Why the barbell is not as scary as you think

Weightlifting is a great way to build confidence, independence and healthy habits. Photo courtesy of Newsroom. 

ALEXANDRA CORDILL | OPINION COLUMNIST | acordill@butler.edu

The feeling of a barbell in your hand is like no other: the grip of the knurling, the gentle pull of its gravity. However, when I use the platforms in the Kennel at Butler’s HRC, I am usually the sole female in a sea of men. I’m here to tell you that lifting is not as scary as it seems and can actually be a great way to work on your mental health — especially for all the women out there. 

I started lifting my freshman year of high school when an Olympic weightlifting class was added on Saturdays at my CrossFit gym. I immediately fell in love; the slower pace and intense technique immediately appealed to me.   

I remember walking down the stairs in the HRC to go lift for the first time my freshman year I was terrified. I felt bad for being there and for taking a spot from a “real weightlifter.” I was scared of all the horror stories I had read online about sleazy guys hitting on girls at gym. But, none of these fears ended up being founded on anything. I had to constantly remind myself to take up space because I was paying just as much as anyone else to be there. In my three years at Butler, working out five days a week, no guy has ever approached me while I was working out.  

Lifting has made my life so much easier in so many ways. Most importantly, it has increased my independence. I have no issue throwing a 50-pound bag of soil over my shoulder or carrying heavy suitcases up stairs. In addition, I’m more confident when I’m walking alone at night or in an uncomfortable situation. It brings great peace of mind to know that I can protect myself and fight my way out of a situation.  

A lot of women believe that cardio is the only workout they are capable of. But, to put it simply, cardio sucks. It takes so long to be effective, it’s repetitive, and you risk injury from consistently using the same muscles in the same way. Instead of going to the gym and using the elliptical for an hour, I can bounce between different movements and equipment. Weight lifting can be a great and needed break from everyday life. It’s a great way to work through the sucky parts of your day.  

Weight lifting is hugely helpful for body image. I remember starting to do CrossFit when I was in eighth grade, which I’m sure most of you know is a rough time for young girls’ body image. But looking back now, I realize I was never focused on how much I weighed or what I looked like — I only wanted to add weight to the bar. This drive protected me throughout high school and has now served me well in college. The “freshman 15” never crossed my mind until I added 15 pounds to my deadlift max that first year.  

For someone who has never weight-lifted before, the ins and outs of lifting can seem scary. However, there are tons of great resources out there! My favorites are Girls Gone Strong, Staci Ardison and MegSquats.

When first starting out, don’t worry about how much you are lifting. Dial in your technique and practice with an empty bar. Having good form is the number one way to prevent injury. Go with a buddy so you can check each other’s form and you won’t feel as awkward as you get started!

If nothing else in this article has convinced you to go lift, do it for the sake of smashing the patriarchy. For every teacher in elementary school that asked for big strong boys to help move chairs. For every man who has told you that girls shouldn’t lift heavy weights because they’ll look manly. For your own empowerment.

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