Saturday, October 30, 2010

I'm Starting With the (Wo)man in the Mirror

Sometime between the ninth Iron Man passing by and the appearance of my son, dressed as Michael Jackson but more closely resembling Weird Al dressed as Michael Jackson, I whipped my left arm out of my jacket, flexed, and said to the woman sitting next to me, "Does this look bulky to you?"

Women and their "I don't want to get too bulky."

I lift the heaviest weight I can for most exercises and am not bulky, despite what my children say. Genetics play a part in how any of us look, of course, as does the amount of fat masking the muscle. But if the fat is there, it generally will look better with a little muscle providing what is often called tone. And if the muscle is there, and you pay attention to nutrition, you'll burn the fat more easily, and fight off the effects of aging and osteoporosis and all sorts of things women worry about.

Writers are told to pare down their pitches to an "elevator speech," a brief explanation able to be eeked out between floors. This is my Elementary School Halloween Parade speech on women and weights. The science behind male and female muscle fibers is obviously more complicated than my summary here, and other knowledgeable people have addressed the bulkiness issue more thoroughly.

But after I'd finished bullying the woman into looking at my arm, I had to say something. She'd just finished telling me she exercises four times a week, but during the strength training portion of her workouts she "doesn't feel like anything is happening."

That's putting a lot of work into little results. I'm hoping that at the very least, women like my friend here are reaping the other social and psychological benefits of exercising with others. And that she'll consider making a change.

"I never see you do cardio," a women said to me the other day at the gym. "How do you stay skinny?"

I pointed to the bench where I had just been doing dumbbell presses with 45 pounds in each hand. "Did you see me over there?" I asked her, huffing and puffing. "For me, eight reps was like running a mile."

I'll often follow up talk like this with some complaints about my knees, and protestations that I jump rope at home and live on the rowing machine. I'll also point out that I lost 50 pounds by almost exclusively lifting weights.

I like efficiency. I like results. Michael Jackson put it best: Don't stop 'til you get enough.

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