing, my workouts were as stereotypically gendered as they come. They were filled with tiny pink weights and instructors earnestly pleading with my classmates and me to put in a little bit more effort. As a mental health treatment, those workouts did the job and then some. Crushing a climb sequence in a spin class while listening to Adele's "Set Fire To The Rain" on full blast can do great things for your self esteem, and nothing will make you feel sexier faster than the graceful thrusting of a barre class, but it was going to take more than that to reach the fitness goals that I had set for myself.
These are a few pieces of wisdom that I've gained from late nights in the gym doing pull-ups.
1. People will stare
No matter what you look like or who you are, there are going to be people in the gym that will watch you lift. Some of them are just trying to think of what song to put in their Spotify cues next, but some of them will be judging your appearance, competitively sizing you up, or even studying your form. It won't happen all the time, but it will eventually happen. The only thing you can do is push out another rep and ignore them.
2. People will offer unsolicited advice and assistance
Despite the fact that you're wearing ear buds, some people will still feel the need to "help" you out. It doesn't matter that you're squatting more than your body weight, some fools just can't help themselves.
3. You’ll have to experiment with what weight is appropriate for each lift
It's not altogether obvious what one should be lifting for incline pec flies or any other lift, for that matter, so take it slow, start light, and find a weight that's appropriate for you. Shoot for 10 reps with perfect form before you increase the weight.
4. Don’t shortchange yourself
Nobody becomes a giant body builder by accident. You won't become the Incredible Hulk from getting stronger and lifting heavier weights. Body building is a lifestyle that requires an intense amount of dedication and discipline, and going hard on biceps one night isn't going to get you there.
5. Don’t overdo it — no one will be impressed
Trying to increase weight on a lift before you're ready is a great way to injure yourself and spend the next month healing on the couch. Trust me, the smug feeling of accomplishment you'll have is not worth the risk of showing off, no matter how tempting it may be.
6. Some days, you will be weak
Whether it's from lack of sleep, dehydration, stress, boredom, or one of a hundred other reasons why your workout went poorly, it happens, and it's not a reflection of anything deeper.
7. Strength training is just as demanding as cardio
Despite the deeply ingrained notion that cardio is the only exercise that gets your blood pumping, doing a few sets of rows will definitely get your heart pounding and your metabolism grooving.
8. Leg day will make you hungry and tired
Because the muscles in your legs are so big and the movements in a leg workout recruit energy from loads of different muscles in your lower body, leg day will not be the energizing morning routine to kickstart a productive day. After a good leg workout, all I want to do is eat an entire pizza and go to bed.
9. Don’t skip the chest
Apparently, some people think that women don't need to work their pectoral muscles, but I'm telling you right now, your pectoral muscles are what hold your breasts up, so work them, use them, and watch as your girls start to defy gravity.
For more ideas, check out Bustle on YouTube.
Images: Muscle & Strength/YouTube; Giphy (4)