A 19 year old girl, fitness enthusiast and dedicated Olympic style weightlifter, Level 2 Weightlifting coach, Powerlifter, and non-competitive Irish dancer. I'm determined to live a healthier lifestyle and take care of my body whilst influencing other young people to do so. I never doubt my ability to achieve something; I just change what I'm doing until I succeed.
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I have been neglecting my blog recently, but I realised the importance of keeping on track as I need to express myself more often than I thought. I have tons of ideas I want to write about on my website, but more research has to be done before I can correctly write about such detailed subjects. Hence why this blog post is basically just me complaining about a topic I'd love to change. So if you've stumbled upon this post, don't take my words to heart as I'm simply stating what's on my mind. Please continue reading if you either a: aren't easily offended or b: are intrigued by the controversial title of this post and my overall experiences.
My personal experiences
Many times when I was younger I was put down by other people because of my Weightlifting hobby. I came close to giving up completely and never lifting again, I even took many breaks because I didn't enjoy the negative attention provided by people who thought my passion was something they could make a joke out of. When I first began Weightlifting I was keen to tell people my poundages as with most children they're excited to tell people about their achievements. Sadly, I soon quietened down about it due to people not believing me or continuing to go on and on about it with the intention to make me look like a fool. I still find now that I hate telling people how much I can lift since this happened. I usually try to keep conversations about my poundages sweet and short as I fear that people will think I'm something that I'm not.
Recently, someone from a sports apprenticeship company asked me about my poundages and I replied for once with the totals. I received a much different response from one I'd recieved many times from when I was a lot younger, however it wasn't a response I easily knew how to handle. This is coming from a girl who once had an anxiety disorder, but I felt as if I was being treated like a young child. The response I received was trying to perceive me to be stronger than the fully grown male adults who queried me (which is obviously not true). I know that the response may have been like this as they were trying to make conversation and was said with no intention to try and make me rethink my hobby, but I felt rather uncomfortable thinking that this may have had something to do with them trying to encourage me to join their company due to me seeming as if I had little knowledge on the sport. I don't think this was in any relation to my gender, but I wouldn't of been surprised if it was. I left things on a friendly note and left my fitness instagram and blog reference, meaning that the company may read this. If they do, please note that I overthink things but I'm probably smarter than you perceived me to be. I just didn't appreciate the blatant lie I was told in order to try and boost my confidence.
In relation to this, I don't like when I'm lifting how people will try to make a joke out of saying how 'huge and butch' I look, when obviously although I am muscular, I'm no where near as big in height and fat as the majority of Weightlifters. I'm not trying to be miserable as I can take a joke, but not when one focuses on the size and body shape of someone who works as hard as I do. Not only does Weightlifting make you tough because you're lifting weights, but the amount of sexism I've dealt with is too much to put into words. I've experienced issues with people ignoring me and my correct point of view, only then to listen to some big, strong man repeating the same words I just used. I've had weights that have belonged to my club snatched out of my hands because I've not been trusted and I've 'not known any better than to grab anything'. I've let people walk all over me when I've been interrupted during my workout just to load and unload the bar for someone (a parent of a child) who shouldn't of been lifting weights (no insurance) and couldn't (no training), all because they wanted to try a personal best.
Why this shouldn't happen
I believe that this is something that shouldn't happen as it sets a bad example for younger children of the same gender. I have proof of this already and it hurts me to think that sexism in the sports industry is very much still a thing. In fact, Women only began competing in the Olympic games when Weightlifting in the year 2000. Not too long ago, a girl who I coach in my Weightlifting squad was telling me about how she told her class she was a Weightlifter. She then went on to tell me about how they all laughed at her and said she was a liar and didn't lift weights at all. I asked her why and her response was 'Well... because I'm a girl and girls aren't supposed to lift weights'. Even just typing this gives me so much anger, that such a young child feels ashamed and different just because their gender is enjoying a sport. After she told me this I gave her the advice I wished I'd received when this happened to me. I said ' So what if they laughed at you, you're an excellent Weightlifter and I'm sure none of them would be as good as you are. Just as long as you keep going and remember why you do it, you're bound to shine'.
Today, when I went training this same lifter was upset because the boys made her the centre of attention and were teasing her whilst I wasn't in the room. This wouldn't of happened if I'd been the main coach in this situation, but thats not a matter to discuss on here. Anyways, she suddenly lost all her confidence lifting in front of people but I decided that I'd train her myself to keep her happy again. When I'm encouraging her to lift, I say things like 'You wanna be the best girl Weightlifter at the competition don't you!' or 'You wanna beat the boys don't you?'. But really, I shouldn't have to say things like that in order to stop someone feeling disheartened because they weren't born a certain way. None of the young male lifters who I coach have ever had issues with their classmates laughing at them due to them being a Weightlifter. People don't teach their children that any gender can do specific sports, jobs or tasks but then expect young children to be happy and a healthy weight for their age. It really isn't fair on those people who really want to try something new but feel restricted only because of a stupid stigma set by people who probably barely even know the hobby. Since girls aren't supposed to do Weightlifting according to many very incorrect people, this can provide boys with more confidence to do better than the girls, hence why I gave my young female lifter the motivation which is lacked in the sport industry for her gender.
What I'd love to change about this
If you know me well, you'd know that I cannot stand injustice and that I'm very compassionate and empathetic. I'd absolutely love to change sexism in the sports industry and boost the confidence of other young children who want to do certain sports and have been told they can't or shouldn't because of their gender. Its not just girls and Weightlifting, but Boys with other sports like dancing or gymnastics. This is one of the reasons I made my blog, as I felt I wanted a platform to deliver my ways of motivating others (just what I wish I had when I was younger). Somehow, I'd love to have a career encouraging children to enjoy sports. Whether this is PE teaching, continuing to volunteer as a Weightlifting coach or something completely different. I have much respect for companies like Thisgirlcan who promote sporting hobbies for girls. It is sad that I can write a blog post complaining about such a serious topic that even a child as young as 8 can notice but not understand that it's wrong. However, I continue to be determined and encourage the young female lifters to keep trying no matter how hard situations are. Many many times I've seen girls attempt Weightlifting at the local youth club where my coach and I volunteer, they've soon backed down and not wanted to continue with the sport. Since this year, I'd been the only female Weightlifter at my club since 2013. I hope that this won't be an issue in future when I begin coaching more.
Thank you for reading this blog post. I felt the need to rant in this and simply have no care in the world for any opposing opinions against this post. Whoever you are, whatever your hobby is; keep trying and you can only bring out the best in yourself.
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Its been a month since I published my last blog post and I hate to say it but this will probably happen a lot from now up until July. As i'll be sitting my GCSE's during the summer of 2018, I'll be spending more time revising and working out than I will be on social media. Thats not to say that I'm not looking forward to this, sometimes breaks from social media is the best thing you can do in order to feel totally relaxed. In the meantime whilst I haven't been writing I've been getting ahead with my PE coursework, started Weightlifting and dancing again, finished my physiotherapy appointments, coached the junior Weightlifting squad more and began to Kon Mari some more of my belongings. Now that I've briefly updated about myself, I'll now explain my 5 ways I've found help to encourage children to enjoy exercising. Please carry on reading to find out more about this topic.
1. Showing positivity, not competition
One of the best ways of encouraging anyone to do anything is by staying positive. Sports usually revolve around competition, even in the fitness industry. One of the main reasons why some people want to get fit is to be better than someone else, I've been there and sometimes I am there. Children can be competitive when it comes to sports, however if there are children of mixed abilities it is best not to encourage competition. When I've been coaching some of the children in the junior Olympic Weightlifting squad, if they've gotten something incorrect I'll make sure to say something good about their lifts as well as some tips. When competing in sports, confidence can be knocked by viewing those with better skills, unless of course you're the best of the best. When the team have gone into competitions, I will often motivate them in order to stop them feeling negative due to the self-inflicted pressure of competing. Many people don't always understand that you obviously might not be as good at something as other people who train for longer or have been involved in the sport for much longer, unless of course it comes naturally to you.
2. Keeping to yourself
This one may not seem as obvious and may only work depending on your surroundings, however I've noticed that it works for me. If I'm working out individually or begin to bring equipment out, the children will usually become quite invested in what I'm doing. This often results in them trying and continuing to do the exercises along with my guidance. The amount of times my workouts have been interrupted by some shy but incredibly ambitious kids who only want to know more, is rather a lot. But in the end if they're learning something new then I'm all for it! Sometimes kids have spotted my workouts written on the board and have asked for demonstrations. This shows that not always do you have to put exercise right in front of a child, but you can keep to yourself and the curiosity will cause them to feel like joining in.
3. Pacing how much exercise is completed
When encouraging children to exercise, I've learnt to remember that not everyone has the same abilities. Often children are encouraged by more amounts of exercise due to the nature of competition, but sometimes children can be motivated by less amounts of exercise if they lack the ability to do a lot but still want to participate. For instance, many of the children in the Weightlifting squad are very enthusiastic about fitness, but someone has to set limits as to how much exercise is too much. At the young ages they're are (ranging from 7 years old to 12), often the children will want to show off or keep trying until they're physically fatigued and tired. This has often been the case many times when I've been coaching and one time I had to show the group how to do modified pushups as they all could only complete different but low numbers of normal pushups. To stop those who are less able feeling down about watching the others complete more amounts of push ups in order to 'look the best', I made them all complete the same exercise but within their own time. However, if I hadn't of shown them the modified push ups, they would've lacked the proper form to complete a good amount of normal pushups. Sometimes its not common sense for a child to stop or know their limit when exercising, I've been there and have caused myself to work to complete exhaustion resulting in me vomiting. Many times, the children have loaded the Weightlifting bar to their absolute maximum before warming up towards the weight, so guidance is key when children want to exercise. I currently volunteer at a youth club and many of the children there have conditions which stop them from partaking in as much sport compared to some of the other children. This is why that in order to make exercise enjoyable, not pushing children, not expecting too much of them and respecting how hard they're trying is important.
4. Circuit training (An example exercise)
A couple of times I've motivated the children to exercise by organising different activities before we begin Weightlifting. Circuit training is an excellent example of this. You can replicate Weightlifting movements, include strength building exercises and pulse raisers. I would suggest only completing one or two circuits (depending on how much training you expect afterwards and how hard each exercise is). However, the kids enjoyed it because it was something new and interesting to give them a surge of energy before they began lifting. I added in a range of exercises which were usually different at each station (burpees, push ups, sit ups, star jumps, squats etc.)
5. Fitness testing (An example exercise)
More recently, I tried some basic fitness testing with the kids. I used very basic exercises and didn't set any limits for them, however they seemed to motivate each other and show sportsmanship. If any of the children couldn't or didn't want to complete an exercise, I let them sit out or showed them something else they could try. I also joined in with them so they knew what they were doing. Fitness testing is a good way of showing the children their progress after a period of time and is also a great opportunity for them to identify their weaknesses and strengths. The majority of the Olympic Weightlifting squad have only been training between 3- to 9 months, meaning that as they start to train for longer with more precision they can compare their ability from the first test compared to many more. Overall, they enjoyed it and it got them thinking positively about how successful they were.
When testing the kids, I used a really good way of checking their Olympic Weightlifting techniques. The bottom two parts of the sheet involved each lifter attempting both the Snatch and the Clean and jerk until I said it was acceptable or perfect. As they're fairly new to the sport, they often have guidance involving what they need to adjust or correct, whereas with this they had to work out for themselves what was wrong with their lifts. Overtime, the number of attempts will decrease as their lifting technique improves.
Thank you for reading this post, I'm sorry that its only short. Please note that all of these ideas and methods are only posted on my site as a way to inspire. In no way at all am I attempting to copy other ideas and reclaim them as my own. As I'm not a licensed Olympic Weightlifting coach yet and do not currently own a coach number one or two qualification, please note that all activities involving Weightlifting had an official licensed coach present at all times. For heath and safety reasons, children wouldn't be left to their own accord during these activities.