Weightlifting: Four Lessons It Has Taught Me

I started weightlifting seriously late last year. Like marathon training, it is changing my life.

weightlifting equipment1

One thing that I have learned over the last year is how much physical exercise and our goals in that area parallels our goals for life in general. Here I’d like to talk about my weightlifting over the last five months, and what I have learned along the way.

1. Physical Strength Helps Mental and Emotional Strength

I love doing a squat with the weight on my shoulders. I recently bought a power rack (which I’m so excited about–getting it delivered and set up on Wednesday!) so that I could squat more weight. For now, I’ve had to lift the weights from the floor, up over my head and then down across my shoulders. This is fine, except I know that I can squat more weight than what I can throw up over my head. I can’t wait to get my power rack so I can add more weight across my shoulders and squat. There is something about having that weight on my shoulders, lowering and then lifting that makes me feel really strong.

There are things that we need to do in life that feels like a heavy burden. Can we lift it? Squatting heavy loads helps me to feel that whatever burdens I might have in life are able to be dealt with. Just like in real life squats with weight on your shoulders, the weight might be too heavy at first, but if we increment the weight as our bodies grow accustomed to one weight, we can eventually handle more. When I perform a squat, this is something that I meditate on. And each time that I have done a set of squats, later, I remember this and I think about mental and emotional burdens, and I know that I can handle them. Maybe I can’t take something on all at once, but bit by bit, my heart and mind will be able to handle what I need to handle. It may feel like too much now, but as long as I keep trucking, I know I’m going to be ok.

2. Change is Slow But It Happens If You Are Persistent

It’s been five months since I started training seriously with weights. While I can see the changes that are occurring in my body, I am not all of the sudden She-Ra, Princess of Power. I still have fat I need to cut before my abs show through, I still have muscles that are weaker than they should be, and there is still a heck of a lot I need to learn. But I have definitely seen changes in my body, and in my understanding of my body and how it reacts to weightlifting. One of the things I’ve come to realize is that it is okay if the change is slow, because this is something I want to do for the rest of my life. So I have a long time to work on this.

3. You Get Back What You Put In

When I first started lifting weights in early November, I took it slow and easy. I was learning, and I didn’t want to injure myself. As I’ve grown and learned proper positioning, I’ve been able to lift harder. It’s been the past two months that I’ve really challenged myself to lift heavier and put a heck of a lot more effort into it. In these last two months is when I’ve seen the most improvement. I’ve come to realize that what I put into weightlifting is exactly what I get out of it. The more I read about it, the more I learn, the more I talk to others about it, the more passionate I become about it, and the harder I work during my lifting sessions, the more I am able to lift in later sessions.

Isn’t that the way life is too? It’s all a matter of effort and what you put into it. If you want something bad enough, you just have to work at it. Work at it with all the effort you can muster, and learn about it as much as you can. The more you put into something, the more you will get out of it.

4. It’s For You To Do; No One Else Can Do It For You

I remember when I was a small child and I would pretend to fall asleep on the couch so my dad would carry me up the stairs to bed. But we all outgrow that and we come to a place where we have to do stuff ourselves. Nobody can lose for you the 20 pounds you gained. It’s yours. You are the one who has to lose it. When I look at my weights just before a weight lifting session, this is something I remind myself. Ain’t nobody going to lift these weights for me.

If you want muscles, you are the one who has to lift that weight. And that’s how it is with any kind of physical goal. You and you alone are the only one who can make those changes for yourself. It’s good to have a community, or even just one friend that you can turn to for encouragement, but in the end, it’s something you have to get done all by yourself. You are responsible for your own self. When you take something like that on and conquer it (whether it’s lifting weights or losing weight), it becomes reinforced inside of you. “I did this! I did this all by myself!!” And it gives you a new kind of confidence. This is good. This is very good. I hope you roll with it.

What about you? What have you learned about life through your exercise and physical goals?


31 Responses to “Weightlifting: Four Lessons It Has Taught Me”

  1. Susan Cooper April 1, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

    Yep, I agree on all fronts. Change doesn’t happen, no matter what it is you seek, unless we work at it every day. Just like with any exercise, pacing is a good thing too. It prevents burn out and injury. I do love this post my friend. :-)

    • Bethany Lee April 2, 2013 at 7:52 pm #

      ahh yes, the old pacing thing. I’m actually pretty good at that. :-) Glad you liked the post!!

  2. Sarah April 1, 2013 at 10:01 pm #

    Amazing! I couldn’t have read this at a better time. I’ve only been lifting a month and a half and hit a wall this weekend when I felt like I hadn’t made the gains or lost the clothing size I felt I deserved. Truth is, I HAVE noticed body changes, I HAVE lost weight. Slow and steady wins the race. But mostly, my ATTITUDE has changed. I’m not near as weak mentally as I was two months ago. I think I will print this out and hang it in a wall!

    • Bethany Jo Lee April 3, 2013 at 7:51 pm #

      This is awesome Sarah! And congratulations for lifting a month and a half. Slow and steady does win the race–remember that! And the race ain’t over till you die! That’s one heck of a long race–i.e. pace yourself and stay in it. :-) Rock on!

  3. Jon Jefferson April 2, 2013 at 10:45 am #

    In weightlifting and weightloss as in life, your burden is your own. No one can bear it but you. Profound words of wisdom that all should learn and share.

  4. Natasha April 2, 2013 at 10:56 am #

    It occurred to me, after reading your first point, that the Clean & Press move may be made to transition into a squat (therefore reducing the need for a power rack). It’s actually a thing! http://www.menshealth.co.uk/building-muscle/get-big/Clean-press-squat

    Maybe that would be obvious to a physical trainer but thank you for expanding my mind this morning!

    Better still, thank you for showing more women that lifting, pulling and pushing heavy stuff is a great way to get the best life has to offer.

    • Bethany Lee April 2, 2013 at 7:54 pm #

      Haha! Yes, it is a thing!! But I doubt I will ever be able to lift over my head what I can squat on my shoulders, so I really want that power rack. Glad to have expanded your mind Natasha!! And yes, I hope more women start lifting, pulling and pushing heavy stuff!!

  5. Carli April 2, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

    A power rack is on my to want list! It seems you have a great set up their. Have you noticed any changes in your running since lifting?

    I think exercise, regardless of type, is something you can do for yourself withuut feeling guilty. At the same time, it is for others. When you are strong and healthy you have more energy and will live longer. So you learn that it is okay to focus on you.

    Your lessons are so good I just can’t think of anything else. Totally agreethat what you put into ot is what you’ll get out of it. And, yes, that includes anything in life.

    • Bethany Lee April 2, 2013 at 7:55 pm #

      Carli, oh boy howdy have I ever noticed improvements in my running!! I took 30 seconds off my mile on my last race I ran (a four miler!!). When I go out and run, I feel POWER in my legs like never before!! If you don’t lift yet, you definitely should go for it!

  6. Jo-Anne April 2, 2013 at 10:53 pm #

    I use to work out with weights years ago but not anymore……..why because I am lazy…….lol

    • Bethany Jo Lee April 3, 2013 at 7:56 pm #

      You should try it again, Jo-Anne. Or something…

  7. Geek Girl April 3, 2013 at 10:13 am #

    Change can be hard. I think half the challenge is in making a change you truly want to make. The more you want it, the more you will work for it. :)

    • Bethany Jo Lee April 3, 2013 at 7:55 pm #

      Right on sister!

  8. Levi April 3, 2013 at 7:03 pm #

    I’ve been in this game for about 9 years now, never taking more than 5 conescutive days off of structured exercise.

    What have I learned? How very, very, very little I actually know about any of this.

    ps – For anyone interested: Wearing a weighted vest (40 – 60 lbs) will cut down big time how much you have to press over your head for the back squat. With this approach, I’ve worked up to #260 for reps in my kitchen. #Without A Rack

    • Bethany Jo Lee April 3, 2013 at 7:57 pm #

      Levi, the more we learn, the more we realize how little we actually know.

  9. Daniel Wallen April 4, 2013 at 7:49 am #

    I have developed more as a person during intense workouts than any point in my life. As a guy who was a really out-of-shape and inactive kid starting out… starting out doing 0 push-ups/chin-ups and squatting with just a bar — and going to 60 push-ups/chin-ups in a workout and squatting close to 300 lbs — I’ve learned I am capable of anything I consistently work towards.

    ^ Did not say those numbers to brag, said them to illustrate that anything is possible, and you better believe I plan to make *those* numbers look like “little things” in the future. Stay consistent and you will be rewarded. :)

  10. Jeannette Paladino April 5, 2013 at 7:25 pm #

    I know a lot of people have taken up weight lifting and I can definitely see the benefits. But I think getting a coach in the beginning would be important to ensure you’re doing the lifts correctly. Otherwise, you have the potential to injure yourself.

  11. Thomas Ross April 7, 2013 at 11:53 am #


    This post brought a smile to my face as I recalled so many months ago, finding this cool and interesting blogger who posted a picture of herself on the trail hoisting a big log. I was impressed and signed up. My good luck- to have found you.


    • Bethany Jo Lee April 7, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

      Thomas, your words touch my heart–as I remember that day. I was so pleased when we had that exchange. You made my day that day, and today as well. :-)

  12. Steve April 10, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

    Oh, the things I’ve learned from weightlifting. Where do I begin? You’re right that you can learn a lot of lessons from it. Your point about getting back what you put in. That’s a big one for me. Your output is determined by your input. That goes for more than just weightlifting. That’s all of life.

    One thing I’ve learned from lifting weights is that you have to push your limits. You never know how far you can go until you push yourself. Every time I reach a plateau and think I can’t get through it, I always find a way. I’ve brought that philosophy out of the gym and into the real world too.

  13. Dilip April 29, 2013 at 6:34 am #

    Visiting after long :) The lessons are educative and useful.

  14. Rachel Miller May 19, 2013 at 4:20 am #

    Your blog is looking amazing Bethany!! I love your She-Ra shirt- I may have to invest!!


  15. Paula June 2, 2013 at 10:39 pm #

    Love reading and following your blog and have nominated you for an award!


  16. Claire Cappetta July 3, 2013 at 11:33 am #

    I’m going with my sister-in-law to sign up at a gym tomorrow! I am soooo unfit after sitting writing for a year I think I’m going to be ‘an amusement’ to them! (giggles)

  17. Garry Rogers August 12, 2013 at 9:01 pm #

    Hi Bethany,

    Haven’t done weights for years–awakened old memories. I am stopping by on my LinkedIn Comments blog tour. Please visit my blog when you get a chance. Thank you. Garry

  18. Regan September 6, 2013 at 11:45 am #

    So great, and true! I started a cross fit kind of training last year, and went through a similar ‘aha’ experience when I realized how much of what I was learning I could apply to daily life. Not least the fact that I collapsed like a glob of wet spaghetti half way my first class – and went back for more!

    • Bethany Jo Lee September 23, 2013 at 11:57 am #

      Thanks for stopping by Regan! And I totally hear ya on the crossfit. That’s a hard workout and you will totally learn a lot about yourself and life as you continue to do it.


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