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No, I'm Not Lost: A Woman's Guide To Weight Lifting And Avoiding "Gymtimidation"

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Thanks to CrossFit, several fitness magazines, and the rapidly shifting culture of mainstream exercise, more women are turning to weightlifting and strength training to achieve their fitness goals. The benefits are innumerable, and though popular advice once stated otherwise, women can lift just as heavy as men.

However, as most women will inevitably discover, the path to strength training is wrought with intimidation, unsolicited advice, and in the worst cases, overwhelming sexism.

Men Will Ask if You Need Help

This will probably happen every time you step foot in the free weights section, so get used to it. The proportion of male to female weightlifters is still painfully uneven, and until women start leveling the playing field, they will continue to be looked at as little more than occasional strangers. 

You Will Receive A Lot More “Form Critique” Than Men Ever Do

You might be a professional Olympic weightlifter with flawless execution and the form of a seasoned champion, but you will still receive tons of unsolicited advice from male strangers. On several occasions, I’ve personally witnessed several guys totally bypass a group of other guys lifting incorrectly in order to “help” a woman who clearly knew exactly what she was doing. In one particular case, the guy in question was also lifting incorrectly before he rushed to the woman’s aid.

Most Attentions Are Benign

If you’re in the gym and you look like you’ve never stepped foot in one a day in your life, it’s understandable that some experienced lifters may be concerned for your safety. Lifting injuries are common and chronic, and the worst thing you can do for your training is to herniate a disk or blow out your shoulder. If the men (and women) around you are offering you their help, they’re probably trying to do just that.

But Some Definitely Aren’t

Of course, if the advice you’re getting seems disingenuous, it probably is. Many people consider their gym an appropriate place to pick up a date, and some people are obnoxiously persistent. If you aren’t interested, make that clear from the beginning, and don’t hesitate to alert the front desk if you’re feeling particularly harassed.

It’s Still Totally Worth It

I know I haven’t painted a terribly attractive picture of what life is like for a female weightlifter, but I promise, the results are completely worth the trouble. Sure, you’ll be spending almost as much time battling off unwanted attention as you will actually learning how to lift, but the moment you’re able to deadlift more than that shirtless gym rat next to you will help you get over it.


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