I posted a picture of Monique Minton and Erin Stern on my Tumblr and Facebook page. One response from a male friend was "looks too man-ly. too many muscles."
When I told a friend I was running to an afternoon powerlifting training session, she scrunched up her face and said "Powerlifting? You mean like deadlifts and stuff? Why dont you just do Zumba?!"
On another occasion I shared with my buddy a picture of Zuzana Light (formerly of Bodyrock.tv) expressing my admiration. His response was "She is too strong." I asked him to explain. He said, "I could not wear short sleeve shirts around her."
Since becoming seriously interested in getting stronger and lowering my body fat, I've encountered like-minded people and ideas, but also have come across some doubts. Lately, my Facebook page is pasted with all types of workouts and photos of fit people, many of them powerlifters. I have a favorite series of photos I title "UNF." As in "Unf, he is fine" or she is fine. I just love muscles. I always have. It started in a young age watching cartoons. He-Man, Lion-o, She-ra, GI Joe, Wolverine, even Lex Luthor and Skeletor were swole! But ultimately it was Wonder Woman who I hoped I'd become. Little did I know I too would grow up to be 6 ft tall, broad shouldered and buxom. My mother knew. She would often tell me "Krissy, you would be a great bodybuilder. You have the build for it." At 15, I had no clue. I was a clutz with my body and felt awkward in it. To adjust, to overcompensate I ate and grew to be 240lbs. It's been years since I've been that out of shape. But here I am at 37 years old hearing my mother's words again and thinking about those Saturday morning heroes.
Bored with the elliptical and trying to heal from a painful knee injury, I knew I could not become complacent. I set a new goal. Not to lose weight but to lose body fat. Not to just do mindless cardio but to get stronger. My goal is to lift, pull, push my bodyweight. Whether that be deadlifts, chinups, climbing a rope, pullups, front squats, whatever it is by the end of year I am going to be able to handle my own weight!
So I began reading and sharing my finds to encourage others and myself. But I also heard from the nay-sayers. Friends, who at heart meant well, would call me up and say "dont get too big" or "stay feminine" or "dont start looking like a man." Most of these messages came from men. And most of those men are out of shape themselves. Not sure if there is some correlation there. But the idea that lifting heavy is going to cause me to look like She-Hulk is a silly biologically incorrect myth.
It is hard enough for men to build muscle. A woman with a fraction of testosterone has trouble just building lean muscle mass let alone cock diesel muscles.
I chalked up these concerns and questions as a comfort level issue. Some people are comfortable with how another person should look (especially a woman) as a reflection on their own body image. That is fine. That comfort level is not my own. There is a difference. And it is important as we grow-up to understand the distinction: what other people want versus your own peace of mind. It takes a lot of mental and spiritual strength to be able to discern one from the other. Despite other folks' popular opinion, I knew what I wanted for myself. What would make me happy. It is fine if I become leaner and stronger and not fit their body image. I wont be attractive to them but then again I am not attracted to them either. We cant be everything to everyone. I can only try to be own superhero. Ok, I cannot be the "real" Wonder Woman, but I can become as wonderful a woman to and for myself as I'm physically able. And if I happen to attract a "SuperMan" that would be great, too. I do love muscles on men!
I see a man with a great shoulders and arms and strong legs my brain shuts down. I'm 5-years-old again, captivated by an image of strength and power. As my sister recently reminded me "You always liked Arnold Schwarzenegger. Remember how much you liked watching Conan The Barbarian? You was little but you liked that man." I sure did. It may not be the conventional or popular ideal of what a man looks like, but I will take a powerlifter, wrestler or football player any day. I was recently introduced via YouTube to the powerlifter Konstantin Konstantinovs. I watched him lift 955 kg. Good grief, that is two tons! At 6'4″ he and 300 lbs of muscle, I am certain he is the Red Hulk personified.
Blame it on Captain Caveman, He-Man, Ah-nuld, Big Barda or Wonder Woman, but I will always pause to admire beautifully defined lats, bulging biceps, sculpted delts, c-shaped glutes, a ripped 6-pack and tear drop quads. And I will want the same for myself. It shows discipline, focus, flexibility and fortitude. Those are attractive qualities to have in life. Can never be too strong for that.
This blog was originally featured at Alumni Wellness.