If you are to walk into any fitness center or gym, I can promise you that, more often than not, you can count on one hand the number of women who are in the weight section. It is common for women to avoid the weight section and gravitate towards cardio equipment such as the treadmill or elliptical. I believe that there are several reasons why women are intimidated by the weight section. I will address how to overcome those fears and debunk the myths about strength training specifically with women.
There are numerous amounts of myths circulating about strength training for women. I believe that these myths are the number one reason why women avoid the weight section in the first place. Not all, but some women hit the gym when they’re looking to lose weight. Cardio seems like the perfect answer to weight loss. While there is no shame in being a Cardio Queen, this is just not true. Let’s debunk this myth! Gaining muscle strength helps you burn more calories during your rest periods because muscle burns more calories than fat. Muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat tissue. Though cardio may help you burn more calories in a single period, it is not continual. If you were to lose 20 pounds, up to 40% of that weight loss is muscle, bone or water. Weight lifting builds your muscle, allowing you to burn more fat so less than 15% of that loss is muscle, bone or water. Weight training can also raise a person's metabolic rate for as long as 12 hours after exercising- this is because you’re increasing your resting metabolism when strength training. That means that if you lift weights, your body will burn calories faster in the hours FOLLOWING your workout.
Let’s debunk another myth! Strength training will not make you look “big and bulky.” Weight lifting will strengthen your muscles. There are definitely ways to “bulk up” but only if you're full of testosterone and eating way too many calories. It is not in the female genetic makeup to bulk up naturally. You will build muscle, therefore shedding more fat and achieving that “toned” look.
It is natural to fear the weight section. Since it is usually overcrowded by large men, you might have a fear that everyone is watching you and judging you or maybe you’re just not exactly sure how to lift properly or structure a workout routine. It’s much easier to fire up a treadmill by simply pressing “GO.” All of these roadblocks come down to your mindset and confidence. The first thing I recommend to do is use social media to your advantage and watch YouTube videos or Instagram videos. There are so many videos at your disposal that will walk you through how to lift properly- showing proper form and different types of workouts. There are also a ton of influencers whose job is to post videos of their workouts. My favorites are Whitney Simmons (whitneyysimmons), Kathryn and Kendra (kk_fit_) and Robin Gallant (robingallantt). You can follow them all on Instagram and there are so many more people just like them. Take advantage of this and follow the videos influencers post. They post them for that purpose!
The next thing to know is that no one is watching you. You have to keep in mind that everyone is there for their own personal benefit. Everyone is looking to better themselves and they will respect you for trying to do the same. This leads me to my next point- if you don’t at least try, you will never know if you will truly enjoy it and you will never achieve results. You can also try going to the gym during the least busy hours. These hours usually consist of early mornings or late nights- or basically, any time that isn’t between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Go when there are not too many people to gain some confidence and work up some courage. It is also not a bad idea to have a friend tag along. This way you can have someone to confide in and might make you feel less awkward or anxious. Lastly, many women say that they don’t want to go to the gym because the men there are “creepy” and make them feel uncomfortable. I will say this does happen, though it is not every day that this happens. If this does happen, either address the man yourself or talk to the gym’s staff. They do not allow this kind of behavior and will take action.
My last tip is to start small. Just working up the guts to walk into a testosterone invaded area and lift weights is a huge step. Grab a pair of dumbbells, find an unused bench or cable, set your belongings near you and use that as your own personal space. You can complete an entire workout with a pair of dumbbells without moving around the gym. Don’t let fear, and definitely not a man, hold you back from reaching your goals.
I’m not trying to get you to quit your cardio routine. There is no doubt that cardio is beneficial to the body. ANY form of exercise is beneficial. It is also important to remember to work out to feel good and improve your health, not just look good- that’s just an added bonus. It is most important to find a form of exercise that YOU enjoy the most. My job here is to simply educate women and maybe inspire you to pick up some weights. I want to end the stigma behind women in the weight section. As time goes on, we see more women looking to become strong. I would like to continue this trend. It is important to understand the myths and benefits of strength training. If this is something that sparks your interest, or you think will help you reach your goals, don’t let fear stand in your way.