When You Lift, Ditch the Myths

Isabel Hulkower, Columnist

Various types of newfangled, high-tech exercises make head­lines every day for their fresh and innovative take on fitness. Many folks don’t hesitate to dive into fads they read about online or see on television, yet these same people harbor some uncertainty about the oldest technique in the book: weight training.

While weight-lifting regimens are usually marketed toward male-bodied individuals, folks with other body types are often left with false information about what types of training they should engage in.

These structural problems are exacerbated by widespread myths about weight training. Much of our everyday under­standing of fitness comes from self-proclaimed “gurus” who spread their personal gospel of health through myriad media outlets. Tracy Anderson, who is among the most famous and suc­cessful of this ilk, is clear in her belief that no woman should lift more than three pounds while exercising. This unsubstantiated opinion comes out of a pervasive and antiquated fear that weight training will lead to a bulky phy­sique — one that many still asso­ciate with masculinity and conse­quently don’t think belongs on a feminine-presenting body.

These myths are harmful, gen­der normative and just plain inac­curate. First of all, getting bulky is exceptionally tough for all body types and genders. In order to gain big, bulging muscles you need to follow a strict eating and training protocol. People who are jacked must put in targeted work and adhere to a prolonged, rigor­ous diet in order to retain their muscle mass, so picking up some weights now and again is not going to make you swole all of a sudden.

Secondly, it perpetuates a very oppressive ideology that there is only so much weight someone should lift. Non-dudes are urged to exercise in order to remain slim and lean but are discouraged from engaging in behavior that may actually make them physi­cally strong. Weight training can make you feel very physically empowered, as well as improve your mood, confidence and sleep, and it can even serve as a much-needed stress reliever. Lifting and a non-masculine body image are by no means mutually exclusive, and it is a shame that this ma­lignant myth is so pervasive that it precludes women from try­ing a form of exercise that could change their bodies, minds and self-image for the better.

Finally, it implies that certain body types have to be associated with certain genders. Enforc­ing the idea that certain bodies and genders have to have certain looks can be harmful and damag­ing for everyone and alienating to anyone who isn’t cis gendered but still wants the satisfaction and physical release of lifting weights. The point is, no matter how you identify, and no matter how you want to appear physically, there are ways to lift weights that achieve the changes in your body you want to see. Weight training is flexible, and if you want your muscles bigger, there are regi­mens to achieve that goal. But if you want to grow stronger and more toned without bulking up your muscle, there’s a bench for you in the weight room, too.

If you already like cardio, you’ll love adding some weight training into your routine. Aside from making you stronger, it will also reduce your risk of injury, speed up your metabolism and supposedly give you all types of delightful health benefits, includ­ing improvied mental and skel­etal health. When you are ready to get started, just 20 minutes three times a week will get you on the road to tangible results, and soon you’ll be lifting with the best of them. To mitigate the in­timidation factor at the gym, try going with a friend and making a workout plan before you arrive. Additionally, there is a women’s weight training class offered ev­ery semester, which can serve as an incredible introduction to the world of weights. This year, there has been a push to establish women, trans and non-binary gym time in Philips gym; how­ever, as of now there is no desig­nated hour on the schedule.

If you are interested in chang­ing it up and gaining some strength, don’t let Tracy Anderson or anyone else fool you! Weight training is immensely rewarding and 100 percent gender neutral.