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I’ve always been active. Soccer, basketball, hiking—you name it. But, when it came to my workouts, I felt like something was missing. I wasn’t getting the results I was working so hard for, and my competitive nature was starting to waver in my late twenties. I needed a new challenge. That’s when I pushed myself to lift weights.
Don’t get me wrong; it was easier said than done. I believed every negative stigma about strength training making you bulky (cue big biceps) and I felt extremely nervous about casually strolling into my gym’s weight room. From the first time I had the courage to pick up that barbell, I uncovered my new passion and discovered a world of body positive benefits.
Looking back now, I was totally out of my comfort zone. I had no clue what I was doing. But, I wouldn’t let that empty barbell defeat me. After reevaluating my workout routine and reading some female-focused weightlifting success stories, I knew that I wanted to lift, and lift heavy. That was over two years ago.
There was, and continues to be, something motivating about adding weight to the barbell. Each plate, each additional rep shows how far I’ve come, how confident I have become, and how strong I really am—both mentally and physically. Plus, I’m finally embracing my curves (woo!). I began as the nervous girl who couldn’t squat weight, and now I’m not afraid to load up those 45 lb plates.
If you’re ready to take on a new challenge and try weightlifting, here are five real-life lessons I learned when I started lifting:
That first time you try to squat, bench, row, press, etc. with an empty barbell, it might not be easy. It wasn’t for me. Don’t feel defeated and don’t be afraid. You might not look badass, but you’re not going to pack on the plates right away. Hey, if an unloaded barbell is 45 lbs, it will take a few gym sessions to feel comfortable moving correctly with it. Have patience; you’ll get there. If the empty barbell is heavy and you’re struggling, that’s okay, too. Ask your gym or instructor if they have a practice bar you can borrow. It’s so important that you get your movements down and feel comfortable doing them first. Weight will come. No matter what you’re trying to accomplish, everyone needs to start somewhere.
Just like it’s essential to have proper form when it comes to your yoga poses, moving the right way is crucial to lifting weights and avoiding injury. Before you start adding plates, get the patterns down. You can’t start squatting weight if you’re not squatting correctly, right? When it comes to squats, for example, I had to focus on my form—like keeping my chest up and my weight in my heels—before I even considered adding plates. Bad form can cause a world of pain. For a move like deadlifts, I had to work hard on my technique, practicing with dumbbells before I attempted the barbell. I found it helpful to lean on friends who have been lifting for a while to help me in real-time with my form. Having a trustworthy buddy who can correct (and spot) you is an added bonus.
I lift right, and I lift heavy when I am in the zone. Once I put on my headphones, turn up the tunes and wrap my hands around the bar, nothing else matters. Finding something to help me focus on is important to my method, too. If the squat rack I am using faces a mirror, I draw an “X” with my finger a little lower than eye-level. That’s what I stare at during each rep, helping me keep my form and posture. If I am about to bench press, I find something directly above me on the ceiling that catches my eye. You get my drift. When it comes to me lifting weights, it’s also all about my playlist. My current song choice is indicative of my “get after it” mood. You can usually find me skipping between EDM, rock and, hip-hop (thanks to these Spotify playlists and wireless headphones!). Having an object and a beat to focus on helps me grip the bar tighter and forget about the weight I am about to lift.
Once you start lifting, you tend to find a favorite move. For me, it’s squats. Though you might feel more confident performing a few of your go-to weightlifting poses, you must have a plan so your muscles don’t get exhausted. Keeping track of my progress helps me beat burnout and get after my goals. I like using the StrongLifts 5X5 app. Simple and straightforward (five sets of five, hence the name), I can add plates, deload when necessary and accurately time myself between sets—letting my muscles rest. While squats are always part of the routine, the app also segments out complementary exercises, like overhead presses with a set of deadlifts and bench presses with barbell rows. Tracking progress and targeting certain muscle groups has helped me set long-term expectations of what I want to achieve.
Three words: Take rest days. No matter your weight training routine, giving your muscles the recovery time they (and you) need is essential. Remember, you are lifting weights, and after a good sweat session, your muscles get tired. You don’t want to get injured. Wait about 48 hours before hitting a specific muscle group again. I like to lift three days per week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) and on my rest days, I spend time with my foam roller or at a yoga class. Yoga benefits my weightlifting routine, helping me gain flexibility and loosen up my tight hip flexors so I can squat deeper. It’s also good to remember that a day of rest can mean a walk, quick stretch session or doing absolutely nothing—you worked hard for it!
My last piece of advice for strength training? Don’t give up. Seriously. It might sound cliche, but even on the difficult days when you feel stuck on your reps or have been lifting the same amount weight for a few sessions, remember you can do it. You’ve already won by stepping out of your comfort zone and under the barbell.
If you're interested in lifting weights at your local gym, trying out a strength training class, or finding a new studio, easily discover and book your next fitness experience on the MINDBODY app today.
February is Black History Month—a celebration of the achievements and contributions of African Americans in society. As the beauty and wellness industry becomes a more welcoming and inclusive space for all, we are taking this opportunity to continue to shine a light on the gap of inclusivity and diversity in our industry, and take action to promote, empower, and honor the Black community that shapes and grows wellness.
While the beauty industry is making improvements—it's important to showcase and support Black businesses and the creatives in this space every day. To honor them, we're shouting out some of our favorite Black-owned beauty and wellness businesses to support.
Beauty Bin is a full-service day spa and dry bar located in Asheville, NC. With a focus on inclusivity for people of all backgrounds, genders, and races, their MO is to match the outer beauty of every client to their inner beauty. From eyelash extensions and hydrafacials to waxing and massage, Beauty Bin is a one-stop-shop for all the spa services.
The KIKA Method® is a gentle assisted stretching process that loosens up tight muscles freeing your body from pain and stress. By practicing this method, clients can experience decreased muscle tension, increased energy, enhanced flexibility, a substantial reduction in stress, improved posture and relaxation, and increased mental clarity. While its headquarters is located in Las Vegas, NV, they have multiple locations sprinkled throughout the US, including Atlanta, New York City, and Dallas—just to name a few.
At Kimberly Coleman Salon, their philosophy begins with promoting healthy tresses, elegant sets, unique accouterments, perfect pampering of hands and feet, and precision cuts. Known for working with models and celebrities, they fully appreciate and celebrate the diversity of their clientele which also includes super moms and warrior dads.
Pressed Roots was developed with the simple concept in mind—that everyone deserves access to easy, and quality hair care. What started as a single pop-up shop in Boston, grew to a multi-city pop-up tour, and is now slated to be the largest national hair salon franchise specializing in the care and styling of highly textured hair, they launched their first flagship location in Dallas, TX.
Jersey City resident, Alyza Brevard-Rodriguez started SW3AT. The company began as a fitness apparel line in 2015 but evolved into a sanctuary catered to health and wellness now known as SW3AT Sauna Studio—the first infrared sauna studio in Jersey City. The healing power of infrared heat therapy is a phenomenal option for holistic health proven to strengthen the immune system and provide relief from joint stiffness and muscle pain. It is also supportive of any fitness program as it aids in weight loss (you can torch up to 900 calories in a 45-minute session) while also detoxifying your body from some of the most harmful toxins.
Kelli Coleman and Anika Jackson opened The TEN Nail Bar in Detroit to address a void in their city. They saw a need for a quality, modern nail bar that could also serve as a fun social space for Detroit’s residents and professionals. They designed the TEN to provide their clients with a #Perfect10 experience—where you can relax, enjoy music, a drink, your friends, a clean and precise manicure, and a much-needed break from all your hectic days.
Located in the beautiful downtown Hyde Park Chicago area, Bettye O Day Spa specializes in first-class treatments. They aim to nurture and relax each of their clients with individualized and innovative therapeutic techniques. From body wraps and massages to facials and hydrotherapy, this day spa promises to be a safe place for healing to occur.
Looking for more businesses to support? ClassPass has also created a list of Black-owned business to check out all year-round. While both of these lists are a great start to get you familiar with many of the Black-owned businesses either in your neighborhood or around the globe, we have only scratched the surface. We'd love to keep these lists growing.If you have any businesses you'd like to see on this list, click here to submit a Black-owned business we should be highlighting as well!