“Strong Is [Not] the New Skinny”
I’m a girl, so I run like one. Proud of it too. However, I apparently lift like a guy. At least, that’s what I’ve been told and what my lifting habits suggest based on “normal” female standards.
There are a few articles circulating the internet and Facebook right now that touch on the stereotypes of women’s bodies and workout habits – in particular, what’s acceptable in terms of our muscle mass and making sure we know it’s important to remain skinny. After reading it, I felt the need to address this topic myself because I’ve wanted to for awhile and I feel it deserves the attention.
Women are conditioned to believe skinny is the ideal body type, and any bit of strength is unfeminine or borderline gross. Look at the suggested workouts in any women’s magazine or listen as celebrity trainers describe the programs they take female clients through. Virtually none of them encourage picking up a dumbbell heavier than 8 pounds, if they encourage picking up one at all. Seriously, 8 pounds? Some of my earrings weigh 8 pounds.
There’s this fear instilled in women that if you lift heavy weights, you’re going to get bulky and big.
Fact #1: Shy of taking a ton of supplements and lifting several days a week, women’s bodies simply aren’t designed to get bulky.
Fact #2: Big comes from eating, not lifting.
I’ve seen this “fear” all over the internet, via Facebook posts and articles that are all about how we women can tone up but also reminding us we need to lose weight so we stay thin and desirable. But I’ve also witnessed it firsthand too many times at the gym. 95% of the time when I lift, I’m the only woman in the weight area – not in the gym, in the weight area. Women flock to the cardio machines to torch as many calories as possible but avoid free weights, cables and squat racks like they’re forbidden to touch them – a grown up “No Girls Allowed” zone. If I had to estimate how many women I see lifting, and I mean really lifting, on a typical night at the gym, I’d say maybe three or four. Compare that to the 30-plus guys lifting and it’s pretty disappointing.
I want women to know it’s okay to be strong. It’s not gross or unfeminine. It’s okay to venture into the weight area, grab a bench and some dumb bells, and crush it. Don’t be afraid to push yourself and sweat (but please, don’t grunt unnecessarily or loudly drop your weights to attract attention – sorry, pet peeve rant over). If you’re not sure of where to start, grab some men’s magazines – that’s right, MEN’S magazines – and browse free weight exercises. Then, choose a few that target a certain muscle group or groups (back and triceps or chest and biceps) and scale the suggested weight to your ability – keeping in mind my two crucial lifting rules that I myself swear by:
Rule 1: Lift as heavy a weight as you can while still being able to rep with proper form
Rule 2: If you can do more than 10 reps, your weight is too light (*exception: BodyPump class – which I’m a fan of for mixing it up and working all your muscle groups)
Geez, I don’t know Lindsay. I don’t want to build muscle; if anything, I just want to look toned. Guess what? That “toned” look that it’s okay for women to have – that’s actually what we call muscle definition. In order to get that, you need to BUILD MUSCLE. Then you can have something to “tone”. Sound fair?
Girls and guys, have something to add on this topic? Post a comment or tweet me @runlikeagirl311.
Back in the early 80s, I was the lone female in the weight area too. And I fell in love with weight lifting. Gave me great arms and a very sexy back.
The only thing I might add to your totally honest and encouraging post is: personal trainer. A newbie at weights really needs a personal guide for proper form. A trainer is not expensive to learn “the ropes” and get started on the road to a really fun alternative in the gym.
Good call, Cindy! Thanks for reading and commenting. Definitely worth shelling out a few bucks to get some learnings.
p.s. love you 🙂
I love this article! So true! I have been working with a personal trainer for 8 months now and I love it. Before enlisting help, I only did cardio, after working with a trainer I use every machine in the gym! I even bench pressed my own weight the other day! In the process of doing this, I have dropped 45 pounds, lots of inches and gained incredible muscle definition! I am no longer afraid to lift weights. I love what it has done for me and would encourage all women to give it a try!
Glad you enjoyed it, Dawn. Thx for reading! Keep kickin ass in the weight room – represent!