Weightlifting and Crossfit isn’t just a way to stay fit for Tia Toomey: since taking up the sport, it has changed her life. Now she’s eager to let other women know the great advantages that come with finding an exercise program that is right for their bodies.
“Before Weightlifting and Crossfit, I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. I felt like I had failed my parents and my partner. I didn’t want to go back to university, I had deferred from there. I felt a bit like a failure,” she said.
“Then, by coming in and just dedicating my whole life to Crossfit and Weightlifting for the last two years, it has given me that satisfaction of achieving something and being successful in something. Now when people ask what I do, I say I’m a professional athlete.”
If I died tomorrow, I’d die happy.”
Toomey believes that health and fitness, rather than looking a certain way, is the goal women should be striving for.
“When it comes to women ... they think there’s a particular way every woman should look, purely because of the way media has portrayed a perfect body. It’s really sad, because every woman should be proud of the body you have."
“Women see these magazines and have these expectations from the media of really skinny bodies that look fit, but aren’t as healthy as they think they are, purely because they’re depleting all their nutrition. They might look skinny, but they’re not actually fit and healthy,” said Toomey.
“When it comes to women and the way they think, they think there’s a particular way every woman should look, purely because of the way media has portrayed a perfect body. It’s really sad, because every woman should be proud of the body you have. If there are particular things you don’t like about it, improve those because you want to, not because you feel like you have to.”
But even as a professional athlete, Toomey hasn’t been immune to feeling the pressures of body image.
"I started noticing that I wasn’t fitting in to my average clothes because my shoulders were getting a bit bigger. I was a little self-conscious about that ... I realised I want to make the Olympics: I don’t want to do this just to look good, so I need to accept that."
“When I first started weightlifting and I started building a bit more muscle tone, I started noticing that I wasn’t fitting in to my average clothes because my shoulders were getting a bit bigger. I was a little self-conscious about that,” she said.
“But then I realised I want to make the Olympics: I don’t want to do this just to look good, so I need to accept that. Once I accepted that: I am so proud of my body. The most important thing is that I am happy and I am satisfied and I have a fiancée who is so proud of my body."
Toomey finished second at last year’s World Crossfit Games and she owns a Crossfit gym in Gladstone, Queensland.
She is a big believer in the benefits of Crossfit to help women meet their fitness needs, especially as it is able to meet people whatever their current fitness levels.
“Anyone and everyone can perform these movements,” she said.
“Don’t get me wrong, everyone starts at different fitness levels. But that’s the beauty of Crossfit and what we’re doing. You can change and scale that particular movement to suit your fitness level.
A good coach would not allow you to perform a movement if you did not have the strength or ability to perform it. We would change the movement to suit you and strategise little steps for you to take in order to achieve the movement in the long run.“
Toomey admits it isn’t always love at first sight with Crossfit, but encourages women to stick with it.
“Give it a go, and if you have given it a go: go again,” she said.
“My very first Crossfit workout was something to do with handstand pushups, 'burpees' and box-jumps, and I didn’t like it.
“My very first Crossfit workout was something to do with handstand pushups, 'burpees' and box-jumps, and I didn’t like it."
“I realised - and I think about this all the time - the reason I had that attitude to start off with was because it was hard. And when it’s hard, people give up so easily.”
For Toomey, there are two key steps to success: setting achievable goals and enjoying the process.
“You’ve got to first set yourself a goal,” she said.
“When you have a goal – that may be I want to lose this much weight in two months, or I have a dress that I want to fit into in three months time or I have a holiday and I want to look good in my bikini ... Or I want to make the Olympics. It doesn’t matter what goal you have: you have to set yourself a goal and a goal you feel passionate and determined to achieve, and that is manageable to achieve. Then once you reach that goal, you set another goal in six months time. That’s the first step.”
“Enjoy the ride and embrace the journey. Just go with it. Don’t put any pressure on yourself, to perform or lift a particular weight. It’s all about learning. If you really respond well to that sport, anything can happen. You should never put a time limit on yourself or be disheartened if you don’t achieve a particular goal.
“Sometimes a goal you set for yourself may take that little bit longer, so you should never give up til you actually succeed. It might take a week, it might take six months, it might even take a year. But the more determined and more hungry you get, the more successful you’re going to be achieving that.”
Australian Olympic Weightlifter, Tia Toomey is guest editor for a special edition of Zela articles. Tia has written, commissioned and created content for readers around her passion of sport and her broader interests.