Written by Molly Galbraith
“I don’t want to lift weights because I don’t want to get bulky or anything.”
“I don’t want to put on any muscle; I just want to tone the muscle I already have.”
“I lifted in high school when I was playing soccer and my legs got HUGE! I swear!”
If you’re a weight-training fanatic like me, hearing statements like this from women can be very frustrating! And what makes these statements even worse? When they come from your significant other.
I have been lifting heavy and helping other women achieve their lifting and physique goals for over 9 years now and the number one question I get from men is,
“How do I get my girlfriend/wife/significant other in the gym and not afraid to lift heavy weights?”
As a woman, and specifically, as a woman who has helped persuade hundreds of women to discover their love of heavy iron – and also as a woman who has polled dozens of guys on what tactics they have used successfully and unsuccessfully when trying to get their women in the gym — I want to help answer that question for you. But first let me point out a few things:
- What you say is not always what she hears. If you have ever had a relationship with any woman of any kind, you can vouch for this fact.
- One slip of the tongue can ruin this entire subject for a woman and she may remain shut off to it for a very long time after that, if not forever. Please pay attention to what you should say and also what you shouldn’t say. They are equally important.
- It should go without saying that these tips will not work with every woman. I am assuming that if you’re in a relationship with this person and you have the self-respect and commitment to personal growth and health that comes with taking care of yourself, that she will have these things as well. If she does not possess these things, I am afraid I may not be able to help you.
Scenario #1: You have broached the subject of working out, specifically lifting, and she keeps tell you that she doesn’t want to because she doesn’t want to get bulky.
What you say: “That’s just stupid that you think lifting weight is going to make you bulky. “
What she hears: “You’re stupid for believing that weight training will make you bulky.”
What you should say instead: “Honey, I know you’re afraid that lifting weights is going to make you bulky, but can you explain to me why? Has it happened to you in the past? Have you seen pictures of women who lift who are really muscular? Help me understand why you have this fear.”
Why this works: Anytime someone has a strong emotional attachment to a belief and you tell them that belief is stupid, they will either take it as a personal attack or shut down completely and quit listening. If you validate the emotion attached with the belief, and then ask her questions about it, you will get to her true fear.
Of course you must first determine her definition of “bulky.” If she finds women like Jessica Biel and Jennifer Garner bulky, you might not be able to convince her to go near a weight.
If she had an experience where she “got bulky” in the past, explain to her that her nutrition may not have been where it needs to be, or she may have been doing the wrong program.
If she’s seen pictures of women who lift and she thinks that they are bulky, then you can explain to her how women who get really muscular are usually the genetic elite, and show her pictures of “everyday women” who lift hard and heavy, who look awesome.
Scenario #2: She continually whines and complains about how her clothes don’t fit anymore and how she always feels fat.
What you say: “You keep bitching about how your clothes don’t fit. Why don’t you do something about it and go to the gym?”
What she hears: “I agree with you that your clothes don’t fit and that you’re fat and I am sick of hearing you bitch about it. Come to the gym with me so you can shut up about it.”
What you should say instead: “Babe…you know I think you’re gorgeous no matter what, but I want YOU to feel that way about yourself, too. If you’re feeling uncomfortable in your clothes, then why don’t you start coming to the gym with me? It doesn’t have to be anything crazy…just twice a week. I’ll write up something for you to do and walk you through it so you feel comfortable.”
Why this works: This simple interaction contains several little “gems” and highlights a big difference between men and women. Often times when women are complaining about something, they just want someone to listen to them complain and affirm their feelings. They DO NOT want a solution. (Have you seen The Nail video?!)
In fact, giving them a solution frustrates them more because their feelings aren’t being validated and in fact, they may feel belittled because the solution is so “simple.” That’s why this recommendation is so delicate.
First, you ease her insecurities by making sure she knows you think she looks great, and letting her know you want her to feel the same way about herself. Then, you affirm the feeling without actually saying you agree with her, and then you offer a solution. When a solution is preceded by an affirmation of her feelings, a woman is much more likely to be open to hearing that solution.
You are also making it seem like an attainable task for her by assuring her that it will only be a twice a week. The thought of starting an exercise program and being in the gym 4-5 days a week or more is too much for many women in the beginning.
Finally, you are assuring her that she will have a plan to follow and that you will make sure she knows what she is doing and feels comfortable. This is huge! It removes the intimidation factor, which is what keeps a lot of women out of the weight room in the first place.
Scenario #3: You constantly ask her when she is going to start working out. You also ask her to go to the gym with you, to go train with you, to come work out with you, etc.
What you say: “Want to come to the gym with me?” “You said you were going to start working out… have you been to the gym yet?” “Hey! I am going to the gym, want to come?”
What she hears: “I think there is something wrong with your body and I don’t find you attractive.”
What you should say instead: NOTHING. That’s right. Nothing.
Why this works: While it can seem totally harmless to simply ask or suggest that your girlfriend go to the gym and/or work out with you, I can promise you… she is onto you. You’re not being slick by trying to casually slip it into conversation (and in fact, it may annoy her more that you are dancing around the subject).
Think about it – its human nature to be extra resistant to something that you feel like is being pushed or forced on you, especially by your significant other. Instead of constantly nagging her about working out, be the example of what you would like her to be. Let her ask you questions. I can promise you she will be curious about it if you leave the subject alone. Then it seems like it’s her idea and she will be much more open to it and not defensive about the subject.
In the end, you have to decide the best way to approach your significant other about working out. It’s a delicate topic and should be treated as such. Hopefully the scenarios above gave you a little bit of insight into how the female psyche works, and gave you some ideas you can use with your significant other. Good luck!
Other random helpful tips:
– Be supportive and offer tons of praise. This will make her feel more comfortable and will boost her confidence.
– Be extremely careful and easy her into training slowly. Experiencing DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) will turn a lot of women off very quickly.
– Make it an issue of health, not appearance. Frankly, this shouldn’t be hard as you should want your significant other to be interested in her long-term health, and this is much less offensive to women who may be sensitive about their bodies.
– If the subject does turn to appearance, make sure she knows that it’s important to YOU to maintain a nice physique for her. Hopefully that will encourage her to reciprocate that for you.
– Use “us” and “we” a lot. There is strength in numbers and she won’t feel like you’re attacking her. Saying things like, “We should be more conscious of what we eat. This will help us feel better and look better in the long run.”Molly Galbraith is a strength coach and co-owner of J&M Strength and Conditioning, a 7,500 square foot private studio gym in Lexington, Kentucky that’s the go-to gym for professional athletes and the general public alike. Molly is also co-founder of the wildly popular Girls Gone Strong group, a movement dedicated to changing the way women train. She has also been an expert contributor to magazines like Oxygen and Experience Life. No stranger to the gym herself, she has dabbled in both figure and powerlifting and has a 275 lb. squat, a 165 lb. bench press, and a 341 lb. deadlift. Website, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Her Butt’s Twitter