The weight room is often a place of intimidation – for men and women alike. However, too often weight rooms and floors are dominated by men while women stick to the cardio equipment.
However the tide is turning, and women are being encouraged to start integrating weight lifting into their routines. But for many women, weight lifting can seem like a daunting challenge, and one that’s difficult to start.
Sonya Wren is a local AFAA certified personal and group trainer, and her mission is to get more women on the weight floor. "For the most part, women feel as though they are going to get bulky, look masculine, you know, not have that feminine physique...and I always tell people that that's virtually impossible because we don't have enough testosterone in our bodies to have that masculine look," she explains.
Although each body is different, Wren recommends the one change women make in their fitness routines to truly change their physique is to pick up the dumbbells.
"A lot of times women, they see someone who looks incredibly fit and they think that they need to do a whole lot of cardio...and I tell them that it's really about the weightlifting," she says. "That's what's really going to change, lift and sculpt your body."
To get past the fear and myth of bulking up; Wren says, focus on the benefits, such as the mental toughness gained through weight lifting. "People don't realize the amount of confidence that you obtain when you start lifting weights," she says. "You start to feel physically and emotionally stronger."
According to Wren, some benefits of incorporating weightlifting at least two times a week include: improved posture, alleviating lower back pain, increased muscle mass, reduction in body fat and improved bone density.
Plus, she says, the work you put into the gym with weights will be helping you long after your workout ends; even when at rest. "Your metabolism is going to be burning fat versus somebody who has a sedentary lifestyle," Wren explains.
But with so many physical and mental benefits, what keeps women away from the weight floor? Wren attributes this to gym culture and societal pressures of what a "feminine" body looks like.
"I really think that society has created a lot of this misconception. A lot of women feel as though it's like the 'danger zone,''' she explains. "And I think a lot of men are creating some of this intimidation unknowingly."
However, it's also a lack of information that can keep women away. "They don't know where to start as far as lifting weights, they don't know what's the best way to do it," Wren says.
While cardiovascular endurance is still incredibly important, she says, it should not be the sole form of exercise in any routine.
Wren recommends researching online resources to get familiar with weightlifting, or simply asking a local gym professional to help you get familiar with the equipment. "That's how it all starts, and you're going to be hooked," she says.
For any women who are still undecided on incorporating weight lifting into their lives, Wren encourages perseverance. "No matter how difficult this seems or no matter how uncomfortable you feel, stick with it," she says. "There is going to be something that is going to be incredibly positive for you out of this situation."