At Ryderwear, we’re big believers in the idea that lifting is for everyone. Whatever your size, your body shape, physical ability or identity, the gym is a space where everyone belongs.
To help everyone feel at home in the squat rack, our ‘Lifting is for Everyone’ series aims to amplify the voices of people in our community who don’t always fit the stereotypical ideal of what a lifter looks like (but absolutely should) - who work just as hard, lift just as heavy and are just as committed as anyone you’ll find.
As a teenager, Cameron Grace was suffering from depression, self-harming and had an eating disorder. Then she found the gym. Through lifting, Cameron rebuilt her body and her mental health, using getting strong as a form of self-care. Now, it’s her ambition to empower and support others going through the same thing, normalising being open about mental health and showing that strong is the new skinny.
RW: If you feel comfortable, can you share some insight into your struggles with your mental health?
CG: When I was 13 years old I was admitted to an inpatient psychiatric ward, and diagnosed with depression. Around this time I was also self-harming often as a coping mechanism. A few years later I developed an eating disorder and about a year after that I started to suffer from really bad anxiety and insomnia. Over those years I had seen therapists and psychiatrists, was prescribed medication and tried really hard to work on my mental health and mindset. Eventually I found out that mental health disorders are very common in my family, which gave me some relief because it made me realise that I was not alone and others in my family had also dealt with what I was going through. For the first time I felt like what I was feeling was not my fault. Now that I’m older, I’ve learned so much more about myself and how to take care of my mental health, finding much healthier coping mechanisms like working out, writing, going for walks or practicing self-care. Without the struggle, I wouldn’t be the person I am today and will always be thankful that I was forced to learn and grow so much at a young age.
RW: What tips & strategies do you use to take care of your own mental health?
CG: One thing that has helped me with my anxiety and depression is writing in a journal. Whenever I have doubts about myself, I write down and remind myself of all my amazing qualities and the things that I’m most grateful for in life. Journaling has become one of my most helpful escapes as it’s the only real way I can allow myself to release my true emotions and vent. Some other things I find helpful are limiting my screen time, walking my dogs, eating nourishing food or doing self-care like running a bath, lighting some candles and putting on a face mask. It doesn’t seem like much but when life is busy, simply taking some time for yourself can make a world of difference to your mental health.
RW: How were you able to fix your mindset on food and break out of that pattern of restrictive eating & overtraining?
CG: Switching your mindset is one of the most difficult things a person can learn to do. It takes a lot of practice, reinforcement, patience and support. The biggest key for me was when I realised that I was eating less than a toddler and still unhappy with the way I looked. I physically could not get anymore lean, but still wasn’t confident in my appearance. I started to research and realised the way I was restricting myself was ultimately ruining all of the hard work I was putting in at the gym. I was lifting every day but never saw any progress or results. When I finally began to feed my body the proper nutrients it needed, I quickly started to notice changes. My muscles started to get more defined, I had more energy, I started to get stronger and became a more confident person. That’s when I realised that if you’re willing to dedicate your time, hard work and energy into a goal, you’ll be rewarded for it.
RW: Can you tell us about your journey to where you are now? How would you tell the story of Cameron Grace?
CG: I was an active and athletic kid my entire life, and I always loved getting outside to move and challenge my body. Being diagnosed with depression at 13 made it difficult for me to keep participating in the things I loved, but exercising was always the one thing that made me feel my best. At high school I started to become very insecure about the way I looked and became very restrictive with my eating, so I decided to get a gym membership with my Dad. We went to the gym every morning before school, which quickly turned into my daily routine. At first I hated going because I had no clue what I was doing, and my only goal was to get skinnier. After a few months, I slowly started to make my way into the weight room, and followed YouTubers and fitness influencers on Instagram which helped me learn more about weightlifting. Eventually I started to enjoy waking up in the morning to work out and began to see lifting as a mental escape. It made me feel good to wake up early and dedicate time to work on myself and achieve the goals I set.
RW: What made you start your @camerongracegains account?
CG: I wanted to become a fitness account that could’ve helped me when I was struggling with my mental health and eating disorder. I know that these things are unfortunately very common, and it’s very difficult to change your mindset independently. I wanted to have a platform where I could share all of my struggles and tips for how I overcame them, along with workouts for people that might now know much about the gym or lifting. My main goal is to help as many people as I can because I know what it feels like to be in their position.
RW: Our community has been inspired & motivated by the fitness content you’ve shared. What role has fitness and the gym played throughout your life? Do you have a specific outlook or approach to fitness?
CG: When I first got my membership, it was because I felt insecure about my appearance and I thought working out would help me lose weight. I started off in the cardio section and did a few ab workouts. After a few months I started to get into lifting weights, and eventually fell in love with it. My mindset changed from wanting to exercise to fix my body, to wanting to train to get stronger & feel more confident. I train because I love the way it makes me feel and it’s one of the few times I can truly tune out to the world and just focus on the moment. I’ll never force myself to complete a workout that I don’t want to do, because working out should be a reward not a punishment. I love challenging my body in new ways and trying out new things to keep my routine exciting and different. I really love plyometrics, calisthenics and tumbling in addition to lifting, and want to become a stronger athlete through lifting.
RW: What’s a goal you’re working on right now?
CG: As an Exercise Physiology Major and Psychology Minor, my main focus right now is learning something new everyday. I spend a lot of time studying but I love being able to learn about fitness, exercise and wellness throughout the week, especially because I’m able to share what I learn in class to my community on Instagram.
RW: Do you have any words of motivation or encouragement for those reading this who might be experiencing adversity right now?
CG: If you’re going through a difficult time right now, just realise that you’re not alone and there are so many people that can understand what you’re going through. It’s important to know that we all struggle sometimes, but we all have the ability to put ourselves first and dedicate time & care to our mental and physical health. Look for resources like counsellors, friends or parents to support you and realise that talking to someone about what you’re going through is so helpful. Making a positive change can be difficult, but it starts with you. Try setting a few small goals each day and be proud of yourself when you accomplish them, no matter how big or small.
RW: Are there any other causes you’d like to talk about or messages you’d like to share with the Ryderwear community?
CG: One of the most important things I can share with the Ryderwear community is the power of believing in yourself and your capabilities. We often don’t give ourselves enough credit and give up too soon without actually putting in our full effort. We all have the power to achieve our dreams and become the people we want to be, as long as we truly believe that we can. Learn to love and trust yourself, create goals and then take action to achieve those goals no matter how hard it may seem or how much work it might take. A lot of people tend to put themselves down - I used to do that too until I realised that I was becoming my own worst enemy. Instead of focusing on failure, doubt or anxiety, push yourself to become the person that you really want to be. Being your own biggest supporter in life will take you so much further than being your own worst critic.
RW: What can the health & fitness industry do to be more inclusive and represent a more diverse range of people?
CG: Luckily the fitness and health industry seems to be evolving more and more every year in terms of inclusivity, In the past I think there was a stigma around women and lifting weights, and while it’s improved slightly, millions of women are either still intimidated to workout in the weights section as they’re often filled with men which can be quite intimidating. Either that or they think that lifting heavy weights will make them look manly or bulky. The fact we’re associating having muscle and strength with looking like a man is something that really frustrates me - a woman with muscle doesn’t look like a man, she looks like a beautiful, strong woman. Websites, schools and coaches all need to be teaching the next generation that both men and women can benefit tremendously from lifting. We need to stop gendering workouts like ‘arm workouts for women’s gym clothes and leggings or ‘back exercises for men’ when in reality we should all be doing the same exercises. The main issue is many people actually believe these common misconceptions about weightlifting, rather than focusing on the actual science and facts.
RW: Do you have any favourite Ryderwear pieces or collections?
CG: I love mixing & matching all of the collections but my two favorite pieces are the NKD shorts and Sola Sports Bra! My favorite part about Ryderwear’s clothing is how much they stand out. All of the patterns and colors are so unique and flattering and make me feel so confident in the gym!
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