"You were led to believe that the smaller, the lighter you were, the better you were going to be," says Hannah Crymble, who trained in gymnastics as a child, but the weightlifter, who represented Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Games this year, certainly hasn't conformed to gymnastics', or society's, idealisation of thinness over strength for women.
Neither have fellow Koncept Fitwear athletes powerlifter Lystus Ebosele, weightlifter Rebecca Copeland, or footballer Abbi Brophy; all four women regularly share their weight training on social media, and they all agree that things are changing for the better, as women training for strength is more normalised. Still, in a conversation recently hosted by Her Sport, they commiserate on the different standards of physical fitness for women.
"Once I got into sport, you know you start getting stronger, muscles are popping, and then- you feel like the only one. It's a bit isolating for a while," says Lystus.
"And it only takes that one person to point out and be like 'Oh, you're quite muscly, aren't you?' chimes in Hannah.
"It was always- thinner, less women with muscles being portrayed in the media; it would've been different to see sportswomen. It was harder to think of yourself that way, to be confident in yourself in any way other than what was portrayed," agrees Rebecca.
Abbi simply says "You need to eat!"
"That is a huge thing. Yes, to train is great, but you need to eat food. Like carbs are the scariest thing in the world, but they're actually not! Eat food, sleep well, train. Yes, you're getting stronger and muscular, but you're being healthy! I'm baffled that that's only been so important in this day and age. Why wasn't it when my nanny was younger, or my mum was younger?"
One thing that helps the women stay confident is simple assurance in their own path.
"There is an element of 'You must be on steroids. You're too muscular.' It might just take one comment to put you down, and then you think 'Am I training too much? Am I abnormal?' But you've got to just ignore them and go 'I'm happy with myself. I'm happy where I am now, I'm happy where I'll be in the future.'" Abbi states.
"All the hate comes from insecurity," says Lystus, to general agreement. "They're not secure enough in themselves, so they project it onto other people...I've never wavered and let people cloud my path, because first of all you don't know me! So I try not to, though it can [affect me], you're human. Self-confidence I feel like is knowing who you are, from your own perspective, blocking out comparing yourself to other people, just knowing I'm on this path, this is who I am, and this is how I'm going to do it."
Finding a like-minded community also helps.
"When you're around people you can relate to, you can feel more confident in yourself," says Rebecca.
Generally, these athletes seem too focused on their own goals to let the haters get them down. They are united in their passion for pushing themselves:
"My thing for sure would be reaching my full potential. And that's not confined to sport, that's not confined to powerlifting, that's not confined to relationships, it's just not leaving anything behind. Because I think regret is a really scary thing, you know, because you can't take it back," says Lystus.
'This is going to be really deep, so I apologise," says Abbi, "but we have one life, and you could go at any minute, which scares the crap out of me, I have a big fear of that, but you're right, live it! Reach your full potential, whether it's in life, relationships, sport, whatever you want to do. So I agree." She pauses solemnly as Hannah agrees, then laughs and says "Obviously I care about my family and friends and all that too! And my dogs! So shout out to all them!"
"I don't think many people sit down and look at their past self...and if I think back to when I started weightlifting, it was all just a bit of a hobby," says Hannah, "and if someone would've told me when I started I would've competed at the commonwealth games, I would've been like 'no, not a chance,' so knowing I was able to reach that, it's quite exciting to see- where could I go?"
"The thought of what you could potentially do is probably everyone's biggest motivation," agrees Rebecca. "What can I do? What can I achieve?"
All four are in the midst of their competitive careers and plan to stay active for life; whatever their future achievements, they're sure to be inspiring.
For more sage advice from this open and honest discussion, watch the full conversation on our YouTube channel:
Or watch the Koncept athletes compete in the Her Sport Combine (including a nail-biting hula-hoop competition) below on our YouTube: