Disclaimer: It does not require a man to gain strength, confidence, be healthy or be the best version of yourself. This is an anecdotal reference of my personal journey.
Coming from a traditional Asian background, my parents basically ignored all kinds of sports and physical fitness (sorry mom! *cringe*). I grew up slightly overweight, suffered from regular asthma, random body rashes, and worst of all, I ignored the true causes of it. There is something uniquely satisfying in knowing and understanding my physical strength. What surpasses this satisfaction is the ability to pinpoint milestones, review transformations and apply determination and focus through everything I do. Who knew this ‘getting fit’ business would have cascading benefits across all other dimensions of my life? I thought I would just get some iron therapy, but it turns out, I’ve gained focus and confidence that lasts throughout my day, every day!
Here is my solid confirmation that transforming your physique is possible. This is not coming from an Instagram model, celebrity, or Crossfire Olympian, but from a real person with no previous sporting experience. What I realized is that it’s not just about lowering the number on the scale, but more about getting stronger and practicing control over my life. It was a change in mindset that ushered even greater changes in my life.
How I got started and kept going
It all started with the vehement disgust at my spare tire (aka love handles). Joining the gym was the first step, and along with my husband’s guidance, I was ready to take on the challenge. I understand not everyone has a permanent fitness coach, but this should never deter you from setting and smashing your fitness goals! As strong women, we shouldn’t make excuses to block strength, especially when it comes to our overall health. Taking baby steps is key.
Once I learned the basic movements (this requires a bit of research and study), it became much easier for me to train on my own and look after myself. Have you ever heard the phrase “nothing good comes easy”? Yeah, well this is what I had to keep repeating to myself. The first few months were brutal because I didn’t see drastic results and always felt disappointed. I started by mixing cardio with strength training. As a result, my lungs became stronger and eventually, I didn’t need to carry my inhaler with me all the time.
A few months into my training, I started to really gain my focus and determination. And by few, I mean more than six months. By then, I noticed small changes with my body that inspired me to continue. Keep in mind this only happens when you’re persistent at the beginning of your journey. Many people lack the motivation to stick to their routine because they have not seen the immediate changes they thought they would. It’s no wonder why so many people are looking for crash diets and quick fixes. Unfortunately, those methods lead to nothing but a fast crash into failure. Changes in the body are a result of training your body (at the gym or at home) and feeding it the fuel it needs to build your health.
Some say females should stay away from weights. They claim it could make women appear ‘too bulky’. What’s up with all these misconceptions? Ain’t nobody got time for that!
Due to the hormone balance in women’s bodies, lifting weights do not cause the bulking of muscles that it does for men. When you see bulky, muscular women, they are most likely using something to alter their hormonal balance. Natural weight lifters, such as myself and countless other women, have toned their bodies using the basic principles of muscle hypertrophy. Lifting causes micro tears in the muscle fibers. Upon repairing, it causes the muscle to get stronger and slightly larger. Continue with a strength training routine, and you will gain stronger muscles which require more calories to sustain themselves, even when you are resting. Because your body is working extra hard, it is burning calories even when you are not working out. Higher calorie burning ultimately improves your metabolism, appetite, and mental clarity.
Knowledge is power
I would say that more than physical strength, my mental strength is what helped me in my ability to lift. Knowledge is such an integral part of who we are as Muslims and the lack of it directly affects us mentally and physically. Hint: ignorance and negligence of the body definitely causes sickness and weakness. Educating yourself on health in today’s world is super easy, prioritizing is the hard part.
The human body is balanced…
The human body is balanced and in that balance means simplicity. It did me a great deal of good to understand the basics of nutrition, the muscle-skeletal system, and how to tie it all together. SubhanAllah (Glory be to God), the human body is more under our control than we think! Alhamdulilah (Thank God), revisiting high school biology was way more fun now than it was back in school. It is literally that simple – unless you choose to venture into higher studies and research. This truly helped me gain an insider’s view of what’s happening within me. Plus, it was a win-win situation. I was gaining knowledge that teaches me about the body, which in turn made me humble and appreciative.
Food is more important than you think
Nutrition is your body’s fuel. It energizes, repairs, maintains, and keeps you strong and healthy. The lack of nutritional foods can result in all types of chronic illness and diseases. I suffered with asthma for 18 years, and it turns out that it was an immediate result of my weak lungs and poor gut health. Once I made changes to my diet, my physical and emotional health quickly improved. It is very important for us to understand the relation our gut has with our brain. Both work together to create a healthy body, and positive emotions. When I ate nutritionally poor foods, my overall health was very weak. When I included nutritionally dense and wholesome foods, I felt stronger, satisfied and had gained the mental capacity to smash career and personal goals! It’s like the circle of life. Eat good to feel good in order to accomplish good. As simple as it may be, it nonetheless blew my mind. Food was such a fundamental part of my transformation. Nature has provided us with the tools we need to create the best version of ourselves. We just need to acquire the knowledge of how to do so!
Consistency is a very important discipline
Like everything Islam has taught us, consistency should govern all of our work. This includes fitness, too! Remember the circle of life? The same concept applies. Hard work and consistency produces results which motivates you to keep going. I had a few troubled
days in the beginning, but who doesn’t? That is almost a milestone in itself. The moment where you stop slacking and actually decide to never miss an item on your exercise routine is the moment to rejoice and give yourself credit for your persistence. If you continuously fall off or shorten your exercise schedule, you will eventually fall off your fitness routine completely. If you rise above your hard days, then you can translate this energy into every other aspect of your life.
Fitness is more than just aesthetics
An important part of strength training is focus. I need to always remain focused during my workout routines. Every lift requires concentration, controlled breathing, activating core muscles and completing the rep with proper form. With so much to get right, it automatically forced my nervous system to concentrate on one task. I repeated this for one hour every day for more than a year, and my nervous system along with my mental focus dramatically improved. The attentiveness I learned while lifting became a part of my personality. It helped me apply this tunnel vision talent throughout any other task. If you are looking to develop the art of single tasking successfully, then I would definitely suggest iron therapy. As with the ancient advice of not multitasking, strength training helped me develop the art of fully completing one task before moving on to another. After all, fitness is more than just aesthetics. We are creating a stronger version of who we are. Looking better is a byproduct, but not the sole gain.
So…Get Strong Sisters
Building strength is not something alien to females. Are we supposed to be that frail ‘damsel in distress’? No way, Jose! Physical strength translates into overall health. How much you can lift depends on how long you have been lifting and that’s irrelevant. But getting started and sticking to your routine is what proves you are a true fighter. My husband was a direct influence in helping me keep a constant, healthy change in my lifestyle- Alhamdulilah. I’ve come a long way since the time I had to hide my inhaler in my pocket. The best therapy I received was clanging and banging with weights! My husband weighs 200 pounds. I weigh 145 pounds. While being as absolutely modest as I can be, I can tell you that I can physically lift my husband if I wanted to. And if you seek that kind of physical strength, I’ll give you a fair warning: this kind of determination first comes with mental strength and confidence! You have the power to transform yourself into the best you you can be. If you’re up for the challenge, then get on board sista!