After being an extremely inactive teenager who gave up dance and found every excuse not to do PE, I’ve transformed into the type of adult who voluntarily gets up at 6am to go to the gym. I started to get back into fitness and trying to be a healthy human being around 2 years ago via home work outs by the likes of Jillian Michaels, but after that started to feel rather limited and repetitive I re-joined the gym last year and got myself a PT. I initially avoided posting anything about this side of myself online because I didn’t want to ‘show off’ about being at the gym. But I then discovered a network of strong women online who encourage and support each other, and I realised that it’s so worthwhile sharing your successes with others to keep each other motivated. Despite this realisation, a rough version of this post has been sat in my drafts for a while as I decided whether to publish it or not. But today is International Women’s Day, so it couldn’t be more appropriate to share my appreciation of strong, determined women.
There has been a perspective shift when it comes to women’s fitness. The ‘This Girl Can’ campaign celebrates women being active in all forms and doesn’t rely on perfectly sculpted bodies to push the message. One quote on their website rings particularly true; “Fear of judgement is stopping many of us from taking part in exercise. But as thousands of women up and down the country are proving, it doesn’t have to.” As a teenager, I quit ballet because my ‘friends’ found out where I did it and mocked me through the window. At school I didn’t want to wear my ugly PE kit, or have to run up and down next to the boys’ group, or ruin my hair, because the pressure on a teenage girl to look and be acceptable is pretty immense.
Even as an adult, having confidence in the gym took time, and it took even more time to be able to walk into the weights room without caring what the huge men in there thought of me. I’ve had countless conversations with other women about how they don’t feel great in gym clothes, or that they feel like people are looking at them and judging them, and this puts them off working out. In reality, 99% of people are just there doing their own thing and have probably experienced the exact same hang ups, and as for the other 1%, I’ve learnt not to give a shit what they think as they should be concentrating on sweating more and judging less.
In further online movements, hashtags such as #girlgains and #girlswholift are proof that we’re starting to move past the association with building muscle and looking masculine. When girls talk about lifting weights, they’re often met with cries of “ooh careful you don’t get too muscly”, or, “aren’t you scared you’ll look manly?”. These are ridiculous arguments for two reasons. Firstly, powerful doesn’t mean bulky. (When I was able to deadlift my own bodyweight I felt pretty invincible and, miraculously, I didn’t suddenly develop He-Man’s physique.) Secondly, why should a woman be scared of building muscle? If she wants to look big and muscular that’s just as cool as being lean and is the result of a serious amount of hard work and dedication. So, I go to the gym 4-5 times a week (focusing on hypertrophy, strength training and some HIIT thrown into the mix) and try to do yoga three times a week too. My aim is to get strong, build muscle and lift as heavy as I can. I’m happier, stronger, and more equipped to deal with the stresses of freelance life.
With Charlie Cohen showing at LFW, and e-tailers such as Missguided and Boohoo clambering to release their own activewear lines, it’s pretty clear that demand for gym gear with a fashion edge is high. It would have been hard to miss the mass of sportswear/fashion collaborations that have been released left, right, and centre, even just in 2014 alone, but even more recently, there has been a definite shift towards true activewear that you can use and abuse, yet looks good enough to be worn outside the confines of the gym. Unlike sportswear, it’s not all about the look, the functionality is there too.
There’s something about putting on an outfit that I feel good in that makes me feel 10 times more prepared to go and work hard than I would if I felt drab and uncomfortable in what I’m wearing. So as my gym wardrobe expands, (I cleared out a whole new drawer for it last night) this is what I’ve been lusting after recently and may well work its way into my kit over the coming months. The gold boxing gloves may not technically be part of an ‘outfit’ but if you’re going to box, you may as well do it in gold gloves with stars on…