Leaders come in many shapes in sizes. But no matter what form they are, they must have two key attributes – they must be brave enough to do something that others are not doing, and willing to tell people about it.
When Amie Wiley entered the gym in 2015, she didn’t do it to become a leader. A keen camogie player, she has always been active and fit, the gym was just an extension of that.
It felt natural for her to follow her interest where they took her – first to the gym itself and then off the treadmill and to the weights. Almost without realising it she found herself at home in a place where, up until now, few women do.
“I’ve played camogie since I was eight years old so I’ve always has an active lifestyle. But it wasn’t until I was in my teenage years that I decided to explore other different variations of exercise,” says Amie.
“When I was 15 I joined a gym near my house. At that age I would go there, run on the treadmill and do all sorts of cardio exercises. I wasn’t eating properly, not really, so when I was maybe 17 my brother showed me a few squat exercises and how to use the weights. I’ve been using them ever since.
“It is not typical for women to lift weights at all. There is fear there that they will get big and bulky which is completely untrue. That is why, I think, girls and women shy away from the weight section. But it the best form of exercises that I have ever seen.
“I started off with very light weights and built them up bit by bit. Right now I train every body part – I’m in a three day split which is called Push, Pull and Legs and it works every single body part.
“I was fit before, I could run a lot, but this is different. This is about strength and I feel much much stronger. If I was to go on the camogie pitch now I would be much stronger.
“It’s great for your confidence as well. When you are physically strong you feel strong. Going to the gym can be a daunting thing the first time. But the more you are there the more it becomes a really comfortable thing. It can make you feel empowered, especially as a woman. Lifting weights is very good for that.
“When people go to the gym they go to work on themselves – so they are not concerned with the people around them. Sometimes people are afraid to go because of things like that – they are afraid that people will be staring at them, judging them. But the reality is totally different.”
This move from a cardio-centric fitness to a strength based fitness has had a massive impact on Amie’s life – not least the complete change in her diet, which is now well balanced and full of both carbohydrates and protein.
“My diet was very restrictive when I was younger – before I really started using the gym. When you are working hard at the gym you end up eating more food,” says Amie.
“Before [starting the gym] I had no carbs, barely any protein, just some good fats. Now I have a more mixed diet. My meals are more around goods fats and lots of carbs and proteins.A lot of people avoid carbs but they are very important. If you want to grow muscle you need to have lots of carbs. I’m not ruling out certain types of food out of my diet anymore. It’s much more balanced.”
Amie’s journey has not been a solo expedition. Her exploits have attracted massive interest from women all over the world who want to break in to the male dominated weights sections of the gyms.
“There are social norms there which can prevent women from doing things that are seen as male things. It’s about breaking down these norms but I think it is getting more common all the time for women to go to the gyms and lift weights,” says Amie.
“I fell in love with it. When I meet girls my own age they would always be asking me about it. So I set up the [Instagram] page to keep track of what I was doing myself but people started getting into it.
“It occurred to me that this page could be a way of encouraging women not to be afraid of going to the gym. The page has completely blown up. I have messages from girls from all over the place telling me that I have inspired them to go to the gym.
“I give my honest opinion all the time. I’m not going to lie to people, it isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. Social media is such a big thing now, if you can use it for the better then you should go for it.
“I have no idea how it happened [the massive social media following]. I only set up the account back in March and it’s grown since then. I think maybe it’s about being honest and real. If I have a bad day I’ll post about that. I put out honesty – maybe that has drawn them in.
“It is very heart-warming. I get messages from people I don’t even know who say all these nice things. I don’t feel responsible for people but I try to help people as best as I can. After that it’s up to them to do the work.”
To find Amie on Instagram