The other day I was starting my work out, stretched out, mask on, barbell set on the squat rack with my warm up weight. While I wasn’t particularly excited about working out that day, I knew I would feel pretty good once I was finished. I got under the bar, and quickly squatted through my warm up sets. All well and good – this was an exercise I feel I was born to do: my legs have always been strong, with a decent range of motion, and I can squeeze my butt until the cows come home. I love the feeling of squatting with eight on my shoulders, it makes me feel very powerful and capable.
Anyway, I finish up my warm up set and load up the next round while this guy comes over. He’s younger, has his tunes blaring through his headphones, and is one of those people that feels the need to grunt excessively loudly as he lifts just so everyone knows that he can lift heavy. “When are you done?” he asks me, rather grumpily (we only have one squat rack at this tiny gym. I said I had a few more sets. “How long will you take?” he asks. I didn’t know, but I said I’d let him know when I was done. Job done, or so I thought. After EACH. FUCKING. SET. as I’m loading up the bar for the next one he makes a beeline for me to demand to know how much longer I had, and not in a polite, may-I-use-it-after-please-and-thank-you kind of way. More of a “get off my squat rack, woman and let me lift heavier” attitude. At one point he also stood close by and watched me perform my set.
Here’s where it got interesting rather than annoying for me: as he was doing this, I found a fire in me. Rather than quickly going through my workout or even cutting it short for this obnoxious young twat I calmly loaded up the bar with more weight, did smooth clean sets, and popped more weight on. He was the type of guy that only seemed to respect strength; I have a lot of strength, I deserve to use that squat rack just as much as he does (not that it matters if you’re not strong yet, no one should be embarrassed to use the squat rack or feel like they don’t belong there). So, mainly out of stubbornness, I maintained eye contact with this stupid mosquito buzzing around my rack and did an extra three sets that I would never normally do. Petty? Absolutely. Worth it? Absolutely. With each rep I could see him getting more and more impatient, and I’ll I could think about was how much I had improved, mentally and physically, to be able to not only withstand such an annoyance, but to push back.
Having defined physical strength, that I can measure and improve upon, has unleashed an inner badass in me that I’ve increasingly noticed over the year. I walk into a gym with no fear anymore and head straight to the barbells, knowing that I belong there and that I can lift an impressive amount. My posture is different, and so is my gait. I’m not a furtive lurker making sure no one is watching me; I don’t care if people see me, I’m going to do what I need to do to better my health. I didn’t back down from a potential confrontation, which I definitely would have done only a few months ago, and instead I held my ground and proved to myself that I am capable of it.
That being said, I’m still very sore two days later, but who gives a shit. I set a personal best and showed an asshole to back off. There has been some discussion amongst my friends that I told this story to that there was probably some underlying misogyny at play, and I unfortunately think that’s a fair comment. I doubt this guy would have come up more than once to another dude who was using that equipment; maybe he thought he could intimidate me, maybe he didn’t realize how annoying he was being. I don’t know, and I don’t care. All I care about is that I responded with strength, dignity, self-confidence, and a little bit of douchebaggery myself.
So to everyone out there who wants a boost of confidence, I truly do suggest weightlifting. It will make you feel powerful, and that is a difficult feeling for others to diminish. And for those of you out there trying to push women off of the weightlifting equipment that you feel entitled to: back off and wait your damn turn.