a journey in the gym

Anke Neustadt

Long ago I used to flip through Vogue magazines and idolize the models on the cover; their airbrushed faces, perfectly put-together outfits and symmetrical features left me in awe. I would make collages of the beautiful photos and hang them around my room. This kind of cut and collected beauty was what I, along with many other young women, determined to be ideal. As these unrealistic body standards are being spread throughout the media, it is so common for our perception of the “ideal” body to be shaped by our accessible sources. Magazines have created a look that everyone wants, yet only some can achieve. Little did I know that an entry into the fitness world would completely transform my concept of beauty. With experience and a plethora of new skills I learned in the gym, I realized that creating an imperfectly perfect, strong and vibrantly beautiful cover is much more valuable than an airbrushed one. I realized that with some time and patience, you can truly create the strongest and healthiest version of yourself.

It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I began to set my own personal goals and focus on being accepted to the University of Michigan. Along with academics, I began to try and elevate my life through physical and mental wellness. My brother, who is now a licensed personal trainer, inspired me with his own physical changes. He started weightlifting and completely changed not only his fitness routine but his diet, health and mindset. I was motivated to learn more from him and create my own plan. Soon enough I was meal prepping, tracking my progress in the gym and even feeling a sense of craving for my after-school lifts. I stopped caring about dieting my way to the magazine-ready physique that I once idolized in Vogue and focused instead on my newfound strength. At first, the process seemed so contradictory to everything I knew about fitness. It was no longer about shrinking but about growing. It was about fueling and pushing — overcoming the challenge to set goals bigger than myself.  

The transition into weight lifting has made an immense impact on my life. Lifting weights has not only increased my self-confidence but changed my perspective on life, both mentally and physically. A step into this new journey has initiated a new era: a fitness-filled journey of improvement. I encourage others to take their own improvement measures rather than conforming to the set ways of society. Lifting is my go-to way for changing not only my body, but my mind as well.

Beauty and the barbells: a journey in the gym

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