Until very recently, I have been terrified of the weight section of the gym.
The super swole dudes in muscle tanks, a plethora of machines, and a false sense of judgment have always steered me away from the section, and have forced me to create a home in the cardio and floor areas of the gym.
Don't get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing about a good HIIT workout or getting your sweat on via the treadmill. With a combination of the right exercises and nutrition choices, it's definitely possible to see positive changes in your body without ever lifting anything heavy at all.
However, when your body grows accustomed to the same types of workouts it learns to use "easy" energy reserves (like from carbs) to fuel your workout, instead of burning fat.
While it is true that all physical results take time, in my own experience I have found that once you do enough of the same type of HIIT floor workouts, you eventually hit a plateau and going to the gym can start to get boring. After switching between Kayla Itsines' "Bikini Body Guide", Cassey Ho's "Blogilates" and making up my own HIIT workouts for the past few years I have seen results, but they have been difficult to maintain without regular heavy cardio.
After following a few female bodybuilder's Instagram accounts (@taychayy being my favorite right now) just because their workouts looked interesting and different from what I normally do, I finally decided to step into the uncharted territory of the "men's" weight section of the gym.
I was initially a bit terrified, had little concept of how much weight to use, and tried to bring as little attention to myself as possible by sticking to the cable machines on the outer fringes of the floor. Gradually, I began to understand how much weight I could handle on each machine, and am growing more confident as well as physically strong.
I believe that it is time for women to stop being afraid of lifting weights and building muscle. With lifting and mindful nutrition, you can actually control how your body grows and changes, preventing the "bulky" look that so many women are afraid of. Lifting weights is actually by far the most effective way to build muscle, and the more muscle mass you have the faster your body is able to burn fat (hello, abs).
Taking those small, surprisingly scary steps into the weight section of the gym and getting through my workouts without any weird looks or humiliation made me realize that my intimidation came from self-judging and self-doubt, rather than any extrinsic source. In reality, everyone is focused on themselves while they are working out, and are likely only going to pay attention to you if they are offering a helping hand.
If you are thinking about starting to lift, I say go for it 100%. If you find a friend that knows what they're doing, force them to go with you and teach you the basics. If you don't, bring another newbie friend along and you two can figure everything out together. The results of getting lean, strong, and healthy will be so worth any initial nervousness of breaking the unspoken, sexist "barrier" of the cardio vs. weight sections of the gym.