In a recent post over at Starting Strongman, I talked about some feedback given to me by participants of the strongman workshop series I helped coach (which, by the way, was beyond fantastic). I mentioned that one of the biggest themes that came through, particularly for women, was that lifting weights is about so much more than lifting weights. To recap, here is what I wrote:
“This is something I’ve personally experienced and something that a lot of women (and I suspect men, too) have experienced. For some of the women in our workshop, running a yoke and loading stones was about so much more than moving implements. For some, it was the first time they have really ever moved heavy weights and those weights left their mark. One participant said that the workshop was about proving things to themselves. It was about proving that the thighs they’ve been told are “too big” can run a heavy yoke and the body they’ve been told to hate is no longer it’s jiggly bits and pieces, it is an impressive and capable thing that is strong and deserves to be celebrated. It was about proving that even though they were terrified, they could do things. They were afraid but they wanted something bad enough to transcend that fear. “
When I was documenting feedback to write said article, I couldn’t help but tear up a few times when participants said some of those things and it wasn’t just because it felt great to be a part of those realizations. I remember feeling that way and I know that there are countless women who have felt the same way. They feel like their body is just a collection of parts that are to be criticized and cardio-ed, “toned”, and deprived into submission. They feel like they’re not doing anything “right” because their body isn’t meeting someone else's standards. Think about that for a second - we have all been upset because our body does not meet someone else’s idea about what we should look like. The body that keeps you alive through thousands upon thousands of actions that you’re not even aware of, that breathes, runs, jumps, plays, experiences joy, feels pain, and carries you through the world is somehow deemed to be less than because it doesn’t measure up to someone else’s yardstick. That is complete and utter bullshit.
One of the women in the workshop group mentioned that lifting weights reminded her that her body is actually HERS. Her body was more than a collection of parts to be criticized - she got to decide what it is capable of, how much space she took up, and what strong means to her. And more than that, she got to carry that feeling throughout her day. Other participants talked about the fact that the biggest thing they got out of trying something new (aka strongman) was a sense of accomplishment and realizing that they are capable. They are capable of doing things that they were scared of, they were capable of learning something new, and they were capable of being really damn strong. The physical tasks they were able to accomplish meant they were powerful. They could press a log, deadlift a heavy axle, and run a keg - it was an impressive thing to watch everyone’s displays of power.
But being reminded that at some point, it was all about taking ownership of your body and being capable - now, that is really the powerful stuff.