I'm a Powerlifter, Who Just Happens to Wear a Hijab

September 04, 2018

Around three years ago, I was at a point in my life where I was extremely displeased with my everyday lifestyle. I had just finished my first year of collegeand I guess you could say I went overboard with the concept of ‘Freshman 15’ and pursued further to ‘Freshman 20.’ I really hated what I was putting in my body and decided that it was really important for me to bring change into my life by eating better and staying active.  I tried what every girl finds herself doing at the gym at one point — finding a small corner in the gym and doing abs for 30 minutes and then some cardio on the treadmill. This lasted for about a month until I got extremely bored and was no longer motivated to go to the gym.


This might sound funny,  but when I first started powerlifting, I actually didn’t even know that I was doing it. I was  a newbie to the gym, not very persistent with my routine, and wasvery intimidated by the high levels of  testosterone in weight lifting culture. So, Isought help from two people who became my best friends, Ahsan Shareef and Hanna Malik. Ahsan had been powerlifting for a few years when I first decided to tag along on his workouts, and Hanna had been doing it for a few months at that time.

I found it easier to work out with people who motivated me.. It’s a lot less scary to start working out when you have someone making sure you’re doing it right,  and overall holding you accountable to walk through those gym doors every day. before I knew it, I was going to the gym everyday, doing my own routine, and building programs best suited for myself.  

 

For those of you who are unfamiliar with powerlifting, it is built around three major lifts:  bench, squat, and deadlift. The goal behind powerlifting is literally in its name — to lift as much weight as possible. My routine is simple. I go five times a week with 2 rest days. I have a 9 to 5 job so I try to lift after work for at least 1.5 hours. I start my workout with either of those three compound lifts. So if it’s Monday —which is leg day for me —I begin by doing a set of squats. This can vary depending on which powerlifting program you decide on following, but the general idea is to start with light sets of squats and eventually work your way up to your heavy sets. After that’s done I finish off my day with some leg accessory workouts and depending on my mood will do some cardio at the end.


I love powerlifting  because it constantly pushes me to be a better version of myself. As cliche as that sounds, everyday I walk into the gym with a new goal set for myself, and meeting that goal daily is one of the best feelings in the entire world. Powerlifting teaches you that the greatest competition out there is yourself, and if you don’t continue to push for your goals you’ll eventually plateau. This mindset has been my motivation for the last 3 years.


My greatest accomplishment through  powerlifting has been learning to be patient.Like most women, I really just wanted to get back to my original weight, but also become leaner in that process. I tried my best to build a balance  between lifting and cardio. I also learned that you might not see results 2 months in, or maybe not even 4 months iI didn’t start seeing results until I was 10 months into my routine you can only imagine how many times I thought about giving up, but the idea is that no matter how frustrating it gets, patience is key. Consistency is key. And it’s the only way to get results.


I think that powerlifting can be an intimidating sport to participate in if you don’t know anything about it.  I admit that I was also scared to start lifting! All I could think of was turning into the female Arnold Schwarzenegger. But for all women who may think that too: I promise  you this, it is NOT true. Trust me, if doing a set of bicep curls would transform your arms in that way, every man who stepped foot in the gym would have the ideal bodybuilding physique. Most women want to become “tone” or “lean”, but fail to realize that lifting weights is integral to achieving that goal.


Usually when I tell people I lift, they don’t believe me. Even my own parents don’t realize that I'm lifting 200 lbs on a regular basis. Being a 5’1 muslim hijabi powerlifter is definitely different, but I love that I am different and embrace the new identity for what the world thinks a powerlifter should be and look like.

 

- Daniya Sayed (@Daniya.pdf)

21

Philadelphia



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