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An Open Letter to Women Who Are Afraid of the Weight Room

Weight rooms aren't always a welcoming environment for a newbie. There's no TV on the squat rack. No illustrated program telling you when to up the resistance or speed if you want to hit the "Fat-Burning Zone." It can seem like a wasteland for fitness equipment, making it incredibly hard to navigate. And OMG, what a total sausage fest. It's just you, some metal, and half the male population.

But ICYMI, lifting weights—and heavy ones—can be the best thing that's ever happened to your fitness routine (and your body). Yeah, there are basically a million science-backed reasons you should do it (you'll burn more calories at rest, tone up, fight osteoporosis, etc.) but arguably the biggest benefit of lifting is that you'll feel stronger and more badass than ever before. (And, no, you will abso-effing-lutely not get bulky from lifting.)

There's something about (literally) holding your own with the heavy weights that's more empowering than any go-getter mantra, spin class instructor, or Beyoncé anthem ever could be, and I'm here to convince you to give it a go.

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No, it's not going to be easy.

You know that anything worth having in the fitness world is going to be uncomfortable at first. The difference here is that most of the discomfort isn't in the workout itself but in the workout environment. You might not know the names of half the equipment in there, and you'll need to improvise when dumbbell flys are on the lineup but all the benches are taken. You may need to start with the small dumbbells (even if it feels silly next to the guy curling ones equal to your bodyweight). You'll do some aimless wandering while looking for the right barbell or an open space to do lunges. You'll need to deal with moving 45-lb or even 100-lb plates left on equipment by ignorant dudes who simply can't fathom cleaning up after themselves. They'll ask if they "can help you with that" and give you unsolicited form tips—regardless of whether they would ever do that to a human with testicles.

Yeah, I know you ~shouldn't~ care what anyone thinks of you—after all, if there's one place in the world you're going to *do you,* it's the gym. But if you're feeling vulnerable trying something new (and the environment is anything but welcoming), it's only natural to feel a little self-conscious. The only antidote? Mastering it so you feel confident as hell. 

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But soon, they'll ask *you* for form tips.

Eventually, you'll inch your way up from the 5-lb hand weights to the 20-lb dumbbells in the main rack. You'll be able to throw the 45-lb plates on the barbell with ease, and squat them even easier. Instead of apprehensively locating your next piece of equipment while dodging hulk-like dudes, you'll assertively go about your gettin'-swole business, and they'll move over for you. They'll even start asking you for form tips, or to explain that never-before-seen glute move you're absolutely crushing. You'll start lifting heavier than half the guys in there. (Just one of the super-satisfying things that happen when you start lifting.) 

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There ain't nothin' to it but to do it.

But the only way to get there—and to make XX chromosomes just as frequent in the gym as XXL men's t-shirts—is to get in there and do it. Grab a friend for moral support. Better yet, book a session with a trainer just to familiarize yourself with the weight room and to make sure your form is on point (because if it's perfect, there's no reason for anyone to correct you). Do your research and have a plan, but don't be afraid to stray in order to keep moving.

That take-control attitude will reverberate outside the weight room, too. Watch as the power you exhibit on the weightlifting platform seeps into the way you carry yourself at work, in your relationship, and walking down the street. Because if you can step into a room full of dudes and pick up a couple hundred pounds, you can do anything you damn well set your mind to.

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