I remember the time when ‘Maine Pyaar Kiya” was such a rage and all the boys I knew then, including my brothers, wanted to do push ups, one-hand push ups and weighted push ups. I somehow don’t remember myself or a single girl wanting to do the same. As if push ups were only a thing for boys. And it got me thinking how we never expected our girls to be strong. While calluses and bruises would be a mark of pride for boys, the same were frowned upon for girls.
I lived almost 30 years of my life being under-confident and hating myself. I used to be a hyper, playful and adventurous girl till about class 5, after which something changed. I spent the rest of my growing years trying to please others and ensuring that I looked pretty. And while there is absolutely no harm in looking pretty, I was trying to look pretty for others and live by their standards of pretty. Now that I feel better and confident in my own skin and look back and realise what has changed over the last few years, I see that it has a lot to do with how physically strong I feel. It started with being outdoors and running. The stronger I grow physically, the less I feel the need to look pretty. I don’t have to pretend to be confident anymore, and saying ‘no’ when required comes more easily. And I have listed down some reasons why I think every girl and woman should strength train. Actually, everyone should.
- Boosts confidence – You don’t know what you are made of till you start strength training. I think most of us don’t have an inkling of our dormant strength. The moment you get into a routine and realise what you are capable of, it has a profound effect on you. I never thought as a woman I would be able to do pull ups. What the heck, I never even thought I could lift my nine 9-year-old son and do squats. Now I have set a target for myself and I’m elated every time I make progress and get closer to my goal. It makes me venture out of my comfort zone (in any activity) so easily as I know I’m capable of tackling a lot more than I thought I could.
- Body positivity – It’s only when I started strength training that I truly started loving my body as it is. Strength comes in all shapes, sizes and body types. And you start appreciating yourself and others more for the effort. Commitment makes a person radiant. The stronger you feel, the lesser the stretch marks and cellulite bothers you. It makes you feel badass. The way the world is, the feeling of being a badass is great. I just wish I knew this when I was an 18-year-old.
- Falling sick less often – I don’t how this works but I don’t fall sick very often since I started running. It’s even lesser with strength training. It probably also has to do with the fact that it helps me fight stress better. My periods are more regular and less painful.
- Strengthens the bone – I have gone through severe vitamin D deficiency and osteomalacia. As a result of this, I know how severe and crippling the pain can be. For those few months, I cried with every movement. I was on painkillers and had to put on a fake smile all the time. Strength training increases bone density and reduces the risk of osteoporosis. As you age, you naturally lose muscle and bone mass. This is of special concern for women, whose bones are smaller to begin with and can become dangerously weakened by age. Yes, we need to prepare for old age not only financially.
- Nutrition – I still love waffles and give in to gulab jamuns. However, I’m so much more conscious of eating better now. I know strength training needs to be supported by a good, balanced diet, especially for recovery. I have started searching for more natural sources of protein. Seeds, eggs, nuts, fruits have become an everyday thing for me. And, I actually eat more often now to get the right amount of calories and nutrition.
I know there are many more health benefits of strength training but what I really wanted to reiterate with this article is that it’s very important for girls to start strength training early on. It’s not going to make them bulky unless they want to be bulky (and that takes much effort and discipline). It just helps them accept and love themselves for who they are rather than constantly trying to be someone else and that’s such a waste of time.
This post was first published here.