Disclaimer 1: this ended up being a little jumbled, as I can’t get my thoughts 100% clear on it. Please feel free to ask me to clarify anything in comments!
Jennifer from Wine to Weightlifting requested a post from me about how I got into powerlifting. I can go one better and write about the hows and some of the whys!
It’s coming up for five years since I started at BGWLC, so things are a tad hazy now. However, I was regularly documenting everything in my LiveJournal back then, and looking back I can see I did my first session on April 22nd 2009, where I did 20kg box squats, 20kg bench & 40kg deadlift. But how did I get there?
At that point I had been seeing a personal trainer at my work gym for a couple of months. I was 32 and started seeing her because I was feeling very unfit, I’d never exercised before, didn’t know how to exercise and (dare I say it) I thought I was fat. I initially told her I wanted to lose 2 stone (28lbs).
I started doing pretty regular training stuff with the PT – jogging (outside & on the treadmill), weights machines, other cardio bits & bobs etc. It was OK. I signed up for a 5k, all the usual beginner cliches. But I didn’t really love it – especially not jogging (I was never able to “run” – my fastest-ever 5k time was 41 minutes, and that was me moving as fast as I possibly could without dying).
I did a little bit of free-weight work but not much, as we were limited by the equipment in my work gym. I decided, somehow, that I really fancied learning how to lift weights properly. I don’t recall where this idea really came from, but it had been there for a while. And I wanted to be taught, formally – not to just sign up at a better-equipped gym & try to figure it out myself. So I had a bit of a Google and came up with Tower Hamlets Adult Education’s Weight & Power Lifting classes.
And now for an interjection. I did NOT want to start weightlifting because of all those “get sexy, lean and strong” images out there. In fact, I didn’t even know that rhetoric & those images existed when I started lifting – and if I did know, I don’t think I would have started lifting. Honestly.
Let me back up a bit. I have always been a bit…weird regarding gender. Sure, I’m a woman & all that, but in my 20s I went through a period of really really hating being a woman and would have given anything to be something else. I think if I had been exposed to Twitter, easily-consumed feminism and the fact that gender essentialism is bullshit in my 20s, I would have been a much happier person. But I wasn’t, and as a result I loathed anything “stereotypically female” for a long time.
So when I decided I wanted to lift weights, I wanted to lift weights because I wanted to be more like men. I wanted to lift weights to be more aggressive, more intimidating, bigger, scarier. If I had seen articles about how weightlifting can make women more sexy, attractive to men, whatever, I would have rejected it off the bat. I didn’t want to be more like a woman – being a woman was, for me, less than desirable. My inspiration was people like the WSM competitors – big, strong, and yes – pretty scary-seeming; not the lean, sexy, passive, submissively-posed lady fitspo image that’s so prevalent now. My idols have pretty much always been male.
So when I see people saying they don’t want to lift because they’re scared of being “manly”, it doesn’t resonate with me. I started lifting because I wanted to move away from being perceived as feminine. I already worked in all-male environments, so this was just another step in that direction, right? I wanted strength, I wanted bulk, I wanted to be intimidating – all traits that my mind associated with being manly.
Luckily, it’s a few years later and I’ve wised up to the fact that being a woman doesn’t mean you have to be feminine (stereotypically or otherwise), passive, sexy, attractive, etc etc. I can be bulky, aggressive, intimidating, whatever, and it doesn’t stop me being a woman (in my eyes anyhow). Down with stereotypical gender bullshit! Thank god for Twitter & feminism 🙂
So back to April 2009. While I started working out with my PT with the goal of losing 2 stone, that fell by the wayside pretty quickly. I think I realised after a few months of working my ass off with the PT that losing weight wasn’t going to happen – and maybe I didn’t want it to anyway. I signed up to BGWLC thinking I was signing up for (what I later learned was) Olympic weightlifting, but turned out both Giles (the WL coach) and Martin (the PL coach) were there on the day I signed up. Martin took one look at me – short, round – and decided I should try powerlifting, which I’d never heard of. The rest,as they say, is history!
So if you ever wonder why I’m uninterested in talking about lifting weights making you leaner/sexier; why I don’t chime in with saying “lifting won’t make you bulky/manly!” etc, maybe this helps explain why. Powerlifting has not only made me stronger & more confident, but it’s also made me more comfortable in my skin because it has not made me sexier/leaner/more attractive, and that doesn’t matter! I embrace the bulk, and big muscles aren’t necessarily “manly” (but what’s wrong with being manly anyhow?). For me, powerlifting has brought fitness without the aesthetic obligation.
Disclaimer 2: If people want to use lifting to make themselves more attractive, that’s cool – there are zillions of articles telling you how lifting can do that! Just not here 😉