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I Started Weightlifting And Here’s What Happened

When classes start it’s always so hard for me to find the time and motivation to go to the Rec and get my sweat on. It’s a bit of a shame because the Recreation and Wellness Center that we have on campus is such a great facility to have at our disposal. I’ve found that heading to the gym with a few gal pals has actually really helped me, so when my roommate approached me about starting a weightlifting program with her, I was in. I’ll admit I had my doubts at first, and when I stepped into the weight room for the first time and saw all of the guys in there, I almost did a u-turn straight out the door. However, I stuck with it and had surprising results.

Nobody Was Looking At Me

It’s an outrage, I know. How dare they not be consumed with the desire to watch me make a fool of myself with a barbell and a silly sense of belonging? In all seriousness, though, no one was paying any attention to my roommate and me. Every sweaty bicep was focused on getting shredded and *SWOL*. My biggest insecurity with beginning to lift weights was the sheer volume of men camping out by the dumbbells, and not a single one acted like I wasn’t supposed to be there, which made me feel like I was actually supposed to be there. Once I realized that everyone was focused on having the greatest sweat sesh they could, I was able to relax and have a surprising amount of fun.

I Didn’t Look At Anyone Else

Okay, I peeked a little. As someone who is just learning how to squat with a bar, can you really expect me to not be at least a little mesmerized with the fella pop locking and dropping it in the middle of the floor without breaking form in the slightest? Aside from Squat King, though, I swear I didn’t look at anyone else. After taking a slow glance around the weight room to make sure people weren’t looking at me, I forgot all about the testosterone and was able to focus on the set I was doing. Let me tell you, friends — I was all the better for it. The weight room is a place for growth, not judgement! I’m surprised but glad that that was my experience.

I… Grunted.

I’m not ashamed of the weights I’m lifting. I thought I would be, but when I’m trying to focus on not dropping a dumbbell on my face or throwing my back out like a surprise Eminem album, I don’t have time to be embarrassed. Everyone starts somewhere, and I had to start somewhere, too. When shredded guy number one got off the bench and I stepped up to the plate (wait… is that how it works??), I had to take all the weight off the bar. I then began bench pressing the bar, sans weight. And something happened. I grunted. I’ll repeat that for those of you in the back. This skinny bar of metal made me grunt. And it felt good. Grunting gave me the extra oomph to get the bar all the way up, again and again. When I got off the bench and shredded guy number two took my place, I didn’t feel ashamed… I felt strong and fierce.

I Sweat. A Lot.

I come from a cross-country background and used to scoff at the idea of lifting weights counting as a workout. If it didn’t have cardio, was it really a workout? Well, friends, let me tell you what I have discovered. Weightlifting is cardio. In order for something to count as a cardiovascular workout, your heart rate and breathing rate just have to be elevated throughout the duration of the exercise. I could have been the Big Bad Wolf with how much I huffed and puffed. I could have given life to an entire succulent garden with how much I sweat. If what I did wasn’t cardio, then I’m not sure what it was and I should probably go to the doctor.

I Liked Being Sore

Have you ever crawled into bed at night, just ridiculously content because you got sh*t done and you deserve the unconsciousness you’re about to get? I didn’t always have that experience, and now I’m having it on the regular. My sleep is better, my energy is better, my self-esteem is better. All of this is great, but the biggest reward so far is how my body feels — I’m sore. Not the kind of sore where you’re weak and can’t get off the floor or walk down the stairs in the morning. I have no interest in that kind of sore. No, the sore that I am is a dull ache, a reminder of accomplishment. Do I feel it in my arms when I put a pot away above the stove? Yes. But can I still reach up and do it? Yes. My body is sore in the way where it doesn’t affect my day to day activities, but I constantly know that my cells are building and rebuilding from all of the hard work I’ve been putting in.

I Felt Like A Bada** Lady

I had a moment my first day in the weight room where I looked up and locked eyes with myself in the mirror. I had a bar on my back and I was deep in a shaky squat. Sweat dripped from every nook and cranny of my body, my knuckles glowed white from clenching the barbell with everything in me and I realized… I made it here. I made it past my insecurities and fears and shame and stepped outside of my comfort zone and picked up a bar of weight. Walking around the weight room with the mindset that I belonged there helped me feel a confidence I hadn’t felt in a long time. I wasn’t just confident. I was a bada**.


Kayleen Hedberg

Minnesota '19

Kayleen is a a senior at the University of Minnesota studying English and Creative Writing. She is a Hufflepuff, a cat mom and lover of all things superhero.
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