Writer and editor Mikala Jamison’s lifting journey started around nine years ago at a time when she felt disconnected from her body. Jamison has been open about her recovery from disordered eating, especially in her newsletter Body Type. The newsletter serves as an exploration of all things bodies, including just how complicated it can be to simply exist in one.
What you won’t find in her newsletter is body shaming, or weight loss tips and tricks (because not everyone who likes to work out does so to lose weight).
Jamison first began pursuing weightlifting with her therapist’s encouragement to engage her body in a movement she enjoyed. Jamison’s therapist asked her to reflect on what she likes and is into.
“I remember going to the gym with my mom when I was a teenager,” Jamison says. “My mom was a weightlifter. She took me to Gold’s Gym, and she was the only woman there. She’s this tiny woman and was hanging out in the weight room showing me what to do. She was like, ‘You’re strong — you’re good at this.’ That definitely left an imprint on me which I didn’t realize until later.”
“So, when I was looking for something to bring me back to this place of connection with
my own body, I said ‘I’m going to get into lifting,” she continues. “It’s the first thing that came
Weightlifting has given Jamison much more than increased physical strength. It’s also increased her body awareness, a huge accomplishment for someone who previously felt disconnected from her body.
Lifting has also helped her eating disorder recovery process.
“Learning how important food is for lifting — eating enough food, eating carbs, eating protein — has been really helpful for me,” she says.
All bodies can benefit from some sort of strength training, but the key is to do it safely. We asked Jamison to give us some tips for weightlifting beginners to make it as positive an experience
Make a plan
Jamison recommends to do your research before you start.
“I got into weightlifting by sitting down and watching YouTube videos about what to do,” she says. “I just wanted to feel like I had a plan.”
Helpful topics to Google might include: what machines are available in a gym; what a leg press machine is; and what to do with dumbbells.
“Especially as a beginner, I wanted to feel like I could walk into a gym and understand what I’m doing and my goals,” Jamison says.
Go to the gym when it’s not crowded
Gyms can be intimidating, especially if you are just starting out. Make friends with the staff and ask when the gym is at its slowest. This ensures you can take your time, familiarize yourself with the equipment and exercise in relative privacy.
Don’t risk injury. Be sure to start small, ideally with the help of a trainer or friend who is more experienced to help with your form and act as a spotter (someone to help you with the weight if you cannot lift it).
Know the difference between strength training + weightlifting
Strength training involves the performance of physical exercises designed to improve strength and endurance.
Weightlifting is the sport or activity of lifting barbells or other heavy weights. There are two standard lifts in modern weightlifting: the single-movement lift from floor to extended position (the snatch); and the two-movement lift from floor to shoulder position and shoulder to extended position (the clean and jerk).
“I think a lot of times these words get thrown around interchangeably which can confuse people,” Jamison says. “When you’re talking about strength training, it’s literally working against resistance. This could be handheld dumbbells, using machines, resistance bands, or push-ups
and bodyweight stuff. Strength training is like the big umbrella term.”
Keep your back straight when lifting.
Wear appropriate clothing and safety equipment such as gloves. Wear shoes with good traction.
Follow your gym’s safety rules.
Warm-up and cool down exercises before and after lifting.
Hold your breath when lifting heavy weights. Doing this can cause you to faint and lose control of your weights. Breathe out when you lift or press.
Continue lifting if you feel pain. Stop the exercise for a couple of days until you fully recover before trying again.
Lift weights if you are light-headed.
Lift more than you can lift safely.
Local Weightlifting Gyms, Clubs + Communities
Enjoy this piece? Consider becoming a member for access to our premium digital content. Support local journalism and start your membership today.