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Joanna Beattie

Joanna Beattie
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Name: Joanna Beattie
Sport: Weightlifting / Powerlifting
Role: Coach / Personal Trainer
Organisation: Barbell Girls
Nationality: British
Date: Mar 2015

Joanna is a coach and personal trainer at the UK based weightlifting club Barbell Girls.  Being a women only weightlifting club, Joanna is an advocate for strong women and promotes a fit and healthy lifestyle for all women.

The FCN chatted with Joanna to find out what motivates her to lift and how she motivates other women to do the same…

It’s something that evolved! I had an ambition in my 20’s to become a personal trainer.  I left that ambition behind and went on to have a family.  In my 30’s I began training with personal trainer Dave Davis.  He introduced me to strength training and I loved it instantly.

Dave encouraged me to follow up my ambition to work in the sport and fitness industry.  I wanted to give other women the opportunity to strength train too.  I felt frustrated that women are often misinformed about which type of training would help them reach their fitness goals, for example an aerobics class advertised with a photograph of a fitness model who obviously lifts weights. I felt it was time women were empowered with fitness knowledge and opportunity.

I began by qualifying as a gym coach followed by Strength & Conditioning levels 1 & 2 with KBT education, and Personal Trainer Qualification.  I have loved the process of learning more about my passion but struggled with distance learning elements, around caring for young children.  There’s some truth is the saying that women can have it all, just not all at once.

I have been in their shoes.  I understand how it feels to walk into a male dominated environment, feel self-conscious due to your lack of experience and representation.  How it can be intimidating to try a new way of training that is completely alien and how empowering it can be for a woman to realise that she is strong.  I can also address concerns about strength training and female body image and enable women to see for themselves that fears of becoming masculine are unfounded.  Witnessing those perceptions changing has been extremely rewarding.

Having fallen in love with weights and the added benefit of health and aesthetic changes it can bring, I felt strongly that women should be given the opportunity to try for themselves.  Myself and my PT approached the manager of Brentwood Barbell, Pete Stone, with the idea of holding a free event for women to learn more about weight training and enable them to try.  Pete was enormously supportive and together the three of us ran Ladies Lift Clinic with 30 attendees, in February 2014.  We received fantastic feedback asking for us to run sessions with a female coach.  We trialled Barbell Girls drop-in sessions in March 2014 with an average of 8 attendees per week.  The numbers continued to grow and we now see upwards of 20 women training together on Thursday evenings.

Ages range from 20 – 60 and with a variety of goals.  Some train for health after illness, some for fun and some competitively.  3 of our members have qualified for the BDFPA British Championships 28 March 2015.  More members intend to take part in 2016.

We have recently received some funding from Active Essex which we will use to run an additional session and a free beginners course.  We have made the transition from a class to club and are excited about future opportunities to widen our reach further.

The benefits are multiple.  Resistance training is beneficial for physical health by reversing the trend of losing lean mass as we age, maintaining our strength and basal metabolic rate, for increasing bone density, and functional strength, protecting us from injury.  Psychologically it is tremendously empowering for a woman to discover she is strong.  Women begin to shift their focus from their appearance to their capabilities and that is an enormous step for women as we grow up bombarded with unrealistic female media images which erode our confidence.  Ironically women report seeing the aesthetic changes they had found unobtainable when their fitness was focused only on aesthetics. Another benefit that has been an added bonus, is seeing the women work together and build their own community around the club.  For women who have not previously been part of team sports or clubs, this is a new and exciting experience.

In my experience, the first three weeks of training with us are the most crucial.  In that time the vast majority change their mind set from seeing themselves as weak and feeling intimidated, to wanting to challenge themselves and improve their performance.  The club is so welcoming that they quickly get involved and are inspired by those who have been lifting for longer.  All the women have embraced strength training and share their achievements with the rest of the group.

In the first instance find a club or coach who can get you started.  Safe technique is essential and trying to teach yourself is tough.  Share the cost of personal training by taking a friend along.  Never be intimidated by seeing others lifting very heavy weights.  Everyone starts at the beginning.

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