#TariSista: There is a beauty in weight lifting with Claudia Nah
How and why did you start weight lifting?
Like most people, I had wanted to lose some weight. Traditionally, when you think about going to the gym, you think about running on the treadmill etc but that is never my thing, so I dreaded what the weight loss journey would entail. However I was fortunate at the time as I befriended some people who were knowledgeable about fitness, nutrition, training etc and it was them who advised me to lift weights instead. I had a full body workout formulated by one of said friends, did my own research, stepped into the gym, and started lifting for the very first time on 24 April 2010. I remember at one point in the beginning, a personal trainer had approached me and was curious as to why I’m lifting. I told him that “I want to build muscle!” with a big smile on my face. His response was very positive and I knew I had made a good decision.
Why are you keen on building muscle ?
Muscle mass is what makes you stronger and changes your body composition. Lifting (heavy) weights means you are building muscle. Being lean then helps define those muscle. By feeding your body with the right nutrition (protein) and through weight lifting, you will be able to change your body composition to become leaner and more defined. I appreciate the male and female form and I like seeing bodies that are defined and strong. It shows hard work, dedication, health, and above all, passion.
What are the benefits of weightlifting?
At the time I started weight lifting, I was about 63kg and a (UK) size 10/12. Within about 6-8 weeks of lifting, and some modification to my diet, I could feel my clothes getting looser – I had dropped to a (UK) size 8 and at my lightest, I weighed around 56kg. Even though I was losing weight, my numbers at the gym were going up, meaning that I was getting stronger.
At the same time, I was always hungry and eating around the clock. As I was expending a lot more energy due to my lifestyle change and due to building more muscle mass, I needed to eat more. Every pound of muscle requires 50 kcals just to be maintained. It follows then that the more muscle mass you have, the more energy (calories) your body requires to maintain those muscle (in addition to the energy required to fuel your workouts). When you train, your body also requires energy to repair and grow your muscle. In short, your body requires energy to maintain your muscle, for during your workout, and for recovery. So basically, I was eating more than a regular person, yet I was losing weight :D
Mentally, I was happier in many ways. I see my body change for the better before my very own eyes. This is my motivation. At the gym, no words can describe the feeling you get when you have achieved a personal record, or when you achieved something you have been working on for a while. I have achieved many personal records in the past 10 years and at my strongest, I was lifting 1.6 times my bodyweight. This is in the region of 100-105kg. However, a significant achievement was when I taught myself to do one arm handstands. It was mainly as a party trick, but it had taken me 3 months of training and practice to get there.
Through weightlifting, I developed tons of muscle and core strength. I learned how my body works, how it responds to different exercises and nutrition, how far to push myself without getting injured etc Being agile and active means that picking up most sports become second nature. I have tried and enjoyed grappling, MMA, boxing, and through boxing, I learnt how to use a speed rope. My fitness journey has been a huge learning curve and even now, I am discovering new things from different fitness friends.
Are injuries common in weightlifting ?
In the 10 years that I’ve been doing this, I have never had any major injuries and never broken anything. The key to not being injured is to train with good technique. Many times I have seen people at the gym lifting with poor technique, like having a rounded back when deadlifting. The sight of this is scary and is just an injury waiting to happen. Perform your exercises with the right technique, and chances are you’ll be injury-free.
All that being said, it’s important to stretch to warm up your muscle prior to working out, and to alleviate any tightness post workout. Foam rolling is also very helpful in alleviating any post workout muscle soreness.
What are the usual responses when people know you’re weightlifting ?
Another response I usually have is this: I have strong calves, which, at school, I would get teased for. This hurt my confidence on top of being called chubby, or told that I could lose some weight. When I started training, there were men at the free weights area coming up to me complimenting me on my “big calves” and asking if I could swap with them. This was a huge confidence boost in comparison with the negative comments I received at school. Needless to say, I have zero hang ups about my calves now!
As someone who has been lifting seriously for the past 10 years, I hope my physique will dispel misconception that women will get bulky from lifting. Instead, I hope it will encourage more women to step into the free weights area. Lifting weights has made me stronger, and being strong makes my life so much easier.
Do you have any advise for those who wants to start doing the weightlifting?
The free weights area at the gym is probably the friendliest part of the gym (I mean, do you see people on the treadmill talking to each other or supporting each other’s workouts?). There is no reason to feel intimidated or shy. Many times I have gone up to a random guy or a personal trainer and asked him for his help. They are actually very keen to assist !
I wholeheartedly encourage more women to lift. But before you embark on your weightlifting journey, speak to someone knowledgeable so that you have a workout plan curated according to your goals/needs. Next, look on YouTube on how to perform these exercises with the right technique. When you are at the gym, it helps to video yourself doing these exercises so you can check your own form. Ever since I started lifting, I’ve kept a training log which records all my lifts at every training session. I would encourage to do the same because there is no better motivation than looking back at your lifts when you first started out, and knowing that you have come a long way.
Weight lifting is not everyone's cup of tea. I got into this by chance and never in my life would I have known that I would enjoy it and making it my lifestyle. But here I am, 10 years later. Give it a go, and if you don’t like it, there are other sports or activities to try. Remember, this is a lifestyle change and you should love your new lifestyle.
Find her on Instagram at @the.darling.duchess to follow her weight lifting progress.
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