Women in Fitness: Cardio or Weight Lifting?
Updated: Jul 16, 2020
Recently through my workplace and on Instagram I've seen posts talking about women in fitness and body image. As a female student athlete and avid lifter, I thought it was important to put my own spin on this conversation.
First, I want to provide some background on this topic. Many women in fitness tend to stay away from exercise that will add "too much muscle" or bulk instead of tone. This leads to many women sticking just to the cardio machines, or weights that might be under 5 pounds. Some women and even men just enjoy this type of exercise and there is nothing wrong with that! That being said, women should not feel like they have to stay away from heavy lifting because they will become too "manly" or "muscular."
Growing up I was always extremely scrawny and in order to be better for my sport, I wanted to be strong and gain muscle. For the most part, I always had my team lifting with me, so it wasn't a big deal, but you really start to notice these gym gender stereotypes when you begin to workout on your own. Training in the off-season without your team can definitely be intimidating at times. Last summer, the gym I belonged to had a cardio room with all the bikes, treadmills, and ellipticals. Another room had the lifting stations and dumbbells. With my workout plan, I constantly spent my time in the room with all of the weights. I can safely say the majority of the people in this room constantly were men. They were always in there, all different sizes, working on strengthening their muscles, but my fellow women were few and far between. At times, it made me feel like maybe I am in the wrong place. Because of my sport, and my enjoyment with becoming stronger, I could look past this and focus on my strength goals. I understand that for other girls it's not that easy.
Body image issues are extremely prevalent among women in fitness. The fear of becoming too muscular and not being skinny enough is a worry for too many young women. On TikTok, I have even seen videos of girls encouraging other girls to power walk instead of run so that legs don't gain muscle and just stay toned while still doing cardio. Women can run. Women can lift. No woman should be ashamed of her body because she is strong and has muscle. I've loved the change I have begun to see on social media by women opening up this conversation, and other instagram fitness icons flexing their tear drop muscle and biceps. We need to keep this movement going. Especially starting off, it is extremely intimidating to be around men who can bench press more than you can ever imagine even squatting. Trust me, I've been there. What's important to keep in mind is who you are exercising for. And if that answer is anyone but yourself, then that needs to change! Another important aspect of this is women need to lift each other up instead of tear each other down. Instead of judging other women for their level of fitness, we need to all support each other to become stronger. Let's lift each other up while we are lifting.
What I hope can come out of these conversations is women being more comfortable at gyms and being strong. Once again, do what ever exercise you like, if it's cardio, then definitely do that. But let's not hold ourselves back or worry about too much muscle because of what other people say. We are strong, powerful women, remember that!