Just when you think you're tough enough

Tough Takes

Women lifting taboos in Weightlifting at The Vanguard

Juinn(left) and Bibah Weightlifting at The Vanguard in District 13, PJ.
Juinn(left) and Bibah finds passion in Weightlifting at The Vanguard in District 13, PJ.

It’s almost a taboo for women to be involved with Weightlifting, and everyone suddenly has an ‘expert’ opinion on how women will transform to be the Incredible Hulk. If only they knew how difficult it is for women to grow bulky muscles (or turn green).

We spoke to two budding women weightlifters about their journey and will be participating in The Lift Off – an amateur weightlifting competition this weekend.

Bibah Munir, 23 – 8 months into Weightlifting

Bibah recently graduated and currently works as an Upstream Finance Analyst with Shell in Cyberjaya. Her journey into Weightlifting started when she was studying in university in British Columbia, Canada.

TA: How did you get started in Weightlifting?

Bibah: As with everyone else, I started with doing cardio exercise in gym, and moved on to strength training. In university, I first tried Powerlifting as they had gyms with platforms too.

I wanted to try something new. There was a group of working adults who trained at my university who encouraged me to join them on the ‘cool side’. The coach was a women Canadian Olympian who was training them, so I joined them in to train a few times a week which turned into a few months and I loved it.

When I returned from Canada after finishing my degree, I was looking for a weightlifting gym and was recommended to check out Vanguard, so here I am!

TA: You seem to have found your happy place.

Bibah: Yes, I really enjoy it. Weightlifting is different compared to other sports. You would think it’s more to strength and aggression, but it’s really challenges your mental strength and I guess that’s what I gravitate towards.

Bibah Weightlifting The Vanguard
Bibah started Weightlifting while studying and found that she belongs on the platform.

TA: So are you ready to play mind games at Lift Off?

Bibah: It will be my first time competing so it will be about breaking down my personal barriers yet I don’t know what to expect. My aim will be to compete and complete, and not targeting to win as you give yourself unnecessary pressure.

TA: How do you counter perceptions against women in Weightlifting?

Bibah: Initially, my goal was to lose weight and I’m not the feminine type of girl. I was struggling to find myself and finally, I felt like I belonged here when I took up weightlifting.

Other people still ask me why I indulge in this sport, but they don’t understand that it’s not easy for women to build bulky muscles unlike guys. Weightlifting does shape your body in a better way compared to running, and for me, as long as you’re healthy and eat good food, that’s my priority.

Bibah Weightlifting The Vanguard
Bibah will be competing in her first competition just 8 months after getting into Weightlifting.

TA: Which discipline do you love most?

Bibah: I love the single, fluid movement in the Snatch most, but I also like doing squats. In my opinion, everyone should do squats as it helps with your posture and your back. Most people squat but in the wrong form, so it’s important to learn the movement before adding weights.

TA: What keeps you motivated in the Weightlifting?

Bibah: It makes me happy. During the two hour training sessions, this is the time to challenge myself and release stress. We also form strong bonds and your training buddies become your second family.

Catch Bibah at The Lift Off on Sunday, Oct 30th between 10-11am at The Vanguard, District 13 in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

Juinn Weightlifting The Vanguard
Weightlifting strengthens Juinn inside and out, boosting her self-confidence too.

Tan Juinn Ruei, 27 – 1.5 years into Weightlifting

Juinn works as a Data Analyst for Supahands and tried out weightlifting with encouragement from a friend as she needed to lose weight and after graduation. A year and a half later, she focuses on Weightlifting and had tried Powerlifting as well too.

TA: What do you think about girls who lift?

Juinn: I think it’s really good, and personally, it helped me open up to other people as I was really shy and didn’t like talking to others. I always felt self-conscious but weightlifting has helped boost my confidence.

My girl friends support my passion, but when I ask them to join me, there’s always the initial fear that they will get bulky. They also think we eat really clean food, but we don’t and I still enjoy the local cuisines and fast food. I guess weightlifting gives me a good excuse to enjoy food more.

TA: Which discipline do you love most?

Juinn: Currently, I love the Snatch as I love the mind and body connection when I do the snatch. You need to be mentally present and aware throughout the movement.

I love squatting as well, although this is not part of the weightlifting competition.

Juinn Weightlifting The Vanguard
The camaraderie at The Vanguard keeps Juinn going strong, and she met her fiancé there too.

TA: What keeps you going in Weightlifting?

Juinn: The people here really matter as everyone at Vanguard is really supportive, and I met my fiancé, Fei here as well. Wedding planning is not as fun as people think, Weightlifting is a lot easier.

When I was studying my degree, I also tried out pole dancing and enjoyed it, but I’ll focus on weightlifting for now.

TA: What’s your target for Lift Off?

Juinn:I always try and just do my best, I don’t like focusing on numbers as that gives me more stress. Previously, I’ve competed in small, friendlies against us and Pushmore when Vanguard was new to the scene. I learnt not to set expectations from those two experiences, and would rather gauge on competition day itself and surprise myself.

Catch Juinn at The Lift Off on Saturday, Oct 29th between 12-1pm at The Vanguard, District 13 in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.