International Women's Day 2024: Inetrview with Noorin Gulam

4th March

To celebrate International Women's Day 2024, More Life Adventures is coming to Gymbox on 7th March for their Barbell Social.

Founded by Stella Kamba, MLA was created to offer training and adventure in nature, to help people reconnect with themselves and challenge them to get outside of their comfort zone. With this year's theme being "Inspire Inclusion", we're excited to host the MLA team's event and get women together under our roof to celebrate the power of community and what it means to make the gym a welcoming space for everyone.

Ahead of the Barbell Social, our blogger Kat caught up with GB Weightlifter and Strength Coach Noorin Gulam to talk all things weightlifting, fitness and confidence...

Noorin, can you tell me more about your weightlifting journey - what inspired you to take up the sport and at what point did it turn from a hobby into a profession?

I actually started weightlifting at school. I was 15 years old and I was the only girl taking GCSE PE at the time. We didn't have loads of technique, bars and fancy equipment, but I was picking up the technique quite well. That then snowboarded into me going to my first competition. There weren't many girls taking part in the sport at the time. I would go to things and sometimes just win because I was the only person in the category, or I would be up against a couple of other people. It felt quite good to win something every time, but my coach kept telling me “if you keep at this, you could represent GB, you could make something of yourself.” I was like, “Yeah, okay, whatever.” I knew deep down that there weren't a lot of people in the sport so when I was going to these events, I just had to post a total to win.

Then I got to my first national event, and was suddenly up against women a lot older than me and I didn't win anything. I was like, “okay, this doesn't feel very nice. I better get back to the gym and work hard on this.” I wanted to be better and get somewhere in the sport so I could represent either England or GB. We don't have weightlifting as part of the GCSE curriculum anymore. Even then, it was quite rare. It just so happened that the coach I was with at the time wanted to get more kids involved in the sport. It was all very random. I didn't seek out the sport. I didn't watch the Olympics and think, “Oh, that's going to be me.” It just happened!

As a coach, what do you enjoy most about teaching other people?

What I love is coaching women to do things they don’t think they can do and giving them the confidence and tools to do it. To lift weights, you’ve obviously got to be strong, but it's a big battle between believing that you're strong enough and actually being strong enough. A lot of the time, people just don't believe that they've got it in themselves to do a specific weight. Ultimately, we’re throwing ourselves under a bar, it's scary! So, there’s an element of fear there. My favourite thing is to watch someone overcome something and witness the sheer joy that you experience when you do something you never thought you could do. It's such an amazing feeling and I know that it’s one I chase all the time! To be part of someone else's journey and help them achieve that is so special.

Can you tell me more about why International Women’s Day and this event is so important to Gymbox & MLA?

What's special about this specific event and More Life Adventures as a brand is, from the founder to all of the staff members, it's completely led by women. So they really wanted to take this opportunity to give back to the weightlifting and functional fitness community. We also wanted to put on an event where women get together and connect within the space. I train at Gymbox Farringdon and have done for nearly four years now - it's an amazing space! They do so much for their members, and they've got such a diverse range of classes. That's what I love so much about Gymbox; you can be someone who is into calisthenics, dancing, rollerblading, yoga or weightlifting, and you can find whatever you want under one roof as well as a community of people that strive to be the best versions of themselves.

I think that interlaces itself so well with More Life Adventures, where you’ve got individuals who lead healthy, active lifestyles who want to meet like-minded people on holiday or doing various different excursions. It’s for anyone and everyone who wants to take part and has a passion for health and fitness. Being involved in weightlifting for so long, part of the reason why I was so successful is because no one was in the sport! Now, I turn up to Gymbox and there’s 15, 20 people doing the sport. That’s crazy to me! So, we’re giving people the opportunity to do a sport which didn’t exist even 5, 6 years ago. For me, it’s really special to be able to give back to women and get more women involved in the sport, because we’re still a way behind men in that sense. And hosting an event somewhere like Gymbox which is like my home, with MLA, it ties in so well - all of the brands are very fitting.

Can you tell me more about the Barbell Social and what your role is in the event?

We're going to be breaking down the snatch lift. I'll be teaching people how to regress the lift and progress the lift. So, if you’re a beginner, we're going to be teaching you how to snatch completely from the beginning. And if you’re an intermediate or advanced lifter, we're going to be breaking it down and giving you specific cues to help you elevate your snatch performance. We’ll be focusing on the key elements of the snatch and how to perfect them in isolation, to then build a better snatch altogether.

After that, I'll be part of the panel discussion as well. We're going to be talking about all things women in sport and more specifically, weightlifting, and functional fitness. It's very much an open floor so people can ask any questions they want to.

What would you say to any women who have signed up for the event but are feeling nervous?

If you’re nervous about coming, that makes me happy because it means that it matters to you! We’re going to be doing everything that we possibly can to make it a welcoming place for anyone at any level. It’s not about how much you can lift. In fact, if you’re a beginner I want to see you even more! Because the reason I do this is to get more people involved in the sport. This is why I love that the event is free because that means there’s no barriers to entry. Don’t be afraid to ask any questions because the reason we’re putting this on is to help. If you’ve got questions beforehand, during or after, just reach out to us. We want people to leave having learnt something and having had an amazing time, and to be a bit more engrossed in stuff like weightlifting and functional fitness.

What positive change do you want to see by next International Women’s Day?

I want to see more women be confident in themselves and show up as their true, authentic selves, rather than using fitness as a platform to be someone who they think will be desired by peers. Even now, people are afraid to run or shout, or to take up space in a place that’s so male dominated. I want women to be able to come in and strut down Gymbox like they own the place! To go and ask someone if they can work in on their sets, regardless if the peg is 5 ruts down or whatever. It doesn’t matter - your goals matter! To have women believe that their goals and achievements matter, regardless of their gender, that’s more important to me than anything else.

You can follow Kat and Noorin on Instagram.

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