When we first think of strength training, the gains that come to mind are typically restricted to the gym: following a progressive overload program allows us to lift more from week to week, and depending on our goals, we can see more muscle on our body as well.
But what if there was more to strength training?
We’ve turned to the collective wisdom of our GGS Community, so that they could share their own experiences when it comes to the sometimes surprising benefits of strength training.
Strength training can have a profound effect on how we see ourselves. Often, we cling to some identities — sometimes ones we’ve chosen, other times ones that have been chosen for us — without ever challenging them.
“Lifting made me far more able to tell off judgmental people or societal expectations,” says GGS community member Stephanie.
When faced with lifting (appropriately) significant amounts of weight, we can be surprised by how we react, and unveil aspects of our personality which would have previously seemed out of character.
As GGS team member Steph explained: “I didn't anticipate how well I'd get to know myself. Before I started lifting, I thought I knew my habits, my insecurities, and the way I approached things, but there was so much I didn't know!”
Lifting weights can help us renew a sense of trust in ourselves. Many community members have commented about reconnecting with their body in a way that they hadn’t felt in years. Others reported gaining the self-trust to stand up for themselves in new ways, such as fighting oppressive stereotypes, leaving abusive relationships and moving away from toxic work environments.
“As a ‘morbidly obese’ woman, I am actually able to do amazing things in the gym! And it makes me feel badass, strong and powerful and that I no longer need to hide!” — Laura
“The stronger I get, the more my life feels full of possibilities,” says community member Kristin.
This is a feeling I know all-too-well. At the beginning of my own lifting journey, I remember learning the Jefferson deadlift, and then performing one at a weight I didn’t believe I could lift (at a GGS event, no less!). Up until that point, I’d somewhat convinced myself that I could never really “lift heavy”, yet there I was, facing proof that I’d just lifted a weight much greater than what I believed I was capable of lifting.
This opened up something inside of me: I understood that I’d been feeling constrained by barriers which only existed inside my head, and I promised myself I wouldn’t get caught in that mindset anymore.
Many in the GGS community have shared similar experiences, including team member Ivonne: “So many times I looked at things that I didn't believe I could do, weight that I didn't think I was strong enough to move, intensities that I didn't think I could bear. And after doing the thing, moving the weight, conquering an intense interval workout, I came out on the other side thinking, ‘Wow, what else can I do?’”
“I feel more confident in life,” says Wanda, “I still have some goals to hit, but I am confident I can do them, where as starting three years ago, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do anything!”
Many GGS community members thank their strength training regimen for being an important component of their commitment to a healthier lifestyle, which in turn helps them keep medical issues under control.
“I used to go to the emergency room at least twice a year for my asthma before I started lifting weights,” shares Huong, “Now I haven’t been to the emergency room in years! This doesn’t mean that my asthma has disappeared but it’s under control and that is such a win for me!”
It can also have some healing effects in our relationship with our body. As Shannon points out: “Strength training helped me reconnect with my body after some really rough medical issues, which were complicated by post traumatic stress due to medical neglect. I felt so disconnected from and distrustful of my body, and strength training was very healing.”
We’d all like to think we can be there to physically help our loved ones in moments of need — be they needs brought on by certain circumstances, or the the needs of everyday life. Several GGS community members shared how the strength they developed through their training helped them better care for loved ones.
“A few months ago, my mom fell. With two knee replacements and a hip replacement, getting up from that fall was difficult and painful. I told her I’d pull her up. She was afraid I’d drop her, but I promised I wouldn’t and Iifter her up. She told me later that she now really appreciates why I go to the gym to ‘lift heavy things’,” recounts Lynette.
“I can carry my 45-pound sleeping daughter from the car up the stairs and to bed without a meltdown,” points out Karen, “Strength brings peace and comfort.”
Can increased physical strength bring on increased psychological strength as well? Many community members have reported finding so in their own experience.
“Weight lifting is the only time I can get completely out of my head, and I’m a compulsive over thinker and perfectionist,” says Ashley. Clare shares a similar experience: “It helps me with depression, restores a better perspective on life, reduces my stress, empowers me, raises my self-esteem, and restores better self-care habits.”
Many find the positive effects on their mental health go way beyond the time they spend in the gym. “As I gain physical strength,” shares Lana, “I find that the mental stress burden I carry becomes lighter and lighter, even though circumstances have only improved slightly. I know exercise is great for stress management; I thought it would feel good to blow off steam regularly, but then have that burden return. I was really surprised to find a more continuous effect.”
These are but a few of the surprising benefits reported by our community members. Other benefits pointed out included:
What surprising benefits will you uncover?
Read also: The Importance of Community in Fitness
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