I first joined a gym two years ago. While my brother would go straight to the weightroom, I would do a miserable 30 minutes on the treadmill and then another 30 doing bodyweight exercises on a mat. This got boring very quickly and going to the gym felt more like a chore than self-care.
My brother, catching on to my frustrations, started encouraging me to lift with him. Although I was initially timid, I followed his lead. A couple years later, I can say it was one of the best decisions I’ve made.
Shortly after I began lifting, I started to see significant changes in my body: I was leaning out and gaining muscle. However, the most important growth I’ve experienced is in my mental health.
As more time went on, I fell in love with how weightlifting made me feel, and it became part of my daily regimen.
As a kid, I was always very aware of my body and my size. Growing up in the social media age, where image is everything and being raised in New York City, where being skinny is almost a “trend,” really set me out to have body image issues.
Starting as young as 12, I remember feeling the need to watch what I was eating, go on diets, and stay active to get rid of my “fluff”.
Naturally, I was also on the bigger size compared to the other girls I went to school with. I put on mass quickly and had my mom’s big, strong, Filipino legs and wide stature.
I found myself constantly comparing my body and determining my worth based on how thin I was — which is a sad reality for many girls, especially at such a young age.
I felt like regardless of what I was doing I always felt ashamed of my body because I wasn’t “small enough.”
I felt that up until I started weightlifting, which has given me the beautiful gift of loving my body.
I never thought I would be able to squat over 100 lbs and now every time I do I feel empowered — it’s hard to hate your body when you’ve seen the amazing things it’s capable of.
It is also incredibly encouraging to see other female powerlifters promote the image of a strong and healthy woman, starting from the inside out.
One of my favorite female strength trainers and YouTuber Nikki Blackketter, struggled with alcoholism in her early life. She speaks to how lifting has given her purpose and motivation and has made her mentally, as well as physically stronger.
There are still moments where I feel body conscious – I am certainly still not “model skinny.” There are also certain idealizations that exist in the fitness industry surrounding what a desirable physique looks like.
However, these moments are overshadowed by the positivity that I feel when I lift, as well as the attitudes of other lifters who share the same experience and mindset that I do.
Loving my body is not the only gift lifting has given me. It has also provided me an outlet for relieving stress.
When I go to the gym, I have an entire hour or two that is all about me and my health. During my exercises, I hone in on one action, directing all of my energy into something constructive and healthy, while blocking out any worries I may have.
I leave the gym with a rush of endorphins and a clear head.
Getting out of a hard session at the gym makes me feel like I can accomplish any obstacle thrown my way. I feel more productive in other aspects of my life, and I fall asleep feeling at ease.
Weightlifting has truly improved my overall quality of life. It has taught me to treat myself with love and care while also making me a more positive and happy individual.
No amount of pain from any amount of weight or reps can outweigh the immense (physical and mental) gains lifting has brought me.