Written by Chelsea Nkwodimmah

Have you ever heard these words?

“OMG! Chelsea, how was your competition?”

ME: Oh, it went so well!

THEM: Do you have videos?!

ME: Of course! *shows them my squat video*

THEM: Oh, you don’t do it in a bikini?

I understand and respect that many people don’t know what powerlifting entails. I’ve had several people confuse powerlifting with Olympic weightlifting…asking me as they attempt to demonstrate the movement “How much do you clean and jerk?” Yes, both are strength sports, but I can say that confidently say that in my 28 years of life I’ve NEVER done a clean and jerk. I do, however, have actual footage of me attempting a 95lb overhead barbell squat and almost losing my life. I digress. I also have people assume that I do bodybuilding competitions. But having someone ask if I lift weights in a bikini was a first. All of that to say that the excitement that runs through me when I get to show other women my lifting videos, introduce them to this sport, and show them that “yes, we are capable” is indescribable.

Unfortunately, those conversations still usually end in…

“You’re not afraid you’re going to get TOO big?”

Sadly, I’ve come to know that question all too well. I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t annoy me, but I will say that it doesn’t bother me much anymore. I’ve even come up with a response that has the right balance of being 1) informative…but still easily digestible and that 2) says “I come in peace”…but also “What the hell are you talking about?”

Recently, however, a woman’s in my workplace responded to watching my videos with “How does your fiancé feel about you doing that?” I’m used to people questioning my own perception of my body but never has anyone asked me about his opinion of my body. My initial reaction was just to answer the question honestly and directly.

“He’s fine with it. He’s my biggest supporter. He makes sure I train when I’m supposed to, lets me vent to him when things aren’t going how I want them to, and comes to all of my meets.”

That led to her assuming that my fiancé is also a powerlifter. Even going on to say that he must be six feet tall and really muscular. All of which are false assumptions.

After reflecting, I realized how offensive her comments actually were. Yes, it was probably inadvertent, but even so, I wish I had used it as a teaching moment as I do when women ask to see my training videos or when they assume that lifting heavy makes you too muscular. In hindsight, I’d probably let her know three things:

1) Lifting is something I do for me. Therefore, no one has to accept my body for what it is and what it does aside from me.

2) The general idea of a woman lifting should not be a game changer in a relationship…and if it is, that’s not the relationship for me

3) Being as strong as or stronger than your significant other in the gym does not take anything away from you, him, or your relationship

Whenever you excel at something, someone will ALWAYS find something wrong with it and have a negative comment to follow, whether it’s in the form of a blunt insult or a backhanded compliment. How do you ladies deal with negative comments at the gym, in your workplace, etc? Do you ignore it? Use it as a teachable moment? Or address the negative comments head-on?

1 comment

  • Selene: October 18, 2018

    I’ve been fortunate to avoid negative talk when I go to commercial gyms. Most guys in these gyms have applauded my physique and have even came over in between sets to let me know…but not in a creepy way. I take is as appreciation for what was clearly hard work.

    The one I hate comes outside the gym and its usually from friends. These guys joke that my husband isn’t “safe at home” or “you ok man?!?!?”. To that I roll my eyes and walk away.

    Women have been the worst though…“I wanna tone, but I don’t wanna look like you”. To that I say, “don’t worry, you wont!” Depending on the reaction, I may follow-up by teaching.

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