*Today I am in agony. It is the second day after my official return to the gym. I knew this would happen. It always does. I did take it a little easy: didn’t lift my max weights, didn’t do multiple exercises working the same muscle groups, and was generally cautious about how much I wanted to immobilize myself due to aforementioned muscle aches. It did work, a little. While I can’t move my arms or legs, my avoidance of ab work keeps me somewhat functioning. Plus I keep getting up from my desk and walking around and secretly stretching to keep from turning myself into Gollum. In an effort to perk myself up, I’m writing this open letter to a person I saw at the gym on Wednesday.
I’m not in love with my gym. Some of the equipment is getting really old and abused, it’s missing a few pieces that I really wish they did have, the classes are kind of ‘meh’, and most of the time the only staff on hand look like high school or college students, not trainers. But it’s decent, and I can go and get my lift on without too much interference. Usually I’ll start with a stretch (both static & active), then a bit of cardio for a warm up, and then go downstairs to the weight room to lift. So on the day in question (Wednesday, two days ago), I was headed up to the treadmills when I spotted some fantastic looking calves on the stair stepper. I’m going to go ahead and assume it wasn’t an accident that this machine was placed directly at the top of the stairs, but what do I know. Anyway, I walked down to the nearest empty treadmill & started to jog. I caught a few of the stairmaster woman out of my periphery, and I was perplexed, to say the least.
She looked to be in her mid-to-late 40s, although it’s impossible to tell because she clearly had also been spending a lot of time in the tanning beds. She was very slim, and had what most people consider ideal muscle tone from the waist down. But her arms. Ug. Bronze sails in the wind. Why would she neglect one area of her body so bad?
Anyway. I finished my warm-up, went on with my tasks at hand. And then I spotted Stairmaster Calves again: in a dark corner of the gym, doing dozens of tricep kickbacks with what appeared to be a 2 pound weight. Seriously.
Here’s the deal. You can lift that 2lb. weight a thousand times, and it’s not going to change the shape of your arm, except possibly make the muscle smaller. The only way to fill out all that flabby skin is with muscle. And to build your muscles, you have to lift heavy.
Now look at this woman, I’m going to guess that’s at least a 10lb weight she’s holding. Now kickbacks aren’t easy, so ten pounds is kind of a big deal. And that’s five hundred percent of what Stairmaster Calves was doing. And if you want less flab still, well there’s another muscle on the other side of the arm called the bicep, and it works much the same way.
“Won’t I get all bulky and manly?”
Zomg. Just ask a man how hard it is to get bulky. Just ask! And they have the genetic composition to build more muscle mass than women any day of the week. So, NO, you’re not going to start looking like a She Hulk, if you trade in your Barbie-bells for something that requires actual effort.
Now I’ll be the first to admit, I had been on this train myself before. I thought going to the gym was about burning calories, not necessarily about building muscle, especially for women. But then I started doing a little reading and research, and found out that muscle is good for everybody! In particular it helps prevent osteoporosis, reduces chronic back pain, along with aiding weightloss by burning more calories. Quite frankly I had just been concerned with whether or not I’d be able to keep up with my someday-children, but the idea of ending up a shriveled up cripple in my later years was just as daunting.
So this is why I’m putting myself through this. For good health, and the people I love.