Growing up, I never really exercised. When the COVID-19 pandemic came around, I realized I was hitting a low point in my life. I wasn’t feeling my best physically and mentally, and I was tired of not feeling good about myself. I saw a lot of people sharing their workouts online, and I was inspired. One day, I just went into the gym and started moving.
Initially, I wanted to do a lot of cardio to get thin. For two years, I did activities that I thought would make me sweat and help me burn calories. I’d hit the treadmill, rowing machine, and stair climber because I thought that was the best way to lose weight. Ultimately, I lost about 25 to 30 pounds.
At first, I was feeling good because I was seeing results, but I still wasn’t happy or necessarily healthy. I felt weak, my hair was falling out, and I knew I needed to make a shift.
It wasn’t until my friend convinced me to try lifting weights for the first time that I realized what I was capable of.
I always trained by myself, but one day, I bumped into an old friend in the gym. While we were catching up, they were doing deadlifts. I wished I could do something like that. It took an hour of convincing, but I did my first deadlift and surprised myself. That alone made me determined to see what else I could do and where it could take me.
I followed along with fitness videos from Krissy Cela, who co-founded the fitness app EvolveYou and the clothing brand Oner Active. She’s my inspiration and still one of my favorite fitness influencers in the industry. I also started asking personal trainers around my gym questions and wanted to continue learning more, so I decided to become a personal trainer. Now, I have my level two and level three certifications.
As I continued doing strength-training workouts, I felt good physically and had a new sense of purpose. I shifted my fitness goals to hitting new lifting PRs, and I’d never felt so strong in my life.
Lifting became a form of meditation for me too. Today, if I’ve had a mentally draining day, I can turn to the gym to relieve stress and zone out for a while.
When I started strength training, I could barely lift 44 pounds. Now, I can lift double my bodyweight.
Instead of leaning on cardio, I do five days of strength training a week. I’ll usually do two to three days of lower-body workouts, and two to three days of upper-body workouts. One of my go-to moves is the Romanian deadlift. It’s taken me a few years to master it, but now it’s one of my strengths. Within a year, I went from lifting 44 pounds to 220.
My first pullups and chinups also took me almost six months to achieve. Now I can do 10 pullups, and they’re my favorite. I started by holding onto the bar and hanging. I slowly built up to assisted pullups and deficit pullups. I got a bar to use at home, so I could keep practicing.
My typical upper-body workout includes a bench press, shoulder press, triceps pull-down, incline press, and cable shoulder raises. I’ll do 10-12 reps and four to five sets, depending on the weight. If I’m lifting a heavier weight, I’ll do fewer reps.
On days when I’m not strength training, I’ll either do yoga or take a pole-dancing class. I’ve been doing pole dancing for only five months, but I love how it activates my core muscles. It’s a lot of calisthenics, and I like the bodyweight-only workout.
These three factors were key to my strength transformation success.
1. Finding community gave me encouragement and accountability.
My number one supporter is my mom. Whenever I show her my progress videos, she’s always impressed. I also began to notice the power of community at the gym and through pole dancing classes. Getting encouragement from other women in pole class made me feel so strong and supported.
At the gym, strangers became friends because of our shared love of strength training. To this day, if there’s ever a time when one of us struggles to lift a certain weight, we cheer them on. Every time they’re able to do the lift with the cheers. Having people to offer those words of support can make a real difference.
The first time I experienced it, I was doing hip thrusts and trying to PR with 440 pounds. I didn’t think I could hit it, and I doubted myself. When people nearby saw the weight I put on the bar, they came over and encouraged me. I knew they were watching and believed in me, so I was able to get it done. Now, anytime I want to PR, I ask them for an extra boost.
2. I honor my recovery days.
At the beginning of my fitness journey, I was working out every day. Once I started strength training, I realized that you can’t lift the same weight or lift heavier on back to back days. I learned to take time to rest so I could come back stronger and more prepared.
Recovery days mean I’m not doing any physical activity at all. Instead, I’m eating foods that make me feel good and giving my body a real break. Rather than having a mindset that tells me I need to burn off what I eat, I look at it as an opportunity to fuel up and prepare for future workouts.
3. I see fitness as an everlasting journey, and I continue creating new goals to hit.
Strength training has taught me that end goals are truly nonexistent. The limit does not exist in the gym. As soon as I achieve one goal, I’m thinking about what I can do next. I’m a firm believer that fitness is an everlasting journey. If anything, the goal is to always be better than the person I was the day before, no matter what that looks like.
At the end of the day, I want people to know how important it is to do this for yourself first. Motivation from others isn’t everything, and it ultimately comes down to what you think is best for you.