The first truly transformative strength workshop I went to was Artemis Scantalides’ “I Am Not Afraid to Lift” workshop for women. It was held in only the second real strength training facility I had been in. No treadmills or bikes. Squat racks, pull up bars, kettlebells, iron. Nothing the 18-year old, endurance-runner version of me would have recognized. I met women of all ages (early 20s up through 70s); all of them were working on getting stronger. Talk about an inspiring community.
Artemis began as an accomplished ballet dancer who believed she was never thin enough, became a martial artist who was astounded to find a group of people who cared more about how tough and strong she was than how small she was, and went on to train with kettlebells and become a StrongFirst Level 2, Russian Kettlebell Certified level 2, and StrongFirst Team Leader. Along the way, she was inspired to attempt the Iron Maiden Challenge in the world of hardstyle kettlebell training, consisting of three lifts: an overhand grip dead-hang pull-up, a strict overhead press, and a pistol squat – all with a 53 pound (24kg) kettlebell. She trained for several years and missed her first attempt at the Iron Maiden, but ultimately became the ninth woman to earn the title of StrongFirst Iron Maiden and the only woman of her size: 5’1/2″ and approximately 115 pounds. Just about my size. Hum…..
Artemis does a great job of deconstructing a lot of myths about women and strength training. Myths about women and bulking, toning, spot reducing. (None of that is real, people. It just sells magazines). Her presentation is full of information that would be helpful for all women to know, not just those interested in strength training.
I walked away from that workshop smarter, but also with a few more crazy ideas: what if I could be an Iron Maiden by the age of 50? OK, maybe back that up. What if I could do one unassisted pull-up? What if I could do a pistol squat to depth? What if I could train my brain to appreciate what my body could do and not criticize how it looked? I walked away with specific goals. Something my training had lacked over the past 15 years since I stopped running races. I walked away with a new project, a purpose, and a clear direction – and not only is that fun, it feels good!