The following is a guest post from Rouzeen Imaan, a 3rd year AHS student and first-time contributor to the WARRIORS blog. To learn more about Rouzeen, check out her bio at the bottom of the page. In this article, Rouzeen shares her personal story about how weight lifting drastically changed her life and helped her grow into a strong, confident woman. Enjoy! – Austin
By: Rouzeen Imaan
This article isn’t here to tell you how lifting weights will give you a fantastic female body — high perky butt, great legs and a great set of abs. That’s not what I mean by “more of a woman”. Women can look any damn way they want. I’m trying to dig a little deeper.
Let’s start with me.
I’m 22 years young. Female. Indian. Muslim. Bodybuilder.
Stereotypes, come at me.
In high school, I wore a headscarf, a decision that wasn’t really mine but came with the turf of being the daughter of a priest. A priest’s daughter, that’s right. As a result of not being able to portray myself the way I wanted to, I had pathetically low levels of self-esteem. At heart I was an extrovert who lacked confidence to do all the extrovert things I wanted to do, like dance in public and twerk on a goose.
Note: I managed to twerk on a goose a few years later and almost got my crotch bitten off, but I digress.
I decided that university was where I was going to make a change, so I took my headscarf off because it didn’t represent me and I joined the gym. My exercise routine went something along the lines of:
- One hour of mind-numbing cardio
- 57, 763.56 sit ups.
- A couple of curls with the 5-lbs dumbbells
- Feel like a badass because I did what every single girl at the gym does
“Later, I realized the awkwardness of refusing to lift anything heavier than 5 pounds for fear of getting bulky, and then walking out of the gym carrying a 20 pound schoolbag.”
As I continued this ridiculous exercise regime, I slowly began to discover the wonders of the World Wide Web. Until then, I had used the interwebz mainly for chat roulette (kidding!), but then I began to look out for fitness and health related information.
In between google hits for losing 50 pounds in three minutes and getting shredded abs by sleeping on your head (or something like that), I discovered Layne Norton, Alan Aragon, Nia Shanks, Erin Stern, Bella Falconi and other fitness “celebrities”. I stumbled across pictures and videos of women lifting hundreds off pounds over their heads, off the ground; women busting out pulls ups like no one’s business and dropping down hitting endless pushups.
They looked beautiful, majestic and strong. Most of all they looked so damn confident and that is what I wanted. Of course, it didn’t hurt that their bodies were bangin’. Misconceptions of bulk went flying out of my mind as I saw their lean, powerful physiques performing gorgeous feats of strength — the determination in their eyes and the taut focused lines of their mouth.
Slowly, but surely, I became addicted. I spent hours and hours researching the benefits of lifting heavy weights, watched endless videos and practiced my form over and over and over. I would watch a guy with perfect form do squats, deadlifts, or shoulder presses at the gym and shamelessly beg him to critique my form too. God knows how many friends I made this way.
I began to notice the weight on the barbell increase from week-to-week. I was exhilarated. I was the energizer bunny. I couldn’t stop. Somewhere in between falling in love with the iron; the thrill of the weight; the joy of maximizing my performance; and the gloriousness of becoming fitter, stronger and more powerful, I also became confident.
It was scary and haunting the way these feats in the gym carried over into my everyday life. I talked louder, sounded better and made friends everywhere I went. Meeting a group of new people thrilled me, and I began to discover my passion for motivating and inspiring others. So, in a moment of passion, I became certified as a personal trainer and began consulting clients.
I realized how much I loved public speaking, how good I was at teaching others, and how much fun it was to come out of my shell. All this, because I lifted some weights off the ground and put them right back down.
“The iron consumed me and it pushed me so far out of my comfort zone, over the edge of the cliff, that I ended up flying.”
I started off as a fly on the wall — a shy, friendly girl with the desire to do something and not enough balls to try. I didn’t speak up in class, I didn’t initiate conversations with strangers, and I certainly didn’t do anything unexpected of me.
Lifting weights transformed me. Forget a counselor, the barbell was my therapist.
I have changed to such an extent that, looking at myself now, sometimes I walk the fine line between the confidence and arrogance that comes with getting stronger and stronger. But the iron can deal with that too. Add another 5 pounds to the bar and suddenly you are humbled deep into the ground again as you realize you cannot even budge the weight.
I cannot recount the number of completely ignorant people that claim I do this for looks. If I were doing this to look at a certain way I would have given up a long time ago. I do this to a feel a certain way and hell, looking good naked is a great side benefit – I’ll take that to go, please!
Females who lift weights will get plenty of haters and I have those in abundance: people who sit on the couch and tell me I’m unhealthy for pushing my body to be the best it can be, who claim that I am trying to become a man, who insist that it’s better to be morbidly obese than to have a little muscle and who claim I will never find a man because I am one (haw-haw).
The funny thing is I used to be the most average girl in the world. I did nothing and was going nowhere except the path that had been laid out for me.
“Lifting weights made me a better person, a happier person, and a more grateful human being.”
It has taught me to seize everyday, to do what I want, to live my life to the fullest. It showed me how much happier I could be when I walked around in a body that I worked hard to get, and to continuously fine tune, hone and perfect.
Lifting weights has made me confident in my body; it has given me the courage to always speak my mind, the bravery to stand up for what I believe in, the strength to endure in times of difficulty, and the perseverance and discipline to be the best I can be. In fact, lifting heavy has not made me into a man; rather, it has changed me from a timid, nervous girl into one fearless, badass woman.
And it gave me the confidence to twerk on a goose. So there’s that.
Lady WARRIORS, can you relate with Rouzeen’s experience? How has lifting weights helped shape the person you’ve become today? Comment below and remember to”like” us on facebook!
I am crazy in love with fitness, nutrition, risks, and opportunities. My plan is to combine all this into starting my own gym targeted towards ethnic and minority women – a currently untapped niche in the fitness industry. In the meantime, I’m the meanest personal trainer around and my claim to fame is out eating all the guys on wings night.
I absolutely love meeting new people and exchanging ideas and thoughts so please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ll probably be subjected to some pretty lame humour on my side but I swear I’m working on it!