Isabelle Daza, with her toned physique, is a lady who lifts. Heavy.
There is something mesmerizing about this form of badassery. It is amazing to see someone as unabashedly feminine as Isabelle completely embrace her own strength as a woman: Gracefully sinking into a deep squat with a heavy load on her shoulders while still looking incredibly sexy.
A growing number of women are buying into Isabelle's penchant for pumping iron. Slowly and quietly, a feminine revolution is taking place as more women are occupying gym space traditionally dominated by men. And, apparently, there's more to ladies who lift than losing weight.
One the most incredible perks to lifting heavy isn't the most obvious. Lifting heavy weights is a great confidence builder, allowing women to challenge their own misconceptions about their bodies. It allows women to see just how much they are capable of doing physically. "Lifting weights is the first kind of exercise I’ve ever done with the goal of actually getting more powerful," shares Kara, a 33 year old flight attendant who began lifting heavy weights as a way supplement her other workout routines. "Once I started the program, I was hooked. There is something so empowering about deadlifting an extremely heavy barbell off the ground or benchpressing weights that seemed impossible to lift." Accomplishing feats that seem impossible a few weeks ago was a transformative experience for her. "Every day session shows me that I am in full control of changing my body. Seeing and feeling the results of my efforts never ceases to amaze me.”
Kara's early forays into weightlifting did not have an auspicious start. "I was extremely doubtful about my capabilities at the start. I started off with the lightest weight that my coach would allow because I was scared of injuries," relates Kara, "I was also scared of bulking up." This fear, while understandable, is completely groundless. Testosterone, a hormone that is responsible for muscle growth, is present in women at levels that are too low to have a significant effect on muscle growth. It takes a tremendous amount of effort for a woman to gain manly muscle mass on a feminine frame. Without taking any supplementary testosterones, women who lift heavy instead gain lean, defined muscles: Sleek, rippling definitions that are prevalent among the most popular fitspiration models that women aspire to.
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Contrary to popular belief, cardio is NOT the ultimate fat torcher. While doing serious time on a treadmill can undoubtedly burn calories, this effect stops the minute you hop off. Building lean muscle mass through weightlifting is key to transforming your body into a fat burning machine. During a strenuous weight lifting session, little tears are made in the muscle itself. While this microtrauma may sound harmful, this is a natural response of muscles when they experience work. In short, when you lift weights, you’re actually slightly damaging your muscles by allowing them to lift more weight than they would in normal daily life. The body repairs these tears when at rest, using a tremendous amount of calories to help muscles grow in size and strength. Your body automatically becomes more efficient at burning fat. Every single pound of muscle gained translates into more calories being burned, boosting the body's ability to burn stored fat while at rest (yes, even during Netflix and chill).
Lifting weights translates into better functionality in daily life. For Kara, this translates into performing better on long flights where lugging around a heavy food cart and assisting passengers with their heavy luggage while balancing on heels is the norm. "It really isn't part of our job description to stash hand carry bags in the overhead compartment," laughs Kara, "But, I still assist them whenever I can, especially if I see that the passenger is having a difficult time."
Ironically, for such a high intensity activity, Kara finds peace in lifting, revealing that she gets "in the zone" every time she pumps iron. "Facing resistance with mindfulness is absolutely a form of meditation," shares Kara, "Being aware of my form and breath with every movement taught me to be mindful, to brace myself for hardship and follow through with my intention to finish the set as flawless as I possibly can."
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More than the physical benefits, it is ultimately the mental benefits of lifting that Kara appreciates more. "Admittedly, it was really all about vanity," laughs Kara, "But, as I progressed, I started to value the numbers differently. I realized that my self-worth isn't found in the weighing scale but in my strength as a woman, both physically and mentally." For Kara, lifting has also given her inner grit that allows her to transcend any situation that is thrown at her. "I've pushed myself beyond self-imposed boundaries and am constantly fighting to better myself. On moments that are really tough on me, I dig deep and go back to what I have learned from lifting heavy weights. This reminds me of how much I am capable of, how much stronger I really am, and that there's really nothing that's out there that I cannot handle."
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Photographs and video from Instagram.com/isabelledaza / Banner image by Janna Jimenez