Women of strength “THE MYTH THAT WOMEN SHOULDN’T LIFT HEAVY IS PER­PET­U­ATED BY WOMEN WHO FEAR WORK AND MEN WHO FEAR WOMEN.”

Oxygen - - Editor's Note - — BROOKE ENCE’S IN­STA­GRAM BIO Train hard, be strong. Mau­reen Far­rar Ed­i­tor-in-Chief @mo­far­rar

In the not too dis­tant past, women were per­ceived to be the “weaker sex,” but that per­cep­tion has fi­nally been shat­tered by women like elite CrossFit com­peti­tor and Oxy­gen cover ath­lete Brooke Ence. Women like her pul­ver­ize the no­tion that we are frail and weak.

When we talk about “strength” here in the pages of Oxy­gen, we are usu­ally re­fer­ring to strength as a phys­i­cal power — how much weight can you push and pull be­fore you hit fail­ure. But it’s re­ally much more than that, isn’t it? Ul­ti­mately, it’s chal­leng­ing your­self to do the things you never thought you could do. It’s about push­ing your­self harder in your work­outs, do­ing more reps, adding sets, sprint­ing faster or try­ing new ex­er­cises. It’s mov­ing out of your com­fort zone. It’s forg­ing ahead when things get hard and not giv­ing up. Those qual­i­ties can all be de­vel­oped in the gym.

Many women, how­ever, still balk at heft­ing weights, cit­ing the age-old — but in­ac­cu­rate — myth that strength train­ing will some­how bulk them up. (As you know, it takes much more than just lift­ing heavy things to get big mus­cles.) We posted our top three cover pos­si­bil­i­ties on our Face­book page and asked our read­ers to weigh in on which im­age they liked best. We were hop­ing to get opin­ions on which pose they liked, but what we got was so much more than that. There was a lengthy dis­cus­sion about buck­ing con­ven­tional stere­oypes and about strength and power ver­sus fem­i­nin­ity, and whether those con­cepts are in op­po­si­tion. For­tu­nately, the gen­eral con­sen­sus seemed to be that women with mus­cles are also fem­i­nine and sexy and beau­ti­ful. Many com­menters ad­mired and ap­pre­ci­ated the hard work and ded­i­ca­tion that goes into build­ing a physique like Brooke Ence’s.

De­vel­op­ing phys­i­cal strength leads many women to de­vel­op­ing a dif­fer­ent kind of strength, one that has lit­tle to do with the phys­i­ol­ogy of mus­cle. When we push our­selves ath­let­i­cally, our at­ti­tudes change. We fre­quently dis­cover that we are stronger than we pre­vi­ously thought. “Strong is beau­ti­ful, strong is pow­er­ful, but it’s not just strong in the phys­i­cal sense — it’s strong in your at­ti­tude, it’s strong in your men­tal game, in your com­pas­sion,” Ence says.

Women shouldn’t be afraid to be strong. And I don’t mean we all have to look like Brooke. (Although, I can’t wait to try her work­out on Page 46.) How­ever, when we work hard in the gym, push­ing past fa­tigue, test­ing our phys­i­cal bound­aries, we de­velop a sense of con­fi­dence in our abil­i­ties. Fac­ing chal­leng­ing cir­cum­stances head-on is a mat­ter of courage and de­ter­mi­na­tion. That kind of strength is em­pow­er­ing and in­spir­ing.

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