It is my pleasure as a coach, athlete and cisgender, white, gay man to introduce you to the Denver LGBTQ+ Weightlifting Club. My name is Dirk (sometimes known as David) Smith. I am a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with my Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology from Metropolitan State University of Denver. I have been working as a trainer, coach and instructor in Denver for 7 years
I decided to start an LGBTQ+ Weightlifting club here in Denver for many reasons. I have always wanted to work with the LGBTQ+ community in terms of encouraging people to be more active and fit. There are many physical, mental and spiritual health benefits to exercise and fitness. Exercise has been shown to help strengthen the immune system to better combat HIV/AIDS and Cancer as well as treat and reduce the risk of developing diseases like diabetes and hypertension among many others. It is no secret that people within the LGBTQ+ community often face many issues that affect their mental health, from depression, anxiety, stress, body image, eating disorders, even suicide. Consistent exercise has been shown to have a positive impact in helping people handle those issues.
Those are great reasons for LGBTQ+ people to take up exercise but I’d like to share with you why it’s so important to me and specifically why I chose weightlifting.
- -The first reason is I have firsthand experience in this myself, at one point I was very depressed and overweight. I had a hard time really dealing with the world because I didn’t feel good about myself. I often see this in many of my friends and people that I meet going through the same things I did.
- -The second reason is there seems to be a lot of crappy shit happening in the world and frankly, it’s depressing. I don’t like politics regardless of whoever is in office, and I try to stay out of political discussions; but it doesn’t mean I don’t care. How can I change the world as an individual when it seems like so many bad things are happening to our community? I can’t. But what I can do as an individual is to help empower the people within our community to stand up for what we believe in and perhaps to be able to better process current events a little more… optimistically. The best way I know how to do that is through exercise!
- -Thirdly (Is that a word?) A big problem with the fitness industry is the heavy focus on aesthetics. People associate exercise with looking better, because we are constantly shamed to think of ourselves as ugly. Aesthetics doesn’t mean better health. The LGBTQ+ community faces a lot of body image issues that contribute to depression and anxiety issues that are already so prevalent. Beauty as they say is in the eye of the beholder, and it all comes down to confidence. Exercise builds confidence, confidence builds self-image, people with better self-image are naturally more attractive; regardless of the firmness of your abs or plumpness of your booty. My goal is to help people build confidence within themselves through weightlifting. I don’t care how much you weigh, how you look, or even how much you can lift. What matters to me is that when you lift; you put in your best effort every time.
- -But how can lifting things up and putting them down build self-confidence? Well, when two people love each other… haha kidding! In my experience, working at many different types of gyms and facilities, you tend to see the same types of people. Specifically I understand people are intimidated by gyms and exercise in general, because when you walk in you suddenly realize you have no idea what the f*ck to do. What the hell is that guy over there making so much noise for? Damn that girl is running so fast! Is this some kind of medieval torture device?! I am pretty sure that person over there is laughing at me! What the hell am I doing here? It is quite humbling to say the least, and without purpose and focus for your visit to the gym, it is quite easy to lose motivation despite your best intentions to improve your fitness.
- Fourthly, my goal is to help you find your ultimate “why?”, as in “Why are you even here?” Gyms are… unique places, to say the least. However, they are also full of opportunity for each person who walks into one to discover their true potential. You don’t have to be athletic to be an athlete. A gym might seem like a big place at first, but when you come in with a specific focus and readiness to push your limits, you’ll realize that everybody is there for the same reason, to better ourselves.
- Fifthly, to focus on the journey; not the destination. Have you ever caught yourself admiring something/ someone cool and said “There is no way I could ever do that?”, yes you have! We all have! It’s easy to see a person’s accomplishments, but what we don’t see is how much work they put into their achievement. Do you think Michael Phelps popped out of his mother and went on to win 23 Olympic Gold Medals? Of course not, it was the result of years of discipline and hard work. Weightlifting is not something you can achieve in a day, to learn the proper technique for each lift alone requires a lot of time and practice. It’s a process, a journey and one if you stick with, you will discover the amazing places that it will take you.
- The Denver LGBTQ+ Weightlifting Club is a new venture for me just as much as it is for you. I want to learn how to become a stronger coach and more effective leader. This club will help me to better understand how I can better contribute to the LGBTQ+ community and movement by meeting and learning from people who might face issues and needs that I otherwise wouldn’t understand. It’s a process for me just as much as it is for you, and my goal is to learn and grow not only as a professional, but as an individual.
There are two disciplines in competitive weight lifting. Power lifting which comprises of the Bench Press, Squat and Deadlift. Then there is Olympic Lifting which comprises of the Clean and Jerk and the Snatch (teehee). These lifts represent the most basic movements to develop muscular strength and power. By teaching you how to do these lifts properly and help guide you to achieving your physical potential in performing these lifts, my hope is to help you find the focus, guidance and confidence to move forward in all aspects of your life.
- -“Is this like Crossfit?” No, and I will smack you for thinking it is. Crossfit is its own program, style, methodology or whatever you want to call it. Keep in mind the sport of weightlifting has been around for over 120 years, Crossfit has only been around since 2000. While Crossfit does take a lot of inspiration from weightlifting, it is evolved into it’s own, distinct and very different style.
- -Do I have to lift as much as the next person? Nope! All I care about is the weight that you lift is realistic in terms of your conditioning (We don’t want injuries now) but is still challenging for you. It doesn’t matter if you can lift 50lbs or 500lbs. If it challenges you and you put in your best effort, that’s all I can ask for.
- -I don’t fit the (ideal standard for a Greek God), will I be able to participate? Yes! If you can move your body, you can exercise. The human body is physically capable then any of us will be able to comprehend. Even if you have any limitations that might prevent you from doing certain things, remember there is ALWAYS something you can do. The more you practice and work at it, your body will adapt to the demands you place on it. This is how we build strength, endurance and power. Exercise does not discriminate. The weights will always weigh the same regardless of your age, gender identity, sexual orientation, skin color, physical abilities or conditioning. By participating you will learn how to use those weights to achieve the things you set out to do.
- -The thought of gyms and weightlifting seems to complicated and intimidating? Well, that’s why we’re here! Help you weed through jungle that is the gym and exercise in an environment we hope you’ll feel more comfortable and confident in. With individual changing stalls in the lockerrooms to a supportive group dynamic. The goal is to make it as easy and accessible for you to participate.
Sounds like a lot for just lifting things up and putting them down, doesn’t it? It’s certainly is important to me and I hope I can help it be important to you too. Every Sunday we will get together to “lift each other up” (cheesy pun!) by building a community of support through encouragement and hard work.
By Dirk Smith