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The Mental Transformation of Strength Training

When I came home for summer break after my first year of college, I almost immediately noticed that something didn’t feel right — and by that, I mean none of my clothes fit. I remember sitting in the middle of my room, surrounded by every pair of shorts I owned. One by one, I tried each pair on; and the more I tried on, the less they fit, and the less they fit, the more frustrated I grew.

A mixture of late night pizza, alcohol, and stress (go figure) contributed to the 15 pounds I put on that spring semester. And yes, I, too, find it impressive that I precisely gained the freshmen 15; well, now, almost a full year later, I do. Now, dear reader, you need to know that I come from a family of health-freaks. To put it into perspective, my mom is almost fifty and runs 11 miles every morning, my dad starts his day off with a marine-style workout and my 12-year-old brother has Nick Jonas’s face with a young Arnold Schwarzenegger’s body. No really, I can’t make this shit up.

With all this being said, you can imagine that I felt like the black sheep of the family that summer. After I sulked for a few days, I did what any Type A human would do — I devised a workout and nutrition plan. Seeing as though I was at my heaviest, I knew I needed to take drastic measures. The very next day, I began Chalene Johnson’s three-month workout series “ChaLEAN Extreme.” As the title suggests, it was all weight training — a fitness avenue I had emphatically avoided for sound reasons: I am afraid of the guys at the gym who are lifting-so-heavy-and-grunting-so-forcefully; don’t pretend to be coy, you know exactly the kind of guy I’m talking about. But luckily for me, my parents had invested in a weight set a few years ago, so I could do this program in the comfort of my home, thus avoiding all the scary dudes.

Alas, my strength training journey began and man did this shit suck in the beginning. I couldn’t move my arms and I struggled with the stairs so much that I would scoot down them to give my poor legs a break. It took everything in me not to give up and find a simple cardio workout, but momma didn’t raise a quitter and I was now a few steps closer to reaching the light at the end of the tunnel. I stuck with it, I persisted, and I constantly reminded myself why I began this routine. Week by week, the soreness faded and was replaced by shocking results. Not only was I trimming and toning every inch of my body, but I was mentally growing stronger– something I would soon learn was so much more important than the physical results.

Needless to say, I made it through the three-month series just in time to go back to school. Not only did I lose the weight, but I had begun to see results I had wanted for years. My mindset about my body was healthy, and since many of you don’t know my struggles with body image, I’ll let you in on a secret: my newfound mentality was the first step in the direction of a healing I desperately needed. Picking up those dumbells, albeit it was dreadful in the beginning, turned out to be one of the best decisions I could’ve made that summer.

Since May 2016, I have watched this neoteric confidence translate into all aspects of my life. I’ve learned how to properly fuel my body; I don’t hesitate to pick up the heavy weights at the gym; I am proud of the definition that I continue to craft into my arms and legs; I live for the moments when I look over and am lifting the same weight as the guy next to me; and above all else, I feel unstoppable. To all the women who are struggling to lose weight or are ready for a new health challenge, I dare you to pick up the weights and watch your body and life transform, just as mine did and just as yours will.

photos courtesy of Huffington Post and Ace Fitness

Gabriella is a twenty-something Floridian who has taken her love of waterfront living and sandy toes to Wilmington, NC! When she's not imprinting her body frame on the beach or stocking up on excessive jars of peanut butter, Gabriella can be found in the lines of Dunkin Donuts scrolling through Pinterest in the search of the perfect apartment decor. Her dream profession is to work for a women's magazine with an emphasis on millennial empowerment. Follow her on Twitter, @gabby_dionisio! 
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