A woman’s history of weight training

I started weight training when I was 15 years old. My parents got me to join their gym in the late 70’s, which at the time had men days and women days. Women weren’t allowed to train with men. We had special weights for us, that were usually painted pink. Most of the women would do super high reps so we wouldn’t become masculine. At the time of joining the gym my father got me a trainer who luckily showed me how to lift with heavier weights such as doing squats and pull-ups. I even competed in a bodybuilding contest, that was more of a figure contest. I even won Ms Southwestern, received $300.00 in cash.

I enjoyed the weights for no other reason than it helped with my swimming. I had joined the swim team in the 10th grade, and the coach had the guys lifting weights. So I figured if this would help them get better at swimming, wouldn’t it help me get better and faster. Absolutely! I started winning all my events.

My collegiate undergrad years, women and men were allowed to train together (but women still lifted light weights), for fear of getting too muscular, looking like a guy, or lord forbid, losing your femininity. Women weren’t doing too much in the weight room in the eighties. You were seeing more women athletes, but not many. More women were doing aerobics, low and high impact. Women loved doing abs, but couldn’t do a push-up or were willing to try.

However I was used to lifting heavy, doing squats, pull-ups and bench press! My first boyfriend at UCSB even dumped me when I signed up for a weight training class. But it didn’t deter me from my passion of weights. I hired on at the local gym, taught weight training on the arsenal of machines, aerobics and began to take classes in kinesiology. I loved weights, and I loved the strength that it gave me, mentally and physically.

Upon graduation I applied at a tennis, swim and exercise club. In the early nineties women still didn’t lift weights, only super light for thousands of reps, still fearful of the same old myths. I don’t want to get big and bulky, I don’t want to lose my femininity or the weights would slow me down for my sports.

I started competing in Natural Bodybuilding contests. I thought this would be good to enhance my credibility as a personal trainer. But women were starting to take steroids. It was so obvious which women were taking them, they were highly muscular and very large. They would highlight these women in all the magazines at the time, perpetuating the myths that all women will look like these women on steroids, if you lifted weights. Believe me you cannot get that big or bulky unless you take steroids, period. Unfortunately it took many years before women began to realize this. And to this day a lot of older women still believe this myth! I did win Ms California and Ms Junior USA, which had more to do with my symmetry from swimming. I began personal training when only celebrities like Madonna had trainers. It was so frustrating to train women who wanted to look good, but so fearful of weights. Thank god for Linda Hamilton, in the movie Terminator, was shown doing pull-ups and looking lean. Women were slowly becoming more interested, even though I was constantly educating them of the benefits of weight training!

Since that time I realized that I couldn’t receive much creditably as a personal trainer with just my bodybuilding accolades, so I enrolled in Graduate school and received my Masters in Exercise Physiology. Even then I was asked to teach aerobics, where the men got asked to teach weight training, track or swimming. I became certified as Strength and Conditioning Specialist along with many other certifications to improve my knowledge of exercise. I went on to get a PhD in Nutrition because of the relentless questioning about how to lose weight, how to get leaner or how to reduce my belly fat!

If you fast forward, I am still training clients, educating women about the physical and mental benefits of being strong, doing 10 pull-ups and dead lifting greater than my own weight.

Weight training my whole life has kept me resilient to all the criticism about getting too big, too slow, too masculine or only dumb people lift weights. Weight training has allowed me to stay focused in the fitness industry where only men use to always tread. Weight training has allowed me to follow a lifelong passion of exercise, nutrition and wellness! Being able to walk into a weight room and lift more weight than the guy next to me, has always put a smile on my face!

Let me just say this to all women, it is imperative you get strong! Get strong for more functionality, get strong for better balance, get strong to travel all over world and feel great, get strong because being physically strong makes you mentally strong! Get strong because it keeps your metabolism high, get strong so you can be more resilient to change and get strong because it keeps your mood elevated! Get strong because you sleep better and get strong because then you are no longer invisible! Get strong because you need a voice and you need to be heard!

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