Pretty Strong For a Girl

A few months ago, I fell in love with lifting heavy things and putting them back down again. While I wasn’t very good at it (and thanks to several injuries and setbacks I’m still not very good at it), I’ve improved dramatically and have noticed the positive impacts Powerlifting has had on my life. I may only be at the start of my lifting journey, but there have been several side effects I’ve noticed from the few months of infrequent training.

1. My body shape has changed; And improved.
My butt sits higher and is more round instead of rectangular, my waist is smaller, my posture is better and my breasts are smaller but perkier. My shoulders are rounding nicely, I’ve dropped an immense amount of body fat and my clothes size has dropped several numbers and fit better than they ever have.

2. I eat like there’s no tomorrow.
A side effect of lifting, or any exercise, is the hunger. Your body needs fuel to work hard. Before going vegetarian I was spending a lot of time and energy cooking chicken breast. Now I spend less time meal prepping but a lot more time eating. Which is great, coz man do I love food! I’ve found that no matter what I eat I’m always hungry again in 45 to 60 minutes. I keep dry roasted almonds at my desk, I have fresh cut apple or pear with peanut butter at home, I’m always consuming a protein smoothie, a meal replacement shake or a power bar. I’m devouring large stir-fries or homemade veggie potpies/ lasagnes. If I can eat it, I do. And I’m still losing weight.

3. My mental health has improved.
Nothing kicks my depressions’ ass like that sweet, sweet endorphin rush laced with oxytocin and dopamine. My anxiety has quietened a lot and I find I’m more mentally prepared every day to deal with whatever shit is being flung about by the universe. I have a lot more clarity where I would normally be an anxious wreck over thinking things and not able to focus. I have a better perspective on life (though I still firmly sit in the nihilist camp). My self-image has also improved. I’m more willing to share my successes because I believe I have truly worked for them and am proud of them.

Another thing I’ve noticed within the fitness lifestyle is the phrase
“You’re pretty strong. For a girl.”
This is something nearly every woman who has ever lifted a barbell has heard. My initial reaction when I heard it for the first time was righteous feminist/equalist anger. “How about get stuffed? I’m strong full stop. I have female and male friends I can out-lift, out-run, out-row, out-pull, out-drag, out-bench. My strength has nothing to do with my vagina!” I’d try hard to hold back the vitriol from the unsuspecting dude who’d tried to pay me what they thought was a compliment, but sometimes the wrath just couldn’t be held back.

Recently I’ve been thinking about the phrase a lot. It shows up in my Pinterest feed quite often and I hear it bandied around between friends and on body building media. I’ve had to quieten the immediate angry response and try to work out why the phrase flares me up. And to be honest, there’s no real reason. It’s a silly thing to get angry over. I am strong for a girl. I am female. And we are strong. Why is being female, or compared to a female such a bad thing that even women are getting upset by it? It’s absurd. I’m proud to be female, and I’m proud of the progress I am making; So should every single person who makes the decision to step up to the rack and lift or squat that weight, regardless of their sex. So yeah, I am strong for a girl, and I’m only getting stronger. It’s a great feeling and having people come up to me and say that I’m strong proves I’m progressing further than what I just feel. It’s noticeable to other people too. I gotta tell ya, it’s great motivation and a great feeling.

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