I have always wanted to be stronger than I looked. This has two requirements – looking innocent, which is easily accomplished with my wardrobe and usual failure to apply makeup, and being strong. Being strong requires more work.
I’ve been taking yoga for a while, and the instructor, as well as her colleagues at the community center have been advocating ever more loudly for people – especially women – to do themselves some weight training.
They explained how you lose muscle mass as you get older, so if you’re 30 (check), you really should be doing it just to maintain. They explained how strength training can be a great alternative for those of us who just hate running, because of all the pain and pain and pain involved. They explained how you can get a really efficient workout by doing compound exercises that work basically AllTheMuscles instead of targeting just a couple at a time. They explained that when trying to lose weight, the gain of muscle mass can actually serve you better than going nuts on the cardio because the muscle demands more to maintain – meaning just having muscles burns fat, because the body has to feed the muscles before it goes on to storing anything. Plus, who doesn’t want to be stronger? Who wants to look like a wimp when lifting everyday heavy objects?
No dude, I want to be a badass. I want people to pause and wonder how did that short little woman do that?
Right on! But here’s the thing. If I go to the gym or community center or whatever, and I get on the elliptical, I know what to do. I can get winded and sweaty and feel accomplished after a good long session. I look at the weight setup and am almost nervous to spectate. Because I don’t want to seem rude, staring, yes, and also I don’t want to encourage anyone over there to start showing off. So if I can’t even watch people lifting weights, I for sure am never going to suck up enough guts to make any attempts.
Plus, I’m a super self-conscious individual as it is. I hate even considering the possibility of being visible when I’m doing something potentially embarrassing for the first time. Working out, I never want anyone to see, because it’s super gross and awkward looking even if I’m doing it right! And to be just a beginner? I just couldn’t take the shame. Plus, how would I even know where to start, or who to ask?
The Community Center Staff has been super encouraging to us, to come up to them and ask questions, to get them to watch our form, to show us how to use the weights for stuff. I got really excited about the possibility of starting a weight training program, but still found myself incredibly trepidatious to leave the house. I’m pretty great at excuse-making, and I had all kinds for this one. I started stalling by searching the internets. “How do you do a squat properly?” I asked, “What even is a deadlift?”
And, lo, found this: Nerd Fitness
This Sunday, I was for the first time fully able to complete both the warm up (which, if you’re just starting, is like a workout unto itself), and a complete three rounds of the beginner’s bodyweight circuit. I had been cheating longest on the lunges because they just hurt so much, but eventually I increased to 14 a set, then 16, then 20 as prescribed! Between the squats and lunged, my thighs hated me a great deal at first, but now we have an understanding that is filled with mutual respect. The plank was fairly easy, since the yoga class I attend is taught by Barbara, and she hosts something every time that she is calling “Plank Pose Book Club,” so we all hold that shit for wayyy longer than 15 seconds. The pushups were challenging at first, but got easier pretty fast because I have a history of doing lots of them back in my martial arts days. The dumbbell rows (for which I used some actual dumbbells that happen to be in the house because boyfriend) I increased from 5, to 10, now to 15 pounds.
Yesterday’s Monday evening yoga was cancelled, but since I had gone to the trouble of getting dressed and driving to the community center, I went ahead and had the helpful Ann set me up with a mini circuit. I did a bunch of deadlifts, crazy over-extended situps, and kettlebell swings, along with some added weighted squats just for fun, all of which left me feeling great, but sort of dreading the time when the high wore off and the soreness caught up. Which would be today. And probably even worse tomorrow.