Cheryl Haworth was America's top Olympic weightlifter for more than a decade. But at 5-foot-8 and more than 300 pounds, Haworth didn't easily fit into standard chairs, clothing sizes or preconceptions about how women should look. Before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Haworth struggled with injuries, the end of her career and the difficult task of re-defining herself. She wanted to build a sense of confidence for her life after weightlifting, a sport that gave her a sense of pride. This struggle is featured in a new documentary, "STRONG!"
1) Don't be afraid of your own muscles
Lifting weights and building muscle will not make you look like a man. Getting stronger should be something every woman is interested in doing. Unless you're training specifically for bodybuilding purposes (which takes many hours daily on a particular regimen) you are in no danger of becoming "muscle bound." But if bodybuilding is your goal, that's awesome: Go for it!
2) Don't overlook bones
According to the CDC, 10 percent of women over the age of 50 already have osteoporosis, which can lead to fractures and time spent in the hospital. Weightlifting is the easiest way to prevent this, because women who participate in weight-bearing activities build denser bones and are much less likely to endure osteoporosis.
3) Feed your body
You cannot make any improvement nor can you appropriately recover from your workouts if you are not eating properly. This does not mean you have to eat like a super-heavyweight, but you will have less inflammation and feel better for your next visit to the gym if you pay closer attention to eating properly. Lots of veggies, fruits and lean meats are some popular examples. This does include drinking lots of water.
Lifting weights is tough and this more or less ties into eating properly as well. You'll be sore, fatigued and feel completely run-down by a tough workout, but be sure you getting at least eight hours sleep at night. While living at the Olympic Training Center, no matter which individual sports we were training for this was a common theme: Lots of rest (with the occasional nap).
The weightlifting world is huge. It can refer to cross-training, powerlifting, Olympic-style weightlifting, bodybuilding, and the list goes on. Find a certified professional who specializes in your area of interest to be sure, not only that you're doing everything correctly, but safely as well.
The film will have screenings July 18-24 in select cities, including New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta. Check out the website for a complete list of dates and locations. An airing on PBS Independent Lens is scheduled for July 26.
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