Feminism · Rant

On Weightlifting, and Why I Love It

In the past few months or so, I have lost a considerable amount of weight. I will go into more details about the whole experience in another post, but in this I wanted to talk about the training I’ve been doing specifically in the last few months – weightlifting – and its effects.

I’m a pretty lazy person, as anyone who knows me can testify. My ideal day consists of lying in bed all day, reading and eating. So when it comes to exercise, I am both inconsistent and incredibly reluctant.

For a very long time, even at the beginning of this most recent bout of weight loss, I tried to lose weight by doing cardiovascular exercises. I spent time on the ellipticals, treadmill, exercise bike. I bought an actual bike and tried cycling, I ventured my jiggly body onto the race track and tried running, I bought a squash racquet and tried to learn that sport. LISS, HIIT, Tabata, Aerobics, I tried it all.

None of it worked for me for very long. The first eight kilograms (out of the 32 I had as a goal) came off fairly easily. But after that I found I was spending hour after hour in boring, persistent motion on machines and in gyms, sweating my butt off and losing nothing. I hit a plateau and stayed on it for an agonizing month.

Most of all, I hated the exercise itself. I didn’t want to go to the gym, repeat the same boring motions, face the same boring landscape/machinery/court. I was sick of the sweat and the exhaustion and the jiggling fat, mountains of fat that just wouldn’t go away.

It was then that a friend recommended the weight lifting program Strong Lifts. I was already using light dumbells for basic exercises, on and off, but I was afraid to touch the barbells, scared of doing something wrong and hurting my back or knees. There were no women at my gym who lifted, whom I could ask for guidance, and while I watched (jealously) the men lifting heavy, I was too shy to ask for help. Still, reading about Strong Lifts, and learning about the three basic powerlifting exercises spurred me to try them myself. I asked the trainer at my gym to teach me correct form, and finally, hesitatingly, I started.

At first, nothing happened. I slowly upped the weights (I didn’t follow strong lifts exactly, I did extra exercises and I trained a lot more frequently than the prescribed 3x a week). In the beginning, I even gained weight. I would go home, in pain, my muscles screaming blue murder, and my brain crying with frustration because I wasn’t losing weight.

Then, slowly, it started. In leaps and jumps, I lost another two kgs, four, six, eight, ten, all in the past three months. And I’m still losing.

More amazingly, however, my body started shaping up in a way I couldn’t have imagined, for all I frequented body-building websites for women and admired their musculature. Pfft, me, look like that? And yet, that’s exactly what started happening. I still have a lot of excess fat, but the muscles underneath are coming through and it is amazing to see the transformation. I look fitter and better than I did in previous years when I weighed much less.

As time passes, and I get better and better at it, I realised I’ve fallen in love with weightlifting, and I feel passionately about it, the way I never did for any other exercise. And consequently, what frustrates me is that there aren’t more women out there who are doing it too. I get that there are different strokes for different folks, but from what I see, the overwhelming majority of women, both due to lack of access and lack of knowledge, simply don’t consider weight lifting an exercise option, especially in pakistan. And yet they should. It is without question one of the best ways to torch fat, and to keep it off for longer.

So for women who are on the fence, I present my list of reasons why I love weightlifting (and why you should do it too).

1) Best for lazy bums like me: Remember what I said about hours and hours in the gym? With weightlifting, I only have to spend half an hour pumping iron, 45 minutes tops. If I’m really looking to cut the fat, I can do an extra fifteen minutes of light cardio. And that’s it, really. No more hours and hours slaving away for minimal effect.  In addition to taking less time, I can work out less times a week while reaping the same benefit. Strong Lifts, for example, recommends working out only thrice a week, and other programs recommend the same, 3-5x a week, only. Because I’m packing on muscles, I don’t need to worry about missing a day and gaining back the pounds, plus I actually need those rest days to recover muscle function. Yes, there’s more intensity, and a lot more soreness. But overall, there’s much less work, and yet I’m still losing weight.

2) Strength: with weight training, I know every day makes me stronger. So while I’m losing weight and outwardly conforming to society’s ideals, inside I am comforted because I know I’m becoming one lean muscle machine, capable of holding my own, surviving pain and potentially kicking ass, should the need arise. The high that gives me is a-mazing, almost comparable to the high I get from lifting big-ass plates with ease, doing deep squats and high overhead presses with grace and power. Knowing my body is capable of that and more is fantastic.

3)Achievement friendly: I’m a very achievement-oriented person. I like having goals. With cardio, there was only so much I could do before I hit a wall. Burn 400 calories? 500? 600? 700? Then you hit a limit, which your body simply can’t go beyond. For me, weight lifting provides lots of achievements that I can achieve on a per-workout basis. Every pound I add to the barbells, every extra rep I can achieve at a higher weight, is a success I can chalk up and that keeps me motivated to move on, move further. Because I’m still only a novice at best, there’s LOTS of room for improvement, and even when I hit my best there’s tons of variations on the basic exercises to try out. In practical terms, this means that I am literally excited to hit the gym every day, see how much I can lift today, see if I can go one step further. Nothing – literally no other exercise – has provided me with this level of achievement and motivation.

4)Fantastic figure: there’s a pervasive, evil myth that lifting weights will make you look bulky, which is probably the main reason why women abstain. This has been disproved time and time again. Yes, if you don’t diet, in the beginning the muscle gain + existing fat will make you look bulkier. But you’ll never become Arnold Schwarzenegger if you’re a lass, you just don’t have the testosterone. For me, taking a healthy diet with weight lifting has given me a figure I could never believe possible – my thighs and butt, always my chubbiest parts, have toned to the point where I can wear jeans that are four years old, and the other parts of my body have similarly shaped up. And its only getting better from here on out.

5) Overall fitness: I’m not big on fitness. I started this regime to lose weight and look better, and this remains my primary goal. But weight lifting has helped me overall as well. I feel so much stronger. I have better cardiovascular health (I can run more now, without getting as breathless, though I will never be a runner). Most of all, my strength (and consequently my health) has become a priority. I won’t overeat on carbs because I need room in my diet for the proteins my muscles need, for the proteins that will make me able to lift more next time. I wake up in the morning thinking of the exercises I will do today, I literally can’t wait to hit the gym. I don’t overtrain, and I try to get the right amount of sleep, because if I abuse my body I won’t be able to build the strength I’m aiming for. So my overall fitness has improved because of weight training.

Again, different strokes for different folks, but considering the benefits (less time, better results, so much strength) I really, honestly believe there need to be more women in the gym lifting weights. If this blog post convinces even a few more to try lifting then I will consider it a success.

Regardless, see you in the gym tomorrow! And see you guys soon ❤

7 thoughts on “On Weightlifting, and Why I Love It

  1. I started reading your blog a year ago because I was interested in seeing what feminists like me write about online but gradually I’ve become disillusioned with your writing. I was annoyed with how you kept going on and on about your love life initially. I don’t think that if you are a feminist you cannot or should not date, or marry, or become a lesbian even if you are heterosexual and cisgender simply for the sake of not conforming to social heteronormativity. But the reason it annoyed me was that this writer on the internet who used to be pretty cool was reduced to this sad woman who could only talk about her boyfriend. And I think when you embrace feminism you’re adopting a persona of the kind of person who will love, and suffer from heartbreak, but will not let herself become just a heartbroken woman.

    This blog really aggravated me because while it was pretty interesting, your focus was centered a lot on how you look. We’re all human, we all have our insecurities, it isn’t easy to detach yourself from your physical appearance when you’re a woman living under institionalized oppression in the form of the patriarchy but. I started reading this blog out of interest in what feminists online were talking about and it isn’t very feminist if you’re overweight and want to lose weight “to look better.” Sorry, it just isn’t. There’s no way to discuss this by sugarcoating and talking about rights and freedom and what-not. The truth is simply that a feminist thinks she has to lose weight, to be not-fat or good-kind-of-fat or “fit” to look “better”, no matter if it is for herself or for other people, it is still problematic. I don’t mean that feminism means you shouldn’t live a healthy, fulfilling life. But if you hadn’t equated your journey to losing weight and weightlifting with “looking better” I would have just just emailed this blog to my friends like I always do without leaving any comments.

    I’m just really disappointed. It isn’t up to me to decide who is a feminist and who isn’t and people will call themselves what they want, believe what they want. But I can also form opinions on that basis and my opinion is that you can only practice internet feminism, talking about the books you read and the people you know about, but you can’t really apply it your own life. You don’t have to be a feminist activist but at least apply it to your own life which doesn’t seem like it from the glimpses you offer through your blog. Granted, they are only glimpses maybe you are applying feminism to your life and only you would know that, not me. But from what you have shared and what I have observed, I doubt it is there other than in the form of your books.

    1. First up, thank you for your comment.

      As far as your criticism is concerned, the first part baffles me. I have written maybe four posts about my love life (at most five). WordPress tells me I have written 95 posts in total. So as far as the “going on and on” is concerned, I have no idea what you’re talking about.

      As for the second part, this blog, at its core, is a push for more gender equality in the gym. I have discussed *my* appearance in it only where I felt it was relevant to *my* journey, and where mentioning changes might inspire other women to also start lifting weight. I have NOT equated losing weight with looking better – I’ve literally said “lose weight and look better” (instead of lose weight TO look better) because the two are not the same in my head. So please don’t attribute false opinions to me, and then judge my whole life (!) on the basis of them.

      Last up, clearly I don’t meet *your* expectations of what a feminist blogger should be like. That’s okay. I am not sorry for disappointing you, because I wasn’t trying to please you in the first place. This is a deeply personal blog, and I write what I want, regardless of whether it meets my readers’ obscure standards of what feminists should and should not write about. Read on as you wish, or don’t, but spare me the judgements next time.

  2. By going on and on, I meant that your posts were consistently focusing on your relationship issues. And that saddened me because I always thought you were more than just a girl with relationship issues. Like you were many things and one of those was that you’re a young woman with relationship issues. So after being so invested in reading your blogs, I was a wee bit upset that you were- to a slight extent- becoming “just a woman with relationship issues” because like I said, I felt like you were more than just that.

    I didn’t really see this particular blog as anything related to gender equality at the gym. And as for what you say, yes you are correct, you never equated losing weight with looking better explicitly, but the inherent implication still remains that you wanted to work out and “look better” because the body you had as an overweight woman DIDN’T look better. Do you see how I view that as problematic? You need not agree, I’m just asking that you see from my perceptive for the sake of understanding opinions, even if you don’t agree with them. 🙂

    Lastly, what’s with the hostility in your final paragraph?! I didn’t say anything that was rude or offensive. If I did, you can point it out in a nice way that I was being problematic myself. :/ You may keep a deeply personal blog but you are keeping it public, that doesn’t entitle anyone to judge you but it does give them a comment form that lets them talk to you about what you’re writing. You yourself enabled the comment form and kept the blog public, after all, that indicates that you welcome discussions to me at least. I wasn’t commenting on any aspect of your life that you have written about, after all. All I did was use the tool you had provided to talk to you for the very first time in the two years since I’ve been reading your blog. I don’t understand why you’d want people to comment if you’re going to be so mean.

    Because yes, that was pretty mean of you. You didn’t even get that I really like your writing a lot. I told you that I always have loved your blog which means you were one of the feminist bloggers I enjoy regularly reading. I clearly said that it was only recently that I had felt let down by your writing. I also never explicitly said that there is a specific thing feminists should or shouldn’t write about, if it was implicitly stated then it was not a conscious decision to do so, but I simply criticized something I didn’t agree with, striving to do so in a respectful fashion. Have you ever read Nabiha Meher Shaikh’s or Sana Saleem’s blogs for example, and seen how terrible people are to them? If you have then how can you equate me trying to discuss something with me trying to judge you?

    Heck, if it’s my last paragraph that made you so angry that you became mean to a complete stranger online, then let me just clarify that I do believe you wound up practicing Internet feminism a little bit, but the only reason I point it out because I really admire you and I think that, based on what you share on your blog, you are not the kind of person who only wants to be a feminist that discusses things on reddit, you are someone who wants to incorporate it in your life. So I gave my opinion and I was actually thinking you would respond favourably to me and that even if you didn’t agree with me, you’d see I was acting out of good intentions and that we’d have a lovely chat over cyber hot chocolate.

    Are you sure you really want me to read on if I wish to do so? You made me feel like you want me to fuck off and not even quietly read your blogs as has been my wont. Sorry, I know how extremely whiny I sound, but I don’t make a habit of speaking to people on the internet and I’m also incredibly introverted and don’t socialize with people at all outside of work, but it makes me hyper sensitive and thus easily affected by sensations, emotions, etc.

    1. Once again, you may see such an inherent implication about losing weight = looking better there, and if it was it would be problematic, but it’s not. I’ve even mentioned in one place that my body looks better in its currently still-overweight state than it did at a lower weight before, because for me appearance has got nothing to do with weight.

      If your intention was an honest discussion, then you really should have left out the last paragraph – which comes across as extremely judgemental, regardless of your intentions. I appreciate interaction with readers, even if they disagree, as people have in the past (hence the comment box). I was not trying to be mean in my response, or tell you to fuck off. But the fact that you thought I was presents a lesson in how things may be perceived differently online, regardless of one’s intentions. 🙂

      We have started off on a bad note, so to return to a better one – thank you for your appreciation and your honest commentary. While I do disagree with you in some respects, I hope you continue to read my blog and enjoy it as you have in the past.

  3. Holy moly, you were SO mean to that poor girl up there. No wonder she never responded back to you, after actually trying to have a nice conversation. You can disagree with someone without sending them fleeing for the hills 😛

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