Monday, March 15, 2010

My weight lifting conundrum: Lucille Ball meets SNL

With having large breasts, consistently on a regular basis I have severely painful muscle knots in my shoulder blades. While in college I was able to pro-actively counteract this pain with swimming laps 4 to 6 times a week in the school pool. A fish out of water, my pain has become increasingly intolerable, which has led me to lifting in order to strengthen my back and work the muscle knots. So after I run on the treadmill for 30 minutes, I usually spend some time lifting weights.

You know the little instructional animations attached to lifting machines? Well I tend to resemble the little stick figure with and x drawn through it representing the incorrect way to use the machine. Half the time I look like an SNL skit. Which leads me to my most perplexing question, why have I never been exposed to the correct lifting techniques? Out of all my years being a dedicated athlete, from soccer to volleyball, no coach or trainer from club teams to high school teams has ever incorporated lifting weights into practice. (and It wasn't for lack of resources!)

Out of all the times I have gone to the gym in my apartment building to workout, I have not seen any other women on any of the lifting machines, only men. I always see women on the elliptical machine, on the treadmill, and the step machines. Already aware I look like I Love Lucy in the weight room, this gendered equation makes me feel even more insecure and on edge. Why does the weight room have a virtual 'no girls allowed' sign posted on its walls? Is it because like me, these women were never taught how to use the machines and the men were on sports teams that taught them the basics early on. (The boys soccer team and football team lifted) I suspect it all stems from the media's portrayals of the ideal body.

Female celebrities are not celebrated for 'having muscle'. Skinny and slender is preferred to muscular. Women are supposed to be in shape and toned, but not appearing to have power and visual muscle. Having definition in arms and legs is not 'sexy'. Female athletes' bodies are contradictory and condemned, as if having muscle equates to masculinity. Take for example, Katie Hnida, the first female football player to score in a NCAA Division I FBS football game. Katie (toned, in shape, healthy) was recruited by modeling agencies, and after one meeting with a representative, she was told that she needed to lose weight to be a model. Katie walked away knowing that was bullshit.

Learning how all the machines work has been an intimidating process, but I'm slowly becoming more educated. The BEST websites I found from doing some research about weight lifting and feminism is From the proper way to do squats to no-bullshit-confrontation of what makes a woman feminine, check it out!

1 comment:

  1. At my work, our bosses recently dared its entirely female staff to engage in an "outrageous act" that defies gender stereotypes, or asserts your position as a feminist or as a woman equal to a man, however you chose to interpret it. About half the staff said their outrageous act was going to the "male side" of the gym, aka the weights.

    Also, my 40something female cousin is a personal trainer, who puts on arm muscle astonishingly easily for a woman (jealous), and this past Thanksgiving my parents were both commenting how she needed to watch how much she lifted while at work, so that she can keep her arms "toned" and stop "buffing up". Personally, I thought she looked great. What's wrong with a woman having muscles, except that the poor male egos will suffer?