Forgive the controversial headline, but I wanted to get your attention. Despite the growth in popularity of women’s weight training, powerlifting is still generally regarded as a grubby marginalised activity and the preserve of men.

If I asked you to describe a typical powerlifter, what would you imagine? A 20-stone bearded man with tattoos? A woman with an undercut and a face like a smacked arse?

Don’t get me wrong, powerlifting attracts its fair share of gargantuan people, but the strong inspiring women I met at the recent British Championships came in all shapes and sizes.

Take the lady who won the 52kg weight category. At a mere 8 stone 3lbs, she looked toned but diminutive. However, I was flabbergasted when she deadlifted 140kg – almost three times her bodyweight. Not only does she find time to be a champion powerlifter, but she is mother to four children and runs her own pole fitness business.

Or the pretty 20-year-old student competing in the under 56kg junior category. This smart cookie is studying for a degree in Biochemistry at University College London and argues that strong women can do a lot in the fight for gender equality.

When I tell people I’m a powerlifter, I’m rarely met with a positive response. Women often say ‘but you’re not big,’ or ‘don’t you have to take steroids for that?’

Men tend to run a mile. When I was using dating apps at the start of the year, I learned it didn’t pay to tell potential suitors about my passion for pumping iron. One guy deleted me immediately when I let slip I was a powerlifter.

Even seasoned gym-goers didn’t get it. They might humour me with a bit of banter about what weights I was lifting or which federation I competed with, but the tone always shifted from flirty to matey. Maybe I’d uploaded old or photoshopped pictures? Perhaps those lissom thighs had now expanded into tree trunks after too many hours spent squatting in the gym?

Unfortunately, the myth persists that lifting weights turns women into hulks. This is a total misconception. Building muscle is a slow and hard fought process, even for committed bodybuilders who spend their lives in the gym. This is particularly true for women who produce less testosterone than men.

You couldn’t replicate the rippling physiques of female bodybuilders without hours of training, a vastly restricted diet and a lot of steroids. Not even bodybuilding competitors look that ripped off-season.

Many powerlifters are big due to the colossal amounts of food they consume to build muscle and aid recovery. Strip that fat away and you’d be left with an Amazonian or Herculean physique worthy of mythology.

Much training advice for women revolves around the buzzwords ‘toning’, ‘shaping’ and ‘sculpting.’ We are encouraged to build lithe lean bodies with light weights and high reps. However, a toned appearance comes from having more muscle and less fat. If you don’t challenge the muscles with heavy weights, they won’t grow. Different types of training do not build different types of muscle. Pilates and yoga aren’t the makers of long pretty muscles, just as weight training isn’t a shortcut to ugly bulk. Either you build muscle or you don’t and the quickest way to achieve muscle growth and thus that ‘toned’ appearance is to lift heavy.

So don’t imagine that after a few weeks of weight training, you’re going to look like Klondyke Kate. In fact, you’re more likely to be the proud owner of a flat stomach, taut thighs and rounded buns. And so what if your new hobby isn’t regarded as pretty? You can bet that your strong curves and increased confidence will do much to make you feel beautiful.