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GYM DIARIES: MY SWITCH TO STRENGTH

WOD instructor and lifting champ, Adrian, is giving me a pep talk before I embark on his weight-lifting classes. He’s listing the aches and pains I might experience through regular strength-training, whilst his wrist is taped up from a recent lifting injury. You’d think I was about to enter World’s Strongest Woman. I remain super excited to start practicing deadlifts and snatches, and immediately purchase some weight-lifting gloves online. Aching joints? No problem. Rough skin? Absolutely not.

Before ONE LDN, my weight training regime was virtually non-existent ( I’d say ‘Cardio Queen’ was an apt description). The weights zone was a ‘man-area’, and a minefield of awkward moments and obscure exercises waiting to happen. I stuck with cardio for years and maintained an irrational fear of the squat rack. Even in a weightlifting class, I was a disaster waiting to happen, once even hurling – accidentally – a loaded bar at the studio windows whilst attempting a clean and jerk. It was PT Chris who pushed me out of my comfort zone, fitting in dreaded weighted lunges, step-ups, and hamstring curls into each training session.

Over the past year I have gone from wobbly squats to those a sumo wrestler would be proud of. My knees don’t cave in when I’m deadlifting, my back is straighter, and my planks and push-ups have gone from saggy to solid. I feel comforted that weight-training helps anti-aging; that my goals of a decent set of biceps and a washboard stomach are more likely to be achieved through strength-training rather than obsessive cardio; and the idea that I’m burning fat for hours after my workout thanks to greater muscle mass and an increased metabolism. I feel stronger, meaner, leaner, and I can run for longer and tirelessly (strong quads right there).

I don’t have a shredded six pack, rippling biceps, the ability to lift a double decker bus (or even complete an unassisted pull-up…yet). At times it feels like an uphill struggle, and I’m one impatient gym bunny. But when I look back at the last 10 months, it’s been a journey about self-acceptance and confidence, not just strength and achieving a body fat mass lower than 19%. I doubt I’ll ever return to doing a workout session that evolves totally around cardio - I’ve come too far to regress back to running like a hamster in a cardio wheel of doom. Now I’m pursuing actual, tangible goals to become the strongest me that I can be. Whilst my hatred for the squat rack hasn't changed, my workout regime has, and not only is it fun - it’s maintainable.

By Connie Foster-Hall

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