Weightlifting Class Gave Me Confidence (And, Yeah, Muscles)
By Annika Cahill, 17
Throwback to 2008, small fetus Annika is looking in the mirror. What does she see? Fat. I was not fat. If anything I was average. But I didn't look like the girls on Disney. I was a normal active 8-year-old girl who happened to be very self conscious of the fat on her body.
Flash forward to freshman year of high school. Suddenly, I became very aware of what I ate. I was in constant worry of what I was putting in my body. I read the calories to everything, and I would just not eat sometimes. I tortured my body because I wanted to look like a size 0 model. The thing about not eating enough is you become weak and tired really quickly. But now, as a 17-year-old, I don't want to be weak and tired. I want to be strong.
So I decided to join a weightlifting class. I was secretly dreading the first day of class. I’m not really the type to enjoy sweating and “pushing myself to the limit.” But I was not going to chicken out. Alas the first day of class arrived. It was not pleasant. What was I thinking? This was for girls who leave their house and wear Nike booty shorts and guys who could probably break me in half. But much to my surprise, I survived. Barely, but still. Day two, I have never been more sore. Walking was hard; even shampooing my hair was hard. This constant state of soreness continued for quite some time.
Three weeks in, I was still sore but the squats were starting to pay off. Even my own mother complimented me on my butt. Watch your back, Kim K.! I now look forward to weights every day. I’m becoming strong. My arms aren't perfectly toned, and I have some chub, but I can squat 80% of my weight and I’m only going to get better.
For me, lifting weights was about more than just staying in shape. It was a mental bootcamp on becoming a bad-ass strong woman. I will still scream when I can’t bench that extra 5lbs and my voice tends to raise an octave every time I am nervous. But guess what: That’s me, and I am okay with that.
I hope girls can see strength training and weightlifting as something that's not just for boys. There's such a stigma attached to girls lifting weights because our society believes that girls need to be stick-thin, and boys are the ones who have to be “ripped” and huge. I know what it feels like to have major anxiety going into the weight room or to be worried about “bulking up.” But every girl must remember that if you are “bulking up,” that means you’re improving!
Weightlifting has shown me what a strong body is, and what it's like to become strong. I am starting to accept myself and learn to appreciate my body for what it is. I do still look in the mirror and wonder why my legs aren’t as skinny as they used to be. But I have to remind myself, “B*itch, you can squat 225 lbs. with these thighs!”
Strength training isn't just for the body; it's for the mind. You have to believe that you can hold that plank for an extra 15 seconds. You have to tell yourself that “Hey, yo, let's do this because we CAN and we will.” We girls are not just pretty skinny things to look at—we are strong, grown-ass girls who WILL run the world.