Soccer to Weightlifting: How Changing Fitness Lifestyle Changed my Body

Soccer to Weightlifting: How Changing Fitness Lifestyle Changed my Body

After playing soccer at the highest level in the US while growing up, I used to be known for my toned “soccer legs.” I loved and cherished them even though they were always covered in scars and bruises. After competing on the collegiate level, I made the very difficult decision to stop playing soccer to focus on school, which led me to have a full-blown identity crisis. Not only had my life, friendships, and schedule always revolved around soccer, but who would I even be if I didn’t have soccer legs any more?

Since my insane soccer schedule always kept me in shape, I never thought about weight training until I started playing in college, and even then, I faked my way through the workouts because I had no idea what I was doing. When I stopped playing, I replaced soccer practice with heavy cardio, like distance running, since that’s all I really knew. However, I found strictly running made my “soccer legs” with quad and hamstring definition began to disappear. I understand now that merely focusing on cardio-based activities is not going to engage the same muscle groups the way that soccer challenges your body. The physical aspect of soccer trained my legs to be able to withstand hard tackles, use quick footwork, and of course, hit the piss out of the ball.  More than just losing muscle, I also started gaining weight like I never had before, which finally convinced me that I needed to try something new.

I always thought lifting weights would make me look “thick” or “manly” instead of lean. Additionally, like many inexperienced weightlifters, I was terrified of looking stupid in a packed weight room and did not have the money for private training where a professional could actually teach me what to do. With my weight gain beginning to really affect me physically and emotionally, I finally got the courage try out lifting weights…and it was the best decision for my fitness goals and self esteem that I could have ever made. However, I am confident that my transition to weight-training was only successful because I approached it in ways that made me comfortable.

Here are my tips that can make anyone fall in love with weight lifting.

1. Find the gym that’s right for you.

In 2018, there is literally no shortage of gyms that can appeal to exactly what you’re looking for. Since my college gym was filled with huge dudes who looked like they could eat me, I took plenty of time to find a gym with weight room that didn’t intimidate me. Honestly, gyms use so many fitness marketing techniques nowadays to attract new customers, that it didn’t take long for the perfect gym to find me. I selected a gym that was slightly more expensive, but had great brand new equipment, helpful trainers, and most importantly, an approachable weightroom.

2. Take as many classes as you can

I selected a gym that had a ton of class options, so I could try out as many types of workouts as I could. I fell in love with BodyPump classes, which combine cardio with weight-training by pairing music tracks to routines that target a certain muscle groups. Even though this class focuses on high repetition and lower weights, it taught me proper form, grips, and stances to engage your muscles and prevent injuries. Once I had form down, I adapted exercises I learned in classes and started adding more and more weight to them in my own workouts. As an added bonus, I became great friends with some of my instructors since I attended their classes so often, and I even started working out with them in our spare time.

3. Follow Youtube videos or Social Media Fitness Accounts

Not to give my girls Nikki Blacketter and Tammi Hembrow total credit for my fitness transformation, but following their workout and nutrition videos was a great way for me to teach myself how to lift and to advance to the level I am at today. While I agree that the fitness world on social media can be a little over the top, the platform is so broad that it was easy to find fitness influencers who appealed to my exact fitness goals. Many fitness influencers specifically create videos meant for beginners that thoroughly explain movements and help you understand the science behind the exercises, which was huge in helping me master new moves. Since most people at my gym used their phones throughout their workouts, I never felt weird or awkward watching videos before trying new routines.

Now, three years after I took the plunge into weightlifting, I have never felt more confident with my body. I am now completely comfortable lifting weights with the big boys, and I’m not going to lie, I love when I catch them noticing my strength. Not only do I have my soccer legs back, but I have more muscle definition in my legs than I ever had before. As a huge bonus, for the first time in my life I actually have starting building a butt that I had always run off in soccer. As someone who never had any upper body strength, I now have back muscles I always wanted and baby muscles slowly growing in my arms. My attitude towards cardio has also completely switched from when I used to love it playing soccer: now I only do it because I know I should. Therefore, I limit my cardio to strictly short HIIT exercises and of course the stairmaster for developing my glutes. To anyone, especially girls, who are intimidated of the weightroom or think lifting weights will make you look “manly”, I cannot stress enough how wrong you are. If I can learn to love weightlifting and my body on my own, I promise anyone can.

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