North Midlands Championships, 15th Nov 2015

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Wow, wHolly deadlifthat a day!!  11 ladies competed at the North Midlands Championships in Horncastle, Lincolnshire, on Sunday 15th Nov.  For Michelle it was her third competition (her second being the day before!!) and for the rest of them it was their very first.  An excellent performance from all of them.

Holly was our first lifter out, in the 52kg class she opened with a great 50kg squat, moved onto 52.5kg and finished on 55kg!  Her bench press started well with 27.5kg, 30kg was solid but 32.5kg proved to be just a little too much on the day.  Despite some pain in her leg, she opened her deadlifts with 67.5kg, 72.5kg was fast so a fantastic 77.5kg was her final lift of the day!  A total of 162.5kg and taking 1st place :).

Second up was Di, lifting in the Masters 1 63kg class. Di squat Squats went well with a 50kg opener, moving onto the 52.5kg and finishing on a smooth 55kg.  Her bench was so fast on 32.5kg that we moved up to 37.5kg and then she hit a brilliant 40kg!  Deadlifts were also impressive with an opener of 90kg, moving into 95kg and finishing with a solid 97.5kg.  192.5kg total and 2nd place!

Sarah L. deadliftSarah L. was in the 57kg class and very strong for her size.  55kg squat opener just flew up so we went up to 60kg and ended with 62.5kg, still easy.  Strong bench as well with 32.5kg to open, 37.5kg as her second attempt and 40kg to finish.  Deadlifts started with 85kg, 90kg was her second attempt and an excellent 92.5kg her final lift of the day.  195kg total and 1st place.

Miriam has been struggling with a leg injury for the lastMiriam squat few weeks and it still wasn’t healed for competition day so we dropped her squat and deadlift openers just a little to compensate.  In the 63kg class she opened with a 65kg squat, went onto 70kg and a fast 75kg was her final squat.  Her first attempt on the bench went well with 37.5kg but unfortunately, 40kg just wasn’t happening.  Her 75kg deadlift was easy, 80kg was a breeze and her final lift of 85kg was awesome.  2nd place with a 197.5kg total.

Michelle deadliftMichelle was last lifter in the first flight, Masters 1 63kg,  she competed the day before at the All Midlands Masters Cup but actually totalled more today.  After her 87.5kg in the previous comp (a North Midlands Record!!!), we dropped her opener just slightly to 75kg, went to 80kg and finished on 85kg, all very fast.  47.5kg was her first bench press, moving into 52.5kg and ending on 55kg (2.5kg more than the day before and an improved North Midlands Record).  She opened with an 117.5kg deadlift, 125kg looked great as her second attempt and then she hit 127.5kg (2.5kg more than the day before and an improved North Midlands Record!).  267.5kg total (North Midlands Record) and 1st place with a qualifying total for both the Senior and Masters British next year.Eve deadlift

In the second flight, Eve started us off in the 84kg class with a cool 50kg squat, moved onto 55kg and ended with 57.5kg.  We raised her opening bench press as her warm ups were just too easy so she started on 27.5kg, went to 30kg and 32.5kg was fast!  Deadlifts opened on 65kg, moved into 70kg and her last lift of the day was a fantastic 72.5kg.  162.5kg total and 5th place.

Stacey deadliftStacey and Laura C. battled it out for 1st and 2nd place in the 84kg class.  Laura C. opened her squats with 90kg, went to 97.5kg and hit a new PB of 102.5kg on her final lift.  Stacey opened on 97.5kg, failed her second attempt of 105kg due to losing tension in hole but rallied brilliantly and hit it on her final go!  Laura C’s bench started with 47.5kg and 52.5kg was great Laura C. squatas her second attempt, 55kg was just a little too much on the day.  Stacey also opened with 47.5kg and moved to 52.5kg as her second, but that was so fast her final attempt was 57.5kg and it was brilliant!  For the deadlift they both opened with 117.5kg, moved to 125kg and finished with a great 130kg.  Laura C. totalled 285kg and Stacey hit 292.5kg.  Both qualified for the British next year!

Ali squatIn the 84+kg class we had Ali, Sarah B. and Kirsty, in 3rd, 2nd and 1st place.  Ali and Sarah B. both squatted 90kg to open, moved to 97.5kg and hit excellent PBs of 102.5kg.  Ali benched 50kg to start, with 55kg as her second attempt, still really fast so she went for a PB milestone of 60kg and got it!  Sarah B. benchSarah B. opened her bench with an impressive 57.5kg, went to 62.5kg and hit a PB at a superb 67.5kg.  For the deadlifts Ali started with 135kg, moved into 142.5kg but that was still easy so we went for a huge PB of 150kg.  Sarah B. opened with 132.5kg, moved to 140kg and also hit a big PB with 145kg!  Both qualified for the British next year.

Kirsty benchKirsty finished the day with some truely incredible lifts.  She opened her squat with 117.5kg, took 125kg as her second lift and then took my divisional record with a 130kg final lift.  Bench started with 67.5kg, 72.5kg was her second attempt and 77.5kg her final.  I get to hold my bench record for a few months longer ;).  She opened her deadlifts with 152.5kg, moved to 160kg and then to 167.5kg as her final, all very fast and taking my record!  375kg total and first place with a qualifyng total for the British, very well done!

The official results can be found here:

And here’s the video:

Thank you to Marc and Sue Giles and Paul Hammond for organising such a brilliant comp.  Thank you to the loaders/spotters/refs and desk staff for doing such a tremendous job.  Thank you to Emma H. and Beth for taking the videos and G.L.S Photography for being our official photographer on the day.  Special thanks to Orla and Ellie from Bethnal Green Weightlifting Club who ran the warm ups for us!

Thank you to all those who came to support us and to the other lifters who cheered us on.  And finally, thank you to everyone who took part, it takes a lot of courage to step on the that platform and you have done yourselves, and everyone at Darkside, proud!!

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Darkside’s One Year Anniversary!!

This month is Darkside’s first anniversary and what a year it’s been!

Along with our main site in Lincoln we have opened a secondary site near Horncastle, run mainly by the excellent Bob Willmington, and between us we have over 60 women training and getting strong!

A phenomenal 12 women have taken the plunge and decided to do their very first powerlifting competition in November, joined by the awesome Michelle who did her first comp in July. We are so proud of the courage and determination shown by Darkside’s trainees and the profound physical and psychological health benefits that they have achieved.

So to celebrate, here are some of our lifters in their own words :).

IMG_20150816_142807Miriam has been with me since the end of May, she had some previous experience lifting and started with a 35kg squat, 30kg bench press, 20kg overhead press and 52.5kg deadlift. In just 13 weeks she has hit a brilliant 61kg squat, 34kg bench press, 25kg overhead press and 68.5kg deadlift, all for five reps. She will be competing in November and I foresee some big numbers!

‘I have always been fit and going to the gym has always been a part of my routine but the weight lifting with you just took me to another level. Even for someone quite used to weights like me, being able to achieve the right posture and the right technique is hard. Our Sundays are the best part of my week and I try to build it up during the week when I train by myself. And I feel really proud of myself when I take my shoes off and I am able to rack that Olympic bar and squat my ass right to the grass!’  Miriam, 39.

11745854_720827744687754_8066707129806422814_nMichelle started back in February, also experienced, with a 45kg squat, 30kg overhead press, 37.5kg bench press and 85kg deadlift. She competed for the first time in July and hit an absolutely fantastic 90kg squat, 55kg bench press and 132.5kg deadlift, you can see her comp video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhGDqx_4zJU

‘Pictures tell lots of stories but the most rewarding part of my fitness journey was finding Shantelle Svarc at Darkside Training – Lincoln who not only inspired me but coached me to competiton level something I never thought I would ever do. Powerlifting rocks my socks ;)’   Michelle, 49.

11738127_10153403476653376_6407458469263067037_nSarah had her very first session, alongside Miriam, at the end of May. Despite a long period of illness previously, she started strong with a 20kg squat, 17kg overhead press, 20kg bench press and 42.5kg deadlift. Over the next 8 weeks she added 11kg to her squat and 13.5kg to her deadlift, along with a 20kg press and 22kg bench, I look forward to seeing her again after the summer hols!

‘I bit the bullet and contacted Shantelle to kick start my fitness following a long period of illness. I used to run 4 x a week and do kettle bells 3 x week, then went to nothing. I joined Shantelle and I regained my confidence and my ability to push myself to limits I didn’t know I had. Powerlifting has made my confidence rise and has boosted my health so much its surprised even me, I feel SO FIT !!!! THANK YOU SHANTELLE ….. See you after the summer holidays…. Don’t hurt me too much lol.’  Sarah, 46.

Di started training with me (Bob) in early June of this year and from her first session I could see a strength and determination which showed through last week when she lifted a PB 100kg deadlift.  She goes from strength to strength and will be competing in Dithe GBPF powerlifting comp in Nov and I’m sure she will do well.

‘I’ve been enjoying regular gym sessions for over two years and joined Darkside as I was interested to see how much weight I could lift and was I hooked after the first session! Shortly after joining I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and to my relief I was told to continue at the gym and also with the weight training as it helps increase bone density and keeps joints strong. I keep amazing myself how much I can lift and it’s such a confidence boost when you’ve done more than you ever thought possible. I am absolutely loving being part of Darkside, I’ve met some lovely people, and a big thanks to Bob for his expert training and patience!’  Di, 41.

IMG_20150809_143616Carla started with Darkside in June, lifting a 20kg squat, huge 27.5kg bench press, 20kg overhead press and 50kg deadlift. She has since added an impressive 26kg to her squat, making 46kg for five reps and 25kg to her deadlift, taking it to 75kg for 5. Her bench press has increased to 33.5kg and her overhead press to 24kg. Great progress.

‘I am fairly new to this but really enjoying training and feeling strong again after having a baby a year ago (and totally giving up on exercise although I intended to carry on during pregnancy, but didn’t!). Each increment of extra weight added to the bar makes you feel great and looking forward to seeing what more my body can do. All the ladies are lovely too which is a bonus!’  Carla, 36.

IMG_20150727_213806Danielle was one of my more challenging trainees, in that she had a number of physical health problems which necessitated a slow and steady approach to training. She started with a 20kg squat, 20kg overhead press, 25kg bench press and 45kg deadlift. She had her final session with us in July, before leaving to pursue her judo goals in Manchester and hit some massive numbers – 120kg squat and 50kg overhead press. Seriously impressed.

At the start of the year I was looking for something new and I took up aikido to help with my judo, which is where I met Shantelle.

After six months filled with a lot of downs, including finding out I had a muscularskeletal disease, two lots of osteoarthritis, having a shoulder operation, heartbreak and redundancy, I was at a bit of a loss. My physios were telling me that on the nhs they couldn’t help me any further. That it was a long journey but I had the movement in my joints and just needed some more muscle to support where my ligaments don’t do their jobs.

So I start with Shantelle, a month and a half later suddenly my knee doesn’t collapse when I jump! The shock on my face when I realised this needed photographing. I look forward to my weekly sessions and when my health stopped me doing my main sport as much as I wanted to, these sessions kept me mentally strong and gave me something to look forward to. Watching my numbers progress each week made me jump for joy inside….even if I still moaned on the outside!

Six months down the line and I found my light at the end of a very long dark tunnel, mostly due to Shantelle kicking my arse along the way. My joints are so much more stable. I’m not scared of the gym and now love theIMG_20150727_213935 weights session. Though sometimes I still need someone to shout at me.

And now I am starting my journey in Manchester, with a career boost, but most of all, training under a two time Olympian for Judo. Suddenly my dream of top ten then British squad has become an actual possibility!   I am much better prepared to deal with my bodies array of issues. Keeping me strong physically and mentally. Giving me the strength to sort myself out and put myself first.  I am sad to have left and am still figuring out how to convince Shantelle to move to Manchester or figure out how to run sessions over Skype!  Danielle, 24.

Eve joined Bob’s Monday crew in June and fitted in immediately, her first squat was arse to grass no problem. She’s strong and capable and like all our ladies a pleasure to train.  As with Di, she will be competing in Nov, her lifting has steadily gained momentum and I look forward to seeing her on the platform.

‘I joined in mid June having never done any weight training before but always been quite Evenaturally strong. I had the aim of getting toned and shaped up, especially my arms as I’m due to get married next year and don’t like my wobbly bingo wings! I saw about the gym on Facebook and really liked the sound of it. I can’t believe how much has changed in just 2 months, I’m so much stronger and toned already, I’m buzzing after each session and look forward to it all week and now after such a short time I’ve decided I want to try out competing and see how I get on! I never thought I’d come so far in such a short time and can’t thank Darkside and Bob enough for the boost in my confidence, energy and well being.’  Eve, 31.

What can I (Bob) say about Nikky?  Well on her first training  session she was almost convinced she couldn’t lift and then promptly proved herself wrong.  It’s gratifying to see how strong she’s become in such a short time and she tells me her golf has improved since starting training which is brilliant. The one thing I can be sure of is, if Nikki’s in the workshop and especially if she’s with her friend Jenny, it’s going to be a fun session.

‘I’m new to this toNikkio but am loving it. I had resolved to do something about my fitness after realising with horror while playing golf that my legs wobble when I walk. Not just a little bit but a whole lot of wobble! Plus I want to be able to hit the golf ball further and the pro has told me the only way to do this is to get to the gym. Shame that I’m ‘allergic’ to gyms!!

I’ve never been particularly sporty, more enthusiastic than talented, and always thought of myself as a ‘weakling’. I really want to feel stronger and see what my body can do. After a couple of weeks I found myself messaging Bob to see if there was a second session I could do each week.

I’ve only been visiting Bob and Darkside for about six weeks but already I’m amazed at how much stronger and confident in my body I feel. My legs are still wobbling but I’ve discovered an obsession with technique, I’m hitting the ball further, my shape is starting to change and I’m loving it. I have no particular aspirations, I’m just enjoying the ride and will see where it takes me. One day I might even learn to love squats.’  Nikki, 43.

And finally, in Bob’s own words:

‘On a personal note I am so proud of our lifters, the physical strength of women never ceases to surprise me but more than that, the capacity of sisterhood that surfaces when training is inspirational.  We often use the word courage when talking about strength training and the word is defined as someone with who is bold and brave, unafraid to face tough challenges, I think that sums up Darkside women.’

Darkside is a community of women, supporting eachother and training together in the persuit of strength.  It’s been a brilliant year and I look forward to all that we can achieve next!

Grace

The Meaning of Darkside

IMG_20150618_213756We’ve been asked on the number of occasions what ‘Darkside’ means, and no, it’s nothing to do with Star Wars or Pink Floyd!

I was at a wedding a few years ago where a group of children were getting bored and running around after the ceremony. The mother ignored the actions of the boys but told the young girl to stop playing about as her hair was getting messy. This is just one example of many where there is a specific gendered approach to the raising of children and it has quite harmful effects, on both genders.

Girls are traditionally raised to be caregivers, they’re given dolls to look after, mini-prams to push IMG_20150622_182909[1]and toy kitchens to play with. Just look around a toy store to see the differences in marketing and the generally accepted divisions of play activity. Of course not all children are raised in this way, and there is an increasing acceptance of girls playing with ‘boys’ toys, however, there is a social conditioning that is very difficult to break from, as a child and as a parent.

Interestingly, there is not such an acceptance of boys playing with ‘girls’ toys, implying a societal glorification of masculine traits and a condemnation of the feminine, further supported through phrases such as ‘hitting like a girl’ or ‘take it like a man.’ These phrases are so ingrained into our culture that it takes a lot of effort to mentally step back and really think through their connotations.

My own upbringing was very ‘tomboy’ in nature and though I took ballet and tap I also helped my dad maintain and repair instruments and trained in martial arts. When I cut my hair really short however, they didn’t seem too impressed and when I started lifting weights, they didn’t really get that either.

Each IMG_20150619_211731person in this world is a unique mix of the feminine and the masculine, but so often we are pushed into boxes, told to behave in certain ways in order to fit the expectations of others. The tides are shifting and there is a greater acceptance of differences but as always, the changes are slow and hard to come by. And we hold onto some really ingrained values.

Darkside celebrates the feminine and masculine. It recognises the uniqueness of each individual and provides a safe space for people to come together and find their inner strength. We are changing the perceptions of femininity and masculinity and recognising the multi-faceted aspects of female physical and psychological health.

That’s why Darkside has its name. It is a space for women to express their deeper, primal natures without judgement and without recrimination. For women to embrace their innate power, strength and physical presence.IMG_20150705_145720[1]

‘Fitspiration.’

WP_20150514_004[1]If you’ve been following my FB page you may have noticed that, other than the odd bit of feminist literature, I don’t share the standard ‘motivational’ pictures or memes that you will often see in fitness and weight lifting pages.

My reasons for this are very simple.

These collections of images are generally termed as ‘fitspiration’ and assigned the verbs of motivational and inspiring.  They depict women with visible muscles and very little fat mass posing in a sexually suggestive manner.  Whilst I am not by any means belittling the dedication and work that goes into creating such a physique, I would like to make the point that, yet again, instead of celebrating the achievements and performances of women, we are celebrating their ability to get other people sexually aroused.

It is one thing to take a photograph of a lean and muscular woman who is proud of what she has achieved physically, it is another to take a photograph of her posed arse in a thong.

And then photoshop it bigger, smoother, glossier.

This is porn.

It is not motivational or inspiring, it is simply depressing.WP_20150513_005[1]

We all judge people based on their attractiveness, it is an innate, evolutionary instinct that allows us to pass the best genes onto our progeny.  This does not mean that we, women or men, should be judged solely on this single variable.  We are all multi-faceted individuals and women have fought and suffered and died in order that society recognise this basic fact.

Fitspiration and many media portrayals of women (think music videos) propagate a value system based upon allure rather than performance and create a sense of cognitive dissonance that we don’t live up to this physical ‘ideal.’  Whether we believe that it is ideal or not.

So no, you will not find this kind of imagery on my page.  What you will find, however, are pictures of women who are as diverse as they are brilliant.  Women who are awe-inspiring because they conquered their fears and achieved their goals.

That is what Darkside is about.  That is what you will find on my page.

Strength.  Power.  Community.

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The Simplicity of Strength

DSC_0103Read any newspaper today and you will find a sensational article regarding fitness or nutrition – fat used to be the enemy, now it’s sugar and for god’s sake do not touch the evil that is fruit juice.  Most of the time, they also seem to forget that they were advocating the exact opposite just a few weeks ago, based upon a different piece of research with equally dubious methodology.

Add to this a fitness industry that is more interested in making millions than effecting healthful change and it’s no surprise that we are so confusWP_20150310_001[2]ed.

I am grateful, however, that the benefits of weight training for women and older people have become a topic of conversation in the media.  So often seen as the perview of men, we are gradually realising just how important this type of training is for a woman’s physical and psychological health, particularly with regard to bone density, muscle mass and the ability to function in old age.

Common feedback from my lifters is that they are surprised at how fast their body adapts to training and that the little things in life – carrying groceries, getting up off the sofa – are suddenly so much easier.  Add to that an increased confidence and determination due to meeting goals, mastering complex movements and being part of a community of female lifters, and weight training becomes an invaluable tool for improving your life.

And the beaWP_20150305_002[1]uty is that strength training for health is so simple.  Squat, deadlift, bench press and overhead press.  Chin ups and power cleans if you want.  Eat plenty of vegetables and protein, a decent amount of fat and moderate amounts of minimally processed carbohydrate.  Include some conditioning and HIIT (high intensity interval training).  Get plenty of sleep.  That’s it.

Seriously, that is it.WP_20141017_001[1]

There’s no expensive supplements or meal replacements to buy, no pitting of one food group against another, no fancy equipment or everchanging, new, products to buy.  Just add a little more weight each time you train, your body will do the rest.

It is this simplicity that I adore, that the body’s amazing ability to adapt is at the forefront of this methodology.  It is all about bringing people together, celebrating your achievements and realising that we are so much more capable than we believe.

If you think thaWP_20150221_005[1]t this type of training might be for you, then  send me a message on Facebook, shantelle.darkside@gmail.com or 07717 202065.  1:1 sessions are £25 per hour and groups of up to four women are £10 per class for 75 minutes.  I work from the Pacific Gym in Lincoln.WP_20150216_001[1]

North Midlands Powerlifting Championships, 21st Feb 2015.

Darkside Training attended their inaugural powerlifting competition in Horncastle on 21st February. It was awSiobhan squatesome!

Siobhan has been with me since the end of October, she’d done some lifting before and started with a 50kg squat, 37.5kg bench press and 65kg deadlift, all for fives. On Saturday she lifted an 87.5kg squat, 50kg paused bench and 110kg deadlift, qualifying for the British. She’s going to be joining the RAF in a few weeks and their powerlifting team, a loss for Darkside but a massive gain for the RAF.

Charlotte started lifting early January, with no experience at all. She began with a 25kg squat, 25kg bench press and 30kg deadlift, for fives, and she finished competition with a 67.5kg squat, 42.5kg paused bench and 112.5kg deadlift. Her next goal is to qualify for Charlotte Bnechthe British in July and total 270kg.

The official results can be found here: http://northmidspowerlifting.co.uk/results/

I am so proud of both of them. An absolutely fantastic performance, they fought through their nerves and proved themselves on the platform.

This was a small, divisional competition and there were 6 women competing, compared to 21 men. This is the standard distribution and I want it reversed. I want more women competing than men. I want to build an empire of powerlifting women. Who wants to join me?WP_20150221_005[1]

Fear of Success

DSC_0150 Fear of failure is an often used rationale for choosing not to partake in certain activities – weight lifting, proper nutrition, sport in general. I find this a rather simplistic explanation however, what interests me rather more is fear of success.

Success is an unknown quantity.DSC_0103

For those who has been overweight for most of their lives, being a healthy weight brings a whole new set of dynamics to contend with from clothes shopping and new relationships to holding a completely different mindset about oneself. This is one of the reasons why we are so likely to self-sabotage our efforts. Things are going well, results can be seen and suddenly we get scared as to what this all means. What will be expected of us when we reach our goal?

I honestly believe that people are predisposed to self harm, whether it be compulsive over-eating, alcoholism, over-exercise or physical cutting it lies so often in simply not cultivating a sense of our own self worth. If we feel that we are not worthy of success, consciously or not, then we will not allow success to happen.

We need to get over thDSC_0132is.

My mantra these days is ‘fuck it.’

It may not solve all my problems, but it’s pretty damn helpful.

Now it’s not a ‘fuck it’ of giving up, aggression or a pseudonym for sex, it’s a ‘fuck it’ of get over yourself. You are strong, you are capable and you are powerful, any other voice in your head is just noise. Anyone else’s opinion is insignificant. Take control of what you want in life and learn to love yourself. You deserve it.

New Year’s Eve

After losinDSC_0103g the initial 10kg back in August, I’ve really struggled with eating well and a lot of nutritionally poor food items have found their way back into my diet. I think reaching a goal, which was the first weight loss goal I’ve managed to reach in my lifetime, really messed with my head and I felt like I deserved to ‘treat’ myself which led to an inevitable slide in food choices.

With this in mind, the Starting Strength camps arrived at the perfect time, giving me the kick up the arse that I needed to get back on track. My lifts are a fair bit weaker than they used to be, partly due to the weight loss and mostly due to work.  I don’t want to be this weak again; shame is a great motivator.

I’ve upped my hours in my day job to 4.5 days per week, mainly because I would like to get on the housing ladder at some point in my life, and so it will be easy for me let my training and nutrition go even slacker. I’ve made the decision that I’m better than that. It’s really not all that hard to prep some simple and nutritious meals for work and to get off the couch and actually go to the gym. I’m single and childless, I have no excuses. If Jordan and Tom come back next year, I want them to see a better version of me.DSC_0133

So that’s the camps’ influence on me, committing to dropping a final 9kg and getting my strength levels back to where they were at my peak – 127.5kg squat, 80kg bench and 145kg deadlift.

As for my clients’ training, it will largely remain the same. There are some slight technique adjustments that need to be made, and I really ought to teach the powerclean more, but by and large I am doing that right – linear progression and a simple stable of compound exercises are all a novice needs to progress.

Darkside is now 5 months old, I am so proud of all of my lifters, whether they are training for health or competition, and I can’t wait to see what 2015 will bring!

Happy New Year!

DSC_0150

The Purpose Of Lifting

Scrolling down my FaceDSC_0209book newsfeed I found a sponsored ad from a gym chain stating that the sole purpose of ‘working out’ was to ‘transform your body’ and an article stating that men now find women who train with weights ‘desirable.’

This really annoyed me. Granted, I’d just come back from working my day job and wasn’t in the most forgiving of moods but the media’s perception of women and what they want from exercise really needs to change.

I actually thought that society has gotten past the whole ‘women want to be desirable to men so that they can find a husband and bear his children and please him in all ways’ mentality. Who gives a flying fuck if men find women who lift attractive and there are many more reasons to exercise and lift weights than transforming your body into a ‘new, sexier you.’ To be constantly bombarded with this message is damaging to all women and potentially quite dangerous to young women who are just starting to develop an understanding of relationship dynamics and the role of self esteem and respect for oneself.

Lifting heavy things builds confidence, mental fortitude and physical health and it promotes a value system that is based on performance rather than vanity. Compression of morbidity has to be the single most important aspect of lifting weights – essentially increasing your quality of life. Picking up your grandkids when you’re sixty, not falling over and breaking a hip when you’re seventy and wiping your own arse when you’re eighty. And for the younger generation, who doesn’t want to feel better, prevent a number of dangerous medical conditions and show off when moving house or arm wrestling in the pub?

SHands - Chalko fuck the media’s propagation of damaging values and fuck the gyms that buy into that mentality. I am a woman and I lift because I love lifting, for my own personal gratification and my own personal health. Conventionally attractive or not, my body is capable of great things and my mind holds a focus it never had before. The curve of my arse is secondary to these simple facts.

Why I Started Darkside

Artwork by Phyllis Mahon

Whilst the concept of women training with weights is gradually starting to become normalised within mainstream media and culture, it is mostly polarized into two extremes.  Fitspo, with its sexy and tanned models with breast implants, posing in a sexually suggestive manner, or hardcore powerlifting and bodybuilding advocates.  There doesn’t seem to be a lot of information out there for people who are just, dare I say it, ‘normal,’ those who have never really considered weight training and simply want to enjoy good health.

Neither of the above representations are particularly appealing to someone just starting out, they certainly weren’t for me.  The former is often damaging and holds the implication that a woman’s worth lies within her attractiveness to the male viewer and that they have failed if they cannot achieve the unattainable physical or training ideals portrayed (though there are some decent examples of fitspo, occasionally).  The latter can be intimidating and imply an end point (competing) that the beginning lifter may not foresee for themselves.

It is with this in mind that when I started to seriously think about what Darkside could be, its ethos and purpose, I knew that it had to appeal to those who didn’t really think that weights were for them.  Women face enough barriers, in life as well asDSC_0153 in the gym.

Darkside’s purpose is to dispel some of the long-term myths surrounding women and weight training and to encourage anyone and everyone to give it a go.  Strength is too important for a woman’s health, physically and psychologically, to ignore.  So, I shall sign off with what is essentially my mission statement:

Darkside Training – Changing Perceptions of Femininity, Masculinity and Health.

For details of our next seminars and how to join, message me on Facebook, shantelle.darkside@gmail.com or phone 07717 202065