13 Women Share the Important Lessons That Strength Training Taught Them

You learn a lot of things when you start strength training: where the kettlebells at your gym live, which weight bench you gravitate toward, how to do barbell squats, and more. (Psst—in case you were wondering about those barbell squats, here's how.)

But there's so much more that strength training can teach you, and you might be surprised at how much you can learn about yourself from picking up heavy things and putting 'em down.

These 13 women have seen firsthand how strength training can have a positive ripple effect throughout their lives, in and out of the gym. So whether your goal is to get stronger, reap the health benefits of resistance training, or just pick up a new fitness hobby, their takeaways just might inspire you to dig deeper with every rep.

Courtesy of Molly Gabraith

1. It’s normal to not be good at something when you first start.

"Prior to strength training, I would be afraid to try something new because I didn't think I'd be good at it, and I'd see that as failure. Now I realize that it's normal to not be good at something when you first start. For example, when I started deadlifting, I couldn't walk in the gym and deadlift 300 pounds, but that doesn't mean I was a failure. It meant I didn't have the skills to do it [yet]. So I learned how to hip hinge. Then I learned how to root my feet into the ground. Then I learned how to engage my lats. Then I learned how to create tension through my body and envision driving my feet through the floor to pick a kettlebell or barbell or trap bar up off the ground. And over time, I practiced and practiced and learned what worked and what didn't until I could deadlift 341 pounds. Now I'm less afraid to try new things, and more compassionate with myself when I don't have the skills to succeed at something, and I realize it's all a process."

—Molly Galbraith, 34, @themollygalbraith

Courtesy of Jessica Goins

2. Success looks different for everyone.

"A life lesson I've learned from strength training is that not only am I strong, but also that I need to stop underestimating myself, be patient, and always be persistent. Strength training has also made me so much more confident. At first, I would use the weights at home or at the very back of the gym. I was intimidated and afraid of being judged. But now, I'm right in the front with everyone else, giving it all I've got! I take pride in my strength, myself, my body, and my journey, even if none of those things look like everyone else's."

—Jessica Goins, 29, @BodyPosiFitGirl 

Courtesy of Samantha Ciaccio

3. Lifting something really, really heavy can make you feel like a badass, in and out of the gym.

"Strength training has taught me a different way to love my body and be confident through perseverance. Lifting over 100 pounds in a chest press or 150 in a deadlift makes me feel strong and incredibly capable of conquering the world, and I love the feeling that I’ve grown in strength month over month. And I’ve seen the biggest impact outside of the gym in my day-to-day confidence. I may not have six-pack abs, but none of that really matters. I know I'm a badass that never gives up, in or out of the gym, and nobody can take that away from me."

—Samantha Ciaccio, 29, @strongsamiciaccio 

Courtesy of Taylor Manno

4. Exercise can be an incredible tool for improving mental health, too.

"Strength training has taught me that exercise is not only for your physical health, but also your mental health. I have always been into exercising and strength training, but in my early 20s I started to experience severe anxiety and depression for the first time. For a while, I felt lost in how to deal with those issues, and I was no longer confident in myself mentally or physically. Eventually I turned back to those heavy dumbbells, deep squats, and colorful kettlebells in the gym and it was the best thing I could’ve done for myself. While I know exercise alone can't cure mental health problems, it has become an important part of my self-care routine and gives me a powerful mood boost. Today, strength training is a constant in my life that I use to relieve everyday stress and anxiety and to show myself how strong I am, physically and mentally!"

—Taylor Manno, 26

Courtesy of Jess Jimenez

5. Learning to stay focused and consistent will bring you closer to meeting your goals in life.

"[Fitness results] don't happen overnight, but when you finally see them happening, you understand the value and rewards of discipline, and the discipline I’ve developed from strength training has helped me in my career as a real estate professional. Just like strength training, it hasn’t been easy—it’s taken small steps over time to create the business I have developed today. [Strength training has also given me] mental clarity, stress relief, confidence, and the notion that I can do anything in any aspect of my life. I’ve learned to never underestimate the rewards I’ll receive from pushing myself just a little bit further than I think I can."

—Jess Jimenez, 33, @jessjimenezdnvr 

Courtesy of Jasmine Carson

6. Support your body, and it will support you back.

"The biggest life lesson I've learned from strength training is that when you take the time to support your body by giving it what it needs, it supports you back tenfold. Lifting isn't just about aesthetics for me—lifting strengthens all the muscles in my body so that I can live fully throughout the day. When I'm not strength training, I don't have the support I need to move easily. But when I'm consistent about my training, I feel strong and supported by my muscles. Supporting my body's needs through strength training has been so impactful that I've taken that motto of support outside the gym by engaging in regular and intentional self-care. Whether it's taking myself on a coffee date, getting a massage for sore muscles, or just stopping to breath and meditate for 10 minutes, I continue to support myself outside the gym by creating space for my whole self wherever I can. "

—Jasmine Carson, 31, @jazzythickandfit

Courtesy of Amanda Wright

7. Building physical strength can help you build major confidence, too.

"Weight lifting has absolutely contributed to the development of my self-confidence. This increased self-confidence gave me the push I needed to pursue a new path in my career. I’ve been a registered nurse for many years now, but have recently taken on a new role as a nurse manager! The mental and physical strength that I've developed through weight lifting has been of great significance during my transition into management. Weight lifting has also helped me to develop discipline and patience. Consistency is key—it takes hard work, day in and day out, and I apply this concept to all areas of my life, more than just the gym."

—Amanda Wright, 27, @amandawright_edgell

Courtesy of Alexandria Wynter Russell

8. Sometimes you have to make decisions that take you out of your comfort zone.

"So many times in life we are faced with tough decisions—[we have to ask ourselves] ‘Am I strong enough to do this? Do I need to ask for help? Or do I need to do a little bit of self-growth before I can do this?’ In any training workout, these opportunities are mirrored for you. I've been uncomfortable asking for a spot or for form techniques, but I soon grew to be confident asking for help, in and out of my workouts. I think strength training and lifting pushes you past your limits, allows you to get uncomfortable with yourself, causes you to be decisive, and helps grow confidence. 

—Alexandria Wynter Russell, 30, @alexwynter24

Courtesy of Elena Hernandez-Sixtos

9. Lifting weights can help you see yourself in a new light.

"Physically and mentally, I've become a stronger person through strength training. Lifting allows you to feel empowered…and it has taught me that regardless of my physical appearance, my body can endure anything I set my mind toward. There was a time when I felt lost and broken—I didn’t love myself and I needed a place to escape. The gym was converted into my second home, and fitness has become part of my identity. It has allowed me to open myself internally, focusing on improving my physical abilities while loving my body, gaining confidence everyday. Including fitness as part of my daily routine and accepting my body has been my ultimate achievement. 

—Elena Hernandez-Sixtos, 25, @elenitasjourney 

Courtesy of Elizabeth Bettis Photography

10. You are capable of handling the challenges that come your way.

"Strength training helps me to focus on my physical capabilities, and I take pride in finding out how strong I really am. Prior to fitness, I always doubted how strong I really was, physically and mentally. When I lift weights, I feel invigorated and alive. It wakes up my senses and gets me pumped to keep moving forward. I remind myself that I can do anything, I can tackle the hard stuff, and I'll still be OK. It reminds me that just like life, I do not fail unless I stop trying. Life is not guaranteed to be easy, there are no easy shortcuts. The trick is to hold steadfast to goals and dreams and keep trying."

—Adriana Morrison, 45, @fitmamita

Courtesy of Paula Celik

11. Taking risks can be rewarding.

"As an adaptive athlete, the biggest thing I learned was to be brave—to take a risk and try something that could either be a great success or a failure, highlighting my inabilities. But I’ve learned the phrase 'I can,' and it’s become my mantra with lifting and CrossFit. Another big thing for me is that I’ve learned it’s OK to be competitive. Wanting something and really pursuing it is a vulnerable thing for me, and it’s scary to say out loud to the world, 'I’m trying.' But it’s OK to want something more than you’ve wanted anything before and to work hard for that."

—Paula Celik, 26, @call_me_paula 

Courtesy of Sheena Bell

12. When you’re tackling a challenge or working toward a goal, start small and work your way up.

"Like life, lifting requires patience, practice, consistency, hard work, dedication, and a positive mindset. I started with light weights and slowly progressed to heavier weights, and this is a representation of how I go through life—I start small and work my way up. Lifting teaches me to keep going, even though I might struggle a bit (because I have). Strength training has also expanded my mind about women who lift. Lifting makes me feel strong, mentally and physically, and more confident in my body. Strength training also gives me a way to challenge myself, because I'm constantly increasing the weight or reps."

—Sheena Bell, 35, @_SheenaBfit

Courtesy of Jarlyn Santana

13. Don't underestimate the importance of your mind-set.

A life lesson I learned from strength training is that I am often my biggest obstacle, not my disability or bodily struggles—and changing my mentality has taken me far! Being born with one hand, I never felt confident enough to defeat my body image [issues], as I was always afraid of people looking at me because I was a little different. I also struggled with being underweight and wanted to be and feel stronger. I decided later on that only I could make it better for myself, and I started doing workouts at home. I ended up defeating the mental barrier I thought I could never overcome."

—Jarlyn Santana, 21, @adaptivewithjar

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