Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UMKC chapter.

Since I moved into the dorms, I’ve been hitting the gym about four times a week. I didn’t have an exact goal in mind when I started but knew that I wanted to gain some muscle and feel stronger. As someone who has been lifting for nine months now, here are the aspects I’ve learned, noticed and want to share with others.

It’s scary to try a new exercise, but you won’t be afraid forever.

For quite some time, I was scared to pick up a set of dumbbells and only stuck to machine exercises. I was worried that I would be judged for the amount I could lift or not perform the exercise correctly. I’m a pretty small person, and it’s very daunting when the massive “gym bros” already have a routine down and are surrounding the weights area. Although, the more I kept going to the weight bench and picking up my tiny dumbbells, the more confidence I gained. It took me a while to feel comfortable trying new exercises and developing a routine without feeling like I was in the spotlight, but even though I’m tiny, I’m still worthy of taking up space and exercising for myself.

Everyone looks different than what I thought, and it’s so refreshing.

One of the toxic things I was happy to escape was the mindset that being strong was equivalent to having a small waist and big glutes. When scrolling through Instagram, this was the only “strong” body type I was exposed to. However, I’ve seen women of all shapes and sizes working to get stronger at the weight rack. They don’t know it, but I silently look up to them and take note of the exercises they’re doing to implement them in my routine. Personally, I feel that TikTok is a better platform for finding strong women to look up to because it differs from the “Instagram Influencer body” that women are expected to achieve. Two people I suggest following early on are @leanbeefpatty and @brittsmiley_. Their content always keeps me going and makes me smile. 

You’re allowed to rest and not beat yourself up.

When I started becoming more passionate about lifting, I would get angry at myself for not performing as well as I expected. Getting tough and angry is great to fuel some people, but not me. I’ve learned that I perform much better when I’m nice to myself. If I can’t do one more rep, that’s perfectly okay and doesn’t disregard the rest of the set I completed. You can still push your limits and know when your body needs to rest at the same time, especially to avoid injuries. Negative reinforcements can hurt the gym experience.

Don’t let comparisons stop you.

When I work out, if I tell myself to do one more rep to look like someone else, I end up spiraling with comparisons. Instead, I use cheesy mindsets of training for the Hunger Games or going to fight the Titans from my favorite anime show. There’s no waiting to be strong at your “end body” because you can still be strong at this moment. If you start lifting weights, you can swap out your motivation to be surviving a zombie apocalypse or fighting the enemy from your favorite Marvel movie. If I think too much about wanting to look like a famous influencer or lifting as much as them, I believe it takes away all the little victories that I’ve done to get to the present. Some people may not even desire to change their bodies and just want to feel stronger, so that’s why I enjoy using this imaginary motivation because I believe it’s appealing to everyone. Comparison really is the thief of joy, but wanting to be as awesome and fierce as Black Widow isn’t. 

Just keep trying.

This may sound like very generic advice, but it’s so important. In high school, I remember struggling to pick up the weight bar, and now here I was again struggling with the 10-pound dumbbell. I didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere for a while, but suddenly after being consistent, it clicked. I was moving up to the 15s and my pushup number was increased gradually. I was less tired and finally, it became easier. If you’re like me and trying to put your mind and body to the test, keep going. Keep telling yourself that no matter what you look like you are stronger today than you were yesterday, and I promise you will get there.

I really love lifting at the gym now and even have met friends on campus who will join me. It’s been a great experience and I now talk about my improvements with others. Blowing off bad energy and getting stronger in the process is so nice. Sure, being new at the weight rack is terrifying, but one day at a time, it gets so much easier and definitely more empowering.

Belle Yennie (she/they) is from Independence, Missouri. They are currently majoring in English and minoring in communications at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Belle was named Outstanding Mass Media Journalist in 2021 at Fort Osage High School and is continuing their passion through Her Campus and RooNews, UMKC's student media platform. They enjoy writing about anything, but their favorite topics to cover include wellness and trends. Living in the KC Metro has allowed Belle to go on mini adventures, such as browsing antique stores or trying out new restaurants.