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Endurance athlete to World Champion bodybuilder... via the gym!

Endurance athlete to World Champion bodybuilder... via the gym!

Image credit: Fivos Averkiou

I've always been "sporty" but was never a gym bunny; not as a teen, not at University, and not throughout my 20s. I dabbled in classes, including those based on barbell strength training and body weight, but was never tempted into the weights area of the gym.

That all changed a few years ago, and I'd like to tell you why I'm now utterly in love with lifting weights in the gym.

Endurance sport was always my thing. I grew up a (mediocre) club swimmer, then moved into long-distance running (did the half-marathon and marathon thing) and triathlon. I wasn't particularly good at any of it (the term "middle of the pack" could have been coined for me) but I loved it all. I put the hours in, but didn't train particularly intelligently. Strength and conditioning might as well have referred to a type of shampoo for all I knew.

That all changed when I got itchy feet, started to tire of triathlon, and looked for a new challenge.

I had an inkling that, under the "extra" padding on my swimmer's frame, lurked a fairly symmetrical and balanced physique and I was curious to learn more about squats, deadlifts and all those things I'd heard about but never tried. Arnie was a hero of mine, and I had some knowledge of the female bodybuilders of the 70s and 80s. I understood that weight training could do great things for your body, but I had no ida where to start. So, I worked with an online coach to learn about nutrition and strength training, and transformed my body step-by-step over 8 weeks.

I remember that first weights session very well.

It was all new: sets and reps, barbells and dumbbells. I learned quickly about gym etiquette, about loading and unloading your plates, about putting your dumbbells away and about "working in" with other lifters. But from the very first moment that I wrapped my hands around the cool metal of the bar, I felt at home.

Lifting weights continues to be an almost meditative experience for me. It can be hard, yes, but it's the ultimate rewarding challenge. The only person who can complete the rep is you. You either do it, or you don't. Pulling a heavy weight from the floor, or placing a bar across your back and challenging yourself to a battle with gravity, is empowering. It's you against you. No gadgets, nowhere to hide. Just you and the most basic form of training there is to master. And the best thing about training with weights? It can - and will - transform your body and mind. You'll drop fat, shape up, build a lean and tight body. But perhaps the best gains come from within. Training in the weights area of the gym will encourage you to walk taller, be confident in your abilities, and be proud of your body.

I'm now a 2 x World Champion bodybuilder.

But that's not why I train. I train for empowerment, self-confidence, pride and personal growth. Competing and winning are wonderful things. But my most precious rewards from gym training have come from the quiet moments of an empty gym, or on the toughest and most challenging training sessions. I'm so glad I started.

the author

Nicola Joyce

Nicola Joyce is a full-time health and fitness copywriter. She is passionate about the industry as well as her own health and fitness. Nicola has swum the English Channel, competed in triathlons, endurance running and loves to lift weights. She is also a 2x WNBF/INBF World Champion, taking out the title of amateur female bodybuilder in 2014..