Sally Moss, a personal trainer from London writes "I love lifting weights. I absolutely love it. It’s one of the most happy, positive things in my life...
I love lifting weights. I absolutely love it. It’s one of the most happy, positive things in my life.
People are often taken aback to hear this, partly because it is unusual to hear a woman enthusing about chucking large chunks of iron around for fun, and partly because – as I never stop hearing – “you don’t look like a weight lifter”.
No, I don’t weigh 20 stone, sport an orange tan or have biceps bigger than your thighs. I’m 5’5 ish, 10 stone ish, size 12 ish.
To me it is one of the most frustrating things in the world that lifting weights in the popular imagination is associated with big, muscley, fat, freaky-looking people. That’s like thinking ‘Allo ‘Allo is a delicately wrought and historically accurate documentary about life during the war.
Forget the freaks, forget the super heavy weights; for me, and for many others, lifting weights is about getting strong and lean, not big and freaky. It’s fun, it’s impressive and it’s empowering. It reminds me of that Berocca advert: you, but on a really good day. That’s how I feel about lifting.
I can’t remember what exactly prompted my transition from cardio bunny to serious weight lifter. I used to do Body Pump classes, which involves the classic weight training exercises – but with a barbell made out of plastic. Still, I liked it. Week by week I loaded up that plastic bar until eventually I couldn’t fit any more plastic on it. That was when I realised I needed to move on. So I found a proper weight lifting gym and haven’t looked back.
"Lifting weights in the popular imagination is associated with big, muscley, fat, freaky-looking people."
Now I have several years of competitive lifting behind me. It’s just a hobby, mind you, I’m not going to be in the Olympics. But it has been life altering, none the less.
If you’ve never been strong, it’s hard to describe how it feels, but the confidence you get is amazing. You can do stuff. You can walk up to a heavy object, fight gravity and win! You develop skills and abilities you could never have imagined accomplishing. Imagine if tomorrow in the gym you saw a girl walk over to the pull up bar, jump on it and do ten perfect full range chin ups. That’s me. That could be you.
You notice I’ve talked a lot about abilities here, not just about appearance. Like most people, I first joined a gym because I wanted to change my body shape, to lose weight. And I did, but what I also discovered is that getting strong and skilful is so much more rewarding than just an aesthetic goal. I could have spent my time here telling you about how weight training is great for losing weight – and it is. But that’s not why I’m so passionate about it. I think lifting heavy weight is a massively empowering experience for all women, and worth trying at least once.
In fact, because I was so convinced that this would be a great thing, I started my own business, Ladies Who Lift, running weight training courses for women. I suspected that there were growing numbers of women out there who wanted to give lifting a go, but had been put off by the intimidating male environment of the weight room. So I turned it around and made lifting female friendly and, lo and behold, women started signing up!
So far, my ladies have managed to lift the equivalent of their own bodyweight. Every single one has amazed herself with her own strength. And whether they carry on with it or not, I hope that that knowledge will be a source of inspiration for years to come.
Have you been inspired to give weight-lifting a go after reading Sally's column? Share your views in the comments section below.
Main picture credit: Rex Features