I only thought about being a trainer; I didn’t think about being a female trainer. I didn’t realize that I was, and would continue to be, making a statement about feminism and femininity by choosing to follow my dreams into the gym. I didn’t realize that I was crossing some sort of invisible line, perhaps even overstepping boundaries if you ask someone old school enough. I didn’t think about having a “dude’s” job and it didn’t occur to me that most females didn’t even feel comfortable in what would soon become my workplace. My home. I didn’t think about being different; I just identified what I loved and I chased after it. I just happened to have that more in common with men than women.
Having now been working in a gym for almost two years, I’ve collected countless stories of girls who don’t feel comfortable getting a solid workout because of nothing more than their mere gender. “My brother told me not to go in there” and “My boyfriend told me that room is only for guys” and “My dad said I’ll get bulky” are all things I hear on a ridiculously regular basis in regards to strength training. (?!?!?!?!?!?!) PSA: If you’re one of these guys, please stop spreading rumors that aren’t true. Instead, I recommend you take her in there, teach her how to lift, and watch the magic happen from there 🙂 These girls want to explore, they’re tempted to, but they won’t go into the free weight room or use the machines, let alone attempt anything at the cable station. “I just can’t,” they tell me, “…I’m a girl..”
My dear friends, let me ask you one question. What was I but a scared and confused teenage girl? When I first started going to the gym, I was 17-years-old, 300 pounds, and PROMISINGLY more ignorant about exercise than anyone I speak with today. I walked ALONE, CLUELESSLY, AND TIMIDLY into the weight room, LOOKED AT PICTURES, READ DIRECTIONS, and ASKED QUESTIONS. I previously despised all exercise as well as everyone who made me do it, so I now ironically resented myself for not remembering anything the trainers of my past tried in vain to teach me. I made many mistakes, probably more than I know, and it’s possible I looked as stupid as I felt. I had no idea what I was doing.
Insider spoiler alert: everyone in the gym either 1. Also has no idea what they’re doing or 2. Was properly trained by somebody at some point in their life before you spotted them being “successful.” Why in the world would you enter a gym for the first time and understand how a chest fly machine works? Or what it even is? As I tell my clients, we didn’t know how to use a fork and knife before somebody taught us how to; I’m not exactly sure why we all feel a deep sense of inadequacy and shame because tricep extensions and glute kickbacks aren’t inherently understood without instructions. Just, logic.
(Obligatory safety side note: If you don’t know what you’re doing in the gym, ASK SOMEBODY QUALIFIED FOR HELP! I’m not just saying this because I’m a trainer — you can get seriously injured without proper knowledge and that would be a damn shame.)
I was no different than the fearful young women I speak with today because I felt back then that I belonged in a gym less than anybody. It wasn’t welcoming or comfortable. I was different, however, because I didn’t care. I promised myself I would do it anyway. I wasn’t losing weight or building muscle for anyone else. I didn’t care if I impressed anyone or if I offended anyone. I wasn’t in the gym for them. I didn’t care that I was twice the size of most girls on the cardio machines next to me or that I looked like an idiot trying to work a bunch of machinery I didn’t understand next to guys I saw going hard in the weight room every day. I didn’t care because it didn’t matter. I was there for me, doing it for me. My thoughts and my opinions and my feelings mattered. Theirs didn’t, nor did I ever understand why they would. (This is a good time to point out that if you’re in the gym, you’re ALREADY DOING SOMETHING RIGHT. If you’re in the gym, NOBODY HAS A RIGHT TO JUDGE YOU. If you’re in the gym, you are working on yourself and THAT IS ALL THAT MATTERS).
I lost 150 pounds and cut my body size in half by not caring what anybody thought of me. This is not to brag. Hell yeah I’m proud of myself, but that’s not the point. I say this because I implore you, you beautiful and powerful and amazing (male and female) followers of mine, to consider how much other people’s thoughts influence what you will and won’t do in the gym. How much are other people stopping you from getting what you want to get, looking how you want to look, doing what you want to do, living the way you want to live? It kills me that I would never have ended up with this job and life and body that I love if I ever had the mindset that I see get in the way of people reaching their full potential every single day. I haven’t done anything YOU cannot do; I’m no more extraordinary than you are.
If you told me years ago that I would eventually become a personal trainer, I’d laugh in your face and likely feel insulted you even had the audacity to imply I should exercise one day. Now I walk around the gym like I do my living room. I’m fully in the know, I’m happy and safe and comfortable because I have the knowledge and experience I need to manipulate that playground as if I built it myself. But I didn’t start here. None of us did. We had to be beginners once too. We were scared and intimidated and ignorant once too. Us trainers, especially us female trainers, just did it anyway.
My theory in the gym was always like that saying, “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.” At the beginning of my journey, I always just kind of thought, “If this sucks as bad as exercise, if I hate this as much as I always hated exercise, if this hurts as bad as exercise always did, then what I’m doing is probably exercise. I must be doing something right.” And I was. But it wasn’t that I did enough leg extensions to make my quads shake and burn. It was that I felt every reason to stop, turn around, and go home, but I continued anyway, day after day, fueled by determination, onto that machine in the first place.