How Weightlifting Changed My Life
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How Weightlifting Changed My Life

Want to improve a teenage girl's self-esteem? Give her a barbell.

How Weightlifting Changed My Life
Gabby Haugh

Here are some questions I’ve been asked in my lifetime, “You do what?” “Aren’t you worried about looking manly?” “How much can you bench?” “How’d you even get into that?” “Isn’t that dangerous?” All of these questions were in response to learning that I, a teenage woman, am a competitive Olympic weightlifter. Some of these questions are valid and some aren’t, but I am thankful every day that I started weightlifting because my life would radically be different if I had never picked up a barbell.

Weightlifting has been a huge part of my life since I was a young girl. I started playing volleyball when I was nine, and once I decided I was serious about playing volleyball, my dad suggested that I should start lifting to improve my overall athleticism. I was ten years old when I first picked up a piece of PVC pipe and learned the “Burgener Warm-Up” and Olympic lifts such as the clean and jerk and the snatch. Although I started weightlifting as a tool to help me on the volleyball court, it quickly became a passion and helped shape who I am today.

With my dad (a certified USA Weightlifting coach) as my coach, I rapidly progressed in the different lifts. And with my progression, I became faster, stronger, and could jump higher, which tremendously helped my volleyball career. As I continued to lift throughout middle school, I realized that while the majority of my friends were experiencing body image issues, I was completely happy with my body. I loved my body and that I was stronger than most boys my age and that I could lift weight most thirteen-year-olds could not.

I never worried about my weight and or how I looked in a mirror because I defined my body image by the gains I made in the weight room. By the time high school was approaching, my dad suggested that I actually compete in Olympic weightlifting. Although tentative, I wanted to try it and so in August 2011 I competed in the California State Games in San Diego, my first ever weightlifting competition.

I took first place in that competition and, from then on, I was hooked. As of today, I have competed in a total of six meets, including the 2013 USA Weightlifting Junior Nationals, and have placed first in five of those competitions. But weightlifting hasn’t just given me medals, it has given me the unwavering self-confidence that every girl dreams of having.

Unfortunately, more and more teenage girls in this country struggle with their body image and self-esteem. I truly believe is it because of weightlifting that I was not another statistic. There is something incredibly empowering about hitting a new personal record. You become proud of what your body can do and learn to appreciate it in all of its abilities. Defining yourself by your strengths, not by how you look in a mirror can do wonders for a girl’s self-confidence.

Don’t get me wrong, though, weightlifting is not a cakewalk. There have been tears, immense frustration, and struggles to make weight for competitions. However, it is overcoming those difficulties that makes it all even more fulfilling. Additionally, because weightlifting is an individual sport, you learn to rely on yourself.

You don’t have any teammates to compensate if you’re having an off day. It’s just you and the barbell. All you can rely on is your body, your mind, and the training you have put yourself through. You become confident in taking on any challenge, whether it’s a heavy weight or a job interview or whatever life throws at you.

Weightlifting changed my life by giving me self-confidence and the strength to love myself and to take on life knowing that I can overcome any challenge. I cannot imagine what my life would be like if I had not started weightlifting. I am who I am today because I decided to pick up a barbell and find out what my body is capable of and I am so much better off for it.

So, if a young girl tells you she likes weightlifting, don’t react with surprise or ask her if she’s afraid of “looking manly,” encourage her, because she will be stronger physically, mentally, and emotionally as a result.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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