We love sharing inspirational stories from Fit Girls around the world. This time Briana from Arizona shares how she fell in love with the weightroom.
Girls. We hear the 'M' word and shy away from it. Some of us may want it, but society tells us it’s not feminine enough. Many look at it as something only men should strive to attain. But in reality, it’s what we all desire in our active lives: muscle. Society, from an early age, has told young girls and women alike that we should get ‘toned’. That we should love only cardio and stay away from heavy weights and fear the idea of building muscle. I’m here to let you know that muscle may be the best thing that has happened to me.
Crushing on the weightroom
At 5’3, I have always been an athletic, petite, small-framed girl. Throughout high school and college my main goal was to be skinny. The smaller, the less curvy, the more waif-ish, the better. That was until I moved out on my own and fell in the love with the feeling of callused hands and heavy dumbbells. Many women are focused on weight loss, but for the ladies out there looking to gain some mass, or those who want to ‘tone’ (just another word for gaining lean muscle!) I want to share my journey so far. In May of this year, I began working out on the weight room floor. I stepped off the treadmill and used a Smith Machine for the first time in my life. Did I know what I was doing? No. Was I a little self conscious of what all of the men would think as I began squatting, most likely with bad form? Sure. But ultimately, my desire to push my body past it limits, to use it as the power house it really is, was more important than looking silly as a beginner. We all start somewhere.
Muscle is sexy
What I noticed between May and July was not even really physically, but mentally. I stood up straighter, I walked more confidently, I made eye contact with people and I felt good about myself. Investing in my own well being was making me happier and stronger—physically and mentally. The gym became my therapy, my safe place and somewhere I could go to really get out my emotions. I began doing research on bodybuilding.com, following Instagram fitness celebrities like Katy Hearn, Kayla Itsines, and Paige Hathaway. The most amazing thing occurred to me: these women are not stick thin. These women have butts and thighs and strong arms and I admired that. Muscle, I realized, is sexy. Why had I always been so scared to challenge myself? To try a dead lift or use a V-bar to do lat pull downs? Walking in to the gym and feeling comfortable enough to use any and every machine, bench, and bell is empowering.
Protein powder one of my best friends
When I committed to the idea of gaining muscle, I had to commit to the idea of protein. Lots of protein. Society tells women that 1200 calories a day is ideal for weight loss, but in my eyes, that just won’t do. To sustain and feed growing muscles, protein, carbohydrate and fat intake should be higher. You can’t put yourself on an extremely limited diet and expect to see growth. Instead, I am consuming roughly 1600 to 1800 calories per day to feed my body after my workouts. Protein powder has become one of my best friends. Whey Isolate—a fast acting protein is easy to consume on the go or when meal prep just becomes too much. Casein, another form of protein, is slow acting, and is recommended for consumption before bed to repair and help your muscles grow while you’re resting. Once you see food as fuel and your body begins to respond and change, you become addicted. You thrive off of seeing your hard work paying off and ultimately, you love the skin you are in.
Thanks for peanut butter!
Every woman is different, your body will respond to food, exercises and resistance differently. Talk to personal trainers, look up guides online, seek out information on what kinds of meal plans work for different kinds of women and your particular muscle goals. Start slowly, incorporate 4 oz. of chicken here, a scoop of Whey protein there and look up meal plans on Pinterest—this may sound funny, but this is where I went to start off! Oatmeal, rice, eggs, green veggies, nuts and berries are going to become your power houses and trust me, you will thank your lucky stars for peanut butter!
My first Bikni Competition
For me, muscle increase led me to training for my first NPC Bikini Competition. Mentally, this has been, and continues to be, a challenge. Dieting, pushing your workouts harder than ever before and ultimately getting on to a stage in front of strangers with all eyes on your physique is daunting. But there is nothing more rewarding than the feeling of pushing past your boundaries, changing I can’t in to I can, realizing that strong is beautiful and having muscle definition shows how dedicated, motivated and ambitious you are. There is nothing more satisfying than the realization that all of the sweat, aching, and yes, even consideration of giving up, has been worth it. No one is perfect, there are days that I am unsatisfied, unmotivated and want to eat every single thing in my sight. We are human, what matters is how you continue on after that. Motivation is something we re-commit to every single day. Do not be afraid to lift heavy weights, use a row machine, sit on an incline bench and do sets with 10 pound weights, even if the man next to you is using 50 pounders.
Muscle made me feel like superwoman
Every day you are becoming a stronger, better version of yourself. I think confidence mixes perfectly with the weight room. I wish I could give every girl and woman the amazing feeling of looking in a mirror and seeing someone they are proud of. The realization that the number on the scale matters so much less than the way you feel about yourself, carry yourself and respect yourself. Going out into the world every day and beginning to feel like you can take on any task and face any challenge that may come your way, while also being able to lift those heavy boxes all on your own. The "M" word showed me how strong I am. It showed me how beautiful I am, inside and out. Muscle made me feel like superwoman, and I'm not done yet. Are you ready to face the 'M' word?
If you want to stay updated about my fit journey, you can follow me on Instagram --> @briesul