Friday, October 19, 2007

The politics of muscle-making

The other day I tried a new weight-lifting workout with someone I consider an "expert." Expert's routine is very different from my own which lacks a certain amount of...well...routineness I would say. Expert was correct, in our post-workout discussion, that I only do things that I am good at rather than challenging my body in new ways.

But I was also told that my lack of routineness (which is only slightly true--I do have a method of working opposing muscle groups on different days) is a "recipe for disaster." In other words, I am going to get injured. Of course I have been doing this not-a-routine for a decade or so without injury and am, in fact, rather careful about not hurting myself so I can pursue my non-gym physical activities. But I was interested in what Expert had to say about lighter weights and different exercises. I don't have a desire to gain more muscle mass because I play tennis and I don't want to pull a Justine Henin and start a weight routine that impedes my movement (note that I am not anything like Henin and I don't have great movement to start with--I am just trying not to exacerbate this).

So I am fairly on board with this general "program" (though I think calling anything a program makes it seem like obligatory work and going to the gym for obligatory work does not work for me.) But I hesitate to use less weight because, frankly, I like not only being strong but lifting the amount of weight that shows I am strong. In a gym environment where women are found in far less frequent numbers in a weight room or are seen lifting 5 pound handweights in classes meant to "tone" those flabby areas, a woman lifting a lot of weight is a statement. I may not be impressing any guys--and that's not my goal--but I am there pushing myself alongside them. But the new routine means less weight, standing on a BOSU ball doing bicep curls (something marked as feminine), and other such things, and I am still not sure how I feel about that.

Though I have to say having done the new not-a-program twice this week, I am feeling pretty good.

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