Abuse, weakness and weight training as feminist resistance

Earlier this month, a man walked into a hair salon in California and shot and killed his wife and seven other people.

Sadly, predictably, some men’s rights activists greeted this news with glee, saying that the man had struck a blow for their cause.  Some of their comments made my blood literally turn to ice:

I submit that women … are much more likely to pay attention when they’re being threatened. If it becomes obvious that claiming child abuse during divorce, withholding visitation and other such actions could result in their death, then they might think twice about such behavior.

Another commenter said feminists needed to be reminded of their “biological superiors” with a “slap across the face.”

One can read comments like that and take the perspective that such statements are merely verbalized rage issuing forth from the desperate maw of a dying order.  Certainly it’s a valid perspective – our world is no longer constructed in such a way that men can automatically expect to become kings of their own private fiefdoms upon marrying.   Many men have no problem with the more egalitarian vision of romantic relationships, but there are some who see this as a deep betrayal of everything they have been promised in their lives.

I wish I could take such a blase attitude, but the fact is, I cannot.  I cannot because I know that this is a mindset that persists even into the 21st century.  I cannot because I bear the emotional scars of my involvement with a man who viewed the world in precisely this way.  I cannot because I still remember what it felt like to be the one threatened, to be reminded of my “biological inferiority,” to be the one slapped across the face.

There’s nothing quite like being pinned to the ground, completely unable to move, to make a person feel weak and powerless.   Maybe the only other thing like it is trying to fight back and defend yourself and having your efforts crushed with all the thought given to swatting away a fly.

Day after day, for the better part of nine years, I was reminded of my physical weakness in the most visceral way possible.  It did not matter how logical I was in my arguments, or how persuasive I was, or how intense my emotional appeals – in the end, he always held the trump card.  He always had the power to win all arguments, to subdue me into submission, to make me give up.  He knew this, and he did not hesitate to use it whenever he thought it was necessary.  Unfortunately for me, he deemed it necessary in arguments over politics, over housework, over family vacations.

Over time, I shrank to fit the new dimensions of my life.  I’d never thought of myself as a particularly physically strong person – I’d always been rather easy to push around – but after coming out on the losing end of so many battles, I started to think of myself as utterly without power or strength.  I felt so humiliated, and when I tried to explain that to him, he scoffed. “No one else sees this,” he said. “How can you possibly be humiliated?”  As far as he was concerned, if no one else saw it, it never happened.  He didn’t understand that it was enough for me to see, that it was enough for me to know.

Sometimes, when I had the energy, I fought against it.  I took some kickboxing classes for a while, and I loved them.  The feeling of my glove-encased fist striking the punching bag gave me the space to release all of the rage that had accumulated inside of me.  Those classes were my outlet, but they ended one night after he tearfully told me how sad it was that I felt like I needed to be able to defend myself, and he apologized for ever making me feel that way.

The detente lasted for a couple of months.  Then some small thing led to another slightly larger thing, which led to yet another larger thing, and then we were locked in the cycle again.

After I left, I spent a lot of time thinking.  I replayed scenes from our marriage over and over again, and a new portrait of him formed.  I had always perceived him as this wounded force of nature, a young boy who didn’t understand the strength of his man’s body.

But his physical absence allowed me to view him in new ways, and I realized that he may have been wounded and damaged, but it didn’t preclude him from being what he actually was, which was a bully.

Bullies are cowards at heart.  They feel powerless over their own lives, and so they grasp to maintain a sense of control by exerting power over those they perceive as weaker than them.   My ex-husband saw me as someone who was weaker than him, and hence as someone he could control.  I was a possession that belonged to him, a blond trophy that served as proof of his worthiness as a human being.

I did not want to be an object, or a possession, or a trophy. I wanted to feel in control of my life, but I did not want to be like my ex-husband.  I did not want to find that control at the expense of another person’s safety and well-being.  I wanted power that meant something.  I wanted power that could not be taken away from me.  I wanted to feel strong.

So I began lifting weights.

Unlike most of the other women at my university’s gym, I wasn’t interested in cardio-blasting my butt into oblivion or doing two hundred reverse crunches.  I didn’t care about making myself as small as possible.  No, I wanted muscles.  I wanted thickness.  I wanted to take up space.  I wanted to be so intimidating that no one would even dream of messing with me.

I refused to accept that I was somehow destined to be “biologically inferior,” simply because I was a woman.  The notion of women as the “weaker sex” had always been offensive, but now it seemed downright dangerous.

I began looking at the world with a newly critical eye.  Why did everything in beauty magazines, for instance, focus on making women as small as possible?  Why were women so concerned about developing muscles?  Why did we as a culture view women with muscles as ugly freaks of nature?  Why were we as a society so invested in keeping women physically weak?

Over time it occurred to me that we had made a sexual fetish of female weakness, and that in doing so, we had developed a system in which women willingly embraced a life in which they were perpetually vulnerable to harm.

I had seen first-hand where this led,  and I wanted no part of it.

My time in the weight room took on a new dimension after that.  My squats and my bench presses were about more than just feeling good and strong.  I was fighting back against everyone and everything that insisted my lot in life was to be weak, to be easily threatened, to be biologically inferior.  My weight lifting was an act of feminist resistance.

It’s been a few years since I had this epiphany. In that time, I’ve logged many, many hours in the weight room.  I’ve taught myself to lift seriously and to lift heavy, in ways that have earned me respect from the men in the weight room.

The hard work and consistency is paying off.  I took a yoga class earlier this week, during which I wore a tight tank top and a pair of compression capris.  As I executed move after move, I checked myself in the mirror to make sure my form was correct.  Each time, I saw with delight that my back was rippled with muscle, that my calves were solid and thick, and that my traps were well-defined.

Not bad, lady, I thought to myself.  Not bad.

What’s more, I realized I was holding my body in fairly complicated poses, and that I was doing so with relative ease.  As I changed positions, I thought of all of the things I could do now that require physical strength, everything from opening a jar of pickles to lifting heavy boxes over my head to wrangling small children and large dogs.

My body not only looks strong; it is strong.  I am strong, and most importantly, I know it.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and this post is part of the Domestic Violence Awareness Month blog roundup. The full list of participants will be posted October 29. If you are in an abusive partnership—whether you’re being abused, abusing your partner, or both—tell someone. You can begin by clicking here or calling 800-799-SAFE.

53 responses to “Abuse, weakness and weight training as feminist resistance

  1. Pingback: Domestic Violence Awareness Month Blog Carnival « Anytime Yoga·

  2. Those men’s comments make me want to secede from the human race.

    “The notion of women as the ‘weaker sex’ had always been offensive, but now it seemed downright dangerous.”

    It IS dangerous.

    “Over time it occurred to me that we had made a sexual fetish of female weakness…”

    Like foot-binding! Those women couldn’t even run away…

    Thank you for sharing your story. It makes me want to run a marathon while pulling a sled full of weights.

    • That is the most badass image. I love it.

      Those men’s comments were horrible but the thing that was most disturbing is how bluntly they state what many people feel but know is too gross to say out loud. But still, I am hopeful that such attitudes are slowly dying out.

  3. Thank you for sharing your story, Caitlin, and congratulations on taking charge of your own empowerment. I know this is inspiring to others who may need hope for their own situations, and that’s important.

  4. Thank you for writing this.

    (On a different day, I’d have more to respond with. But I’m processing kind of a lot of posts on the topic, so my brain speed is not fast now.)

  5. It always puzzling to me that in a society like ours which places so much onus on the woman not to be raped/victimized, that physical strength and actual fighting ability isn’t emphasized as a requirement for women. Other than one week of self-defence (taught only to the girls, the boys learnt First Aid) in high school gym class, I don’t understand why, in such a victim blaming culture, more women aren’t taught more to defend themselves.

    I guess it’s because our society continues to maintain both the victim-blaming attitude and the easy-target mentality towards women. Like a vicious cycle.

    • Exactly. I’m cynical tonight, but I don’t think the societal point (which may be unexamined by a lot of people) is actually to protect victims from assault or abuse. I think it’s much more to normalize it and create a cultural catch-22.

    • Such a good point. I have often thought that if we as a society truly cared about ending sexual and domestic violence, we would come down so much harder on offenders than we currently do. Instead, we slap them on the wrists, we tell victims they bear some role in their attacks, and we tell women that any sort of powerful/aggressive/assertive behavior is bitchy, unattractive, unfeminine and undesirable. There’s no way to win, which is why I have reached the point where I am just like, the hell with all of this gender-appropriate bullshit, I’m going to do what works for me, and if that makes me seem ugly and unsexy, so be it.

      • Yeah! the way I see it is: even if society still doesn’t see strong women as beautiful, at least you’ll see yourself as beautiful. I want to develop more physical strength but I’m interested in learning one of the martial arts where you can defeat someone who is bigger and/or stronger than you, since you can’t really choose the strength of an attacker.
        @originaldoodles yes the emphasis is “ON AVERAGE”….strength differences are more society-induced than innate, and I have heard that women are on average more flexbile than men too.

  6. I think lifting is very empowering. It does make you feel strong, not only in body but also in mind. A big part of lifting heavy is about believing you can lift the weight. Once you develop the mental strength to believe you can lift it, you won’t ever believe there isn’t something you aren’t strong enough to do. Thanks for sharing your story!

    • This is so very true! The mental and psychological aspects of physical strength aren’t often talked about, but once you start trying to develop your physical strength for reals, you see just how strong that connection is. Your body can only do so much without the power of your mind pushing it along.

  7. Caitlin, thank you for this. Weight lifting can definitely be an act of feminist resistance, and you articulated so beautifully.

    Would you believe I had never before, until reading this post, connected the timing of me picking up weights for the first time as being near to the time my ex was arrested and I could no longer pretend that we were just “intense”? When I wrote about beginning weight-lifting I was framing it as a breakup, because that’s how I thought of it at the time. But now I am wondering how much of it was me subtly telling myself I longed for the ability to defend myself. Wow–even after all the thinking I’ve done on this I still have some enormous blind spots. Thank you for your illumination.

    • You know, now that I think about it, one of the things my ex constantly disparaged me for was wanting to engage in any form of exercise. I didn’t do a whole lot of weight training after college (good bye, free rec center!), but my body has a natural tendency to put on visible muscle.

      I have to wonder if this was his way of — if not actually keeping me from being physically strong — trying to get me to view my strength as shameful.

      • I suspect you might be on to something. I doubt it’s one of those conscious things, like he was saying, “I don’t want her to be strong so I can keep pushing her around,” but abusers do freak out over the idea of the abused person exhibiting anything that could be viewed as strength or backbone or independence. It erodes their control over that person, which is the biggest no-no ever.

        Gosh, I am so glad you – and me, and all of the other bloggers in this DV carnival – have been able to leave behind these relationships. Thanks again for hosting this. It’s been very inspiring for me.

  8. I would encourage anyone (male or female) to have a healthy lifestyle and workout and lift weights. However, i hope this doesn’t just lead to more victim blaming , i.e. “well if only she worked out and had strength she wouldn’t have gotten attacked/raped/killed” The only person who is guilty of the crime is the perpetrator, not the other way around. No one should get off the hook because the victim was weak or didn’t defend her self or was “biologically” inferior.

    At the end of the day, if you’re a women that works out you could get attacked by a man who also works out, if you carry a gun you can get attacked by a man who also carries a gun. If you always travel in groups of 2 or 3 and never by your self you can just get attacked by a group of 3 guys. It is perfectly fine to be prepared for different situations but ultimately if you don’t walk out or walk around carrying weapons on your person because you may have to defend your self at any moment doesn’t mean you deserve to be attacked/raped/killed nor does it meant that attacker/rapist/murdered should not go to jail or is any less guilty.

    • I agree with everything you say, and do not put forth my story to say that, “if I had only spent more time doing bench presses, I would have never have gotten beat up by my ex-husband.” My point is rather to look at this idea of physical weakness-as-femininity that has been put on there, and to see that it has very real ramifications for women. I don’t deny that I may very well be a victim of a violent crime again in my life, but I refuse to go along with cultural norms that say I pretty much have to make it easy on anyone who wants to victimize me.

      Plus, I would rather not spend the 99.9999% of my life that is not spent on the wrong side of a violent crime being afraid of impending violence, which is something else a lot of women experience. Developing my physical strength has helped me to break some of those psychological bindings and to allow me to feel like I have a right to be in this world without having to worry that I am going to be attacked by a stranger on the street. It may happen, it may not, but I spend less of my time worrying about that than I once did.

      But yes, I would never, ever, ever say that someone who is the victim of a crime somehow shares the responsibility for it because they weren’t able to defend themselves. That’s victim-blaming bullshit, and I refuse to go along with it.

  9. Pingback: Feminism and Fitness « Body FM: Tuning In·

  10. Women spend so much more time being afraid of things than men–it is funny that self-defense and other things aren’t taught to women as a matter of course in school curricula and such. I was reading another blog by a guy who had an epiphany about male privilege, and that his private ridicule of a female co-worker’s fear of walking alone in her office parking lot at night was actually kind of a problem. In brief, he realized he, as a white man, was never going to feel that kind of fear because he was not brought up that way, whereas almost every woman is taught to believe that she can’t walk alone in most places at night. It makes me angry, honestly, the number of things women “shouldn’t” do because they’re deemed unsafe or stupidly risky. It’s subtly disempowering.

    Of course, it’s also based around the assumption that women are physically weaker, and that not many women will be willing to put in the time and effort to weight train. As such, an attitude that I think was originally meant to protect women became a kind of straitjacket.

    • Good for that guy for realizing his privilege. I don’t think a lot of guys realize how much that fear is pounded into us from our earliest days. I often find it sadly ironic that guys are actually way more likely to be victims of violence, and yet I can’t think of a single time when I heard someone say that guys shouldn’t go certain places at certain times or wear certain things, lest they attract someone who wants to pound the crap out of them. This isn’t to discount the fact that danger does exist – in fact, a woman was ambushed and raped near a St. Petersburg Walmart early this morning – but just to point out the amount of fear experienced is so lopsided when compared to the level of risk.

      It’s one of those situations where, in an attempt to avoid as much risk as possible, we end up really limiting our abilities to live. Sort of like that Ben Franklin quote about liberty and security? I won’t go so far as to say that women deserve neither liberty nor security but I do think that the social mandate to keep us safe as, like you said, turned into a kind of a straitjacket.

      *sigh* It would be so much easier if we lived in a world where people understood simple things like DON’T HIT and DON’T RAPE.

  11. So much love to you. I’m grateful every day that I got the courage to leave that abusive jackass in my past, and am now engaged to someone who cheers with delight when I show off my new muscles.

  12. Brilliant post. Last night, my son installed a pull-up bar for me – and I did 1 inverted rows. Didn’t even know I could do one. And I felt seriously bad a$$. Every woman should feel that way.

  13. Pingback: Friday Sex Links!!! « Sex with Timaree·

  14. Fantastic post! Thank you so much for sharing your story.

    I’ve started weight lifting recently and have been mulling over the point of continuing to train– I think you just helped me find it. When we feel strong in our bodies and feel good about taking up space, it helps us to feel strong in the rest of our lives too.

  15. I’m so sorry that you had to go through such abuse. It makes no sense that men can be considered the “superior sex” when the *only* thing that they have over women is greater physical strength on average. Intellectually women rank equal with men and girls and women do better than their male counterparts in every level of education. Women have greater capacity for cooperation and empathy as well as greater amount of patience which is reason enough for keeping women in positions of power within government. Your journey to become a strong, confident woman is a great inspiration to me. Thank you for this article.

  16. I know this post is a little old, but I just wanted to say that I just found your blog and it is wonderful! I have always wondered why women’s fitness magazines are so quick to reassure their readers, “Don’t worry, lifting these three-pound weights won’t make you develop muscles!” It’s like, wait, what? What’s the point then? Don’t we WANT to be strong? Argh.

  17. Pingback: She’s so manly!! | thrutheblue·

  18. Being physically powerful does change the dynamics. I have been blessed with a natural physical strength (could always do chin-ups) and a determination that gave me success in sport. Now I weight train. I recently joined a small office environment where the solo man usually gets his way by throwing his weight around. A tall, sweet lady, who joined with me, made the mistake (ha) of being a couple of inches taller than him. I’m not sure how it started but in the lunch room I find he is armwrestling her and it ends with her hand firmly pinned to the table (threat neutralised). “I’m still the office champ”, he joked.
    “But you’re a man”, she responded, which did get under my skin, as he did not even look fit.
    “Bad timing Deanna. He’ll kick your arse next”, warned one woman.
    “Well I’ll give it a good old try for the ladies’ team”, I said innocently. I took my jacket off and he notices my fit arms. I have those kind of biceps which pop right up under tension. Next thing we’ve gripped hands and started and I’m holding the bigger man stationary. With a spectator comment on my bicep, which is now fully tensed, I felt a surge of confidence and started the slow task of moving his ham-like hand towards the table. Almost down I felt his arm start shaking as his muscle was giving out and I hear the satisfying clunk of his hairy knuckles touching down. A cocky bicep flex by me and ribbing by other staff sealed the victory. And I get nothing but respect from him now.

  19. Hi Caitlin, your post was most poignant.

    I have been in an abusive marriage for over 20 years, my ex was not physically abusive but verbally and emotionally as well as controlling and manipulative. I have been free for over a year now. Throughout my marriage I neglected myself, all I did was go to work, come home, cook and clean x 1000s. I used to find comfort in junk food and the weight piled on over the years.

    One night, my ex who is diabetic had a bad reaction to something he ate and was drifting in and out of consciousness. If my son was not there I would have left him to drift into oblivion. I bid my time for another such opportunity but it never came. Perhaps this is something that abusive husbands ought to think about! I don’t feel guilty or ashamed to admit this.

    Few years ago, i started getting back and sciatic pain. Doctors were not much help and I could not get proper pain relief, as a result I would take a cocktail of over the counter painkillers washed down with alcohol in an attempt to control the pain. In addition to that I was diagnosed with osteopenia, my mum has severe osteoporosis and I want to prevent that.

    I was mid forties but felt like I was eighty. When the back pain became very bad I looked up stretching and strengthening exercises online, they did help a bit. One day one of my neighbors was throwing out an old bench. I brought into my garage, then I bought 2 barbells, plates, a squat rack and adjustable dumbells. Gradually I began to get stronger and the back/sciatic pain disappeared. My then husband, became very angry with me because I lost weight, could fit into nicer clothing and getting fitter. His idea of a proper wife and mother is someone who cooks, cleans, keeps quite, looks frumpy but has sex when the husband demands it and most of all, one that has no opinion. Even though my ex used to work out and knew the benefits of weight training and also knew about my health problems, he still didn’t want me to work out. He used to tell me that he liked plump women yet, he used to look at teen porn on the net AND make fun of overweight people even though he was overweight himself. Go figure!!

    Back in 2010, he told me that I would quit in a couple of months – I only missed 1 workout since! During the summer I even trained in 45 C degree heat! I dropped about 12 kilos, my bone density slightly improved and gained a little height that I lost due to bad posture and weak back muscles. I am now 50 but feel 30.

    What annoys me is when people equate muscle with being unfeminine. I guess there are some steroid infused BBs that ruin it for everyone, but many women who lift also look amazing, eg Eva Andressa Vieira, Andrea Brazier, Camille Leblanc-Bazinet, Annie Thorisdottir, Mary Lou Prevost and many many more.

    I am 5.4 and weigh 57 kg. my goal is to get to 12% BF and gain about 5 KG of muscle. I want to be able to bench press my bodyweight, squat and deadlift double my bodyweight and beyond. I know it can be done, but it will take time, hard work and proper nutrition. I often get negative comments but it’s mostly from people who are unfit and have no knowledge about training.

    Building muscle/weight training has many benefits:

    1. It helps prevent osteoporosis and fat gain.

    2. You look better in clothes and out of them.

    3. You are stronger and able to things that ordinary people cannot do.

    4. Your physique will stand out from the crowd – a bit like a tiger amongst a flock of sheep.

    5. Men who have issues with women will NOT want to date you.

    • Helen, thank you so much for sharing your experience with me. There are a lot of parallels between our experiences, although you got way more into serious weightlifting than I did. I can’t even imagine how my ex would have responded to the sight of me lifting serious weight. He probably would have lost his shit. He had a hard enough time with it when I started taking kickboxing classes.

      By the way, I am very glad your ex is an ex. You deserve a lot better than to be with someone who manipulates and belittles you. *hugs*

      • Thanks for your response. Some men are threatened by strong or muscular women, some are threatened by intelligent women and some are threatened by women who earn more or are in a position of power and influence. It seems that to have men like me I would have to be a weak, mute, minimum wage earner with the IQ of a house brick!

      • There are certainly men like that out there, that’s for sure. I feel very fortunate that my husband (my current husband, not the shitty first husband) respects women very much and likes that I am tough and smart and also does not shy away from calling other guys out on their anti-woman, anti-gay bullshit. I’m lucky to have him, and wish more guys could understand that true strength lies in respecting others and having relationships with equals, not in trying to dominate everyone around you through fear and control.

    • Helen, I love that you had the internal resources to make your transformation by yourself. Most people would need a personal trainer or gym programme for extra support. And your new goals are lofty. I have been able to reach a bodyweight bench press – I love watching those big plates moving up and down.Another skill to develop is people judgment. I think I am getting better in picking a schmoozer. I have experimented with women but am now dating a good man. We are actually probably similar in physical strength. I do want to test this out (lol) but if I did turn out stronger I’m sure he would not get his knickers in a knot – ha. Previously I have needed professional help and I did work on my self-esteem – always worthwhile after an abusive situation.

      • Hi Deanna, thanks for your comment. Well done on your BW BP! I still got a fair way to go. Atm I am up to 80% BW 😦 How long did it take you to reach BW BP?

        I know what you mean about self esteem, after a woman has been married a long time the self esteem resembles an animal that has been run over on a busy highway and all that’s left is fragments of dried up skin with bits of fur on it! It sounds dramatic but its true.

        I used to go to the gym on and off when I was single so I had basic knowledge about weights. However, I was never naturally strong or athletic. When I was young I was skinny fat. Anyway, the first 2 years, since 2010 were mostly trial and error with not enough reps, poor diet and changing program and exercises too often.

        I think I got it right though the last 3 months.

      • Helen, unlike some other muscles (e.g. quads, calves), untrained women or men don’t have strong chest muscles. I did start from the place of already being practiced with push-ups and from there reached a BW BP in a couple of months or so. This was through consistent training, trying to increase by at least a little bit each workout. Mentally I focus totally on driving my elbows up. If I lose good form I finish the set as I train, not strain. I think this avoids injuries and keeps me ladylike (just joking – ha).Yes, I can now flex my chest muscles which is pretty cool. Sometimes change around and use dumbells instead of barbells (are these sexist terms – ha). Seriously the key is consistent, slow progression and listening to your body. Remember how the tortoise beat the hare. I slowly passed some hairy hares myself on the bench – ha. And of course make physical strength part of your internal self image.

    • Helen, I know you’re encountering some negative male reactions to female physical power. This has prompted me to find an encouraging counter-example. I’m taking my new runner man to the gym and see his reaction. Now I will get competitive because it’s in my blood (well it’s in his too but we’re not doing a ‘fun’ run here – ha). That aside let me know your progress on the bench. Like I said continual small increments will cross the finish line. Nothing to make you feel good like self-improvement.

      • Hi Deanna, thanks for your support. I have encountered negative male reactions and also negative female reactions and also positive male and female reactions. Anyway, it doesn’t matter what they think, though it is irritating at times. I am not planning on getting married or living with someone – it would interfere with my training and other issues. I am single now and will built my body the way I like it.I wrote this poem, it encapsulates my experiences and goals, hope you and Caitlin like it:

        “I want massive quads”

        My ex wanted me to be a blob,
        so that no man would give me a second thought.
        Some men think I should be a tiny fluff,
        so, I don’t threaten their sense of buff.

        My family wanted me to be a frumpy mum and wife,
        who cooks and cleans all day!
        Muscles are not feminine they’d say.
        Fuck it, I don’t want to be any of that,
        I just want to be me,
        strong, sexy, healthy, with self esteem!

        Some fool said to me,
        “Have you nothing better to do?”
        I said “No, this is the best!”
        Big 45s, screw the rest!

        I don’t want to lose weight,
        I want to lose fat and gain mass!

        I want delts, pecs and ripped abs,
        massive quads and awesome calves
        and those who don’t like it,
        can kiss my firm and muscular ass!

      • Helen, no you don’t need a man. I know that rebuilding mode – I’ve experienced it. Thanks for the poem. I say I do love your “stuff the conventions” attitude. People who have this always appeal to me. You are recreating yourself in your own unique image. There’s something very primal about having meat on your bones and knowing it’s strong. You’re harder to push out the way.
        I’m in a rather casual relationship with someone that doesn’t drain my energy but stimulates it. I create the path the relationship takes. As a test I took him to the gym. He is just a jogger though (no offense to the pavement pounders – ha). Of course I steered to a benchpress challenge – he’s a touch taller than me but slender. Poor dear, after we warmed up he looked so cute struggling as he worked up the poundages single repping – the bar tilting at an uneven angle as his shoulders twisted (I was ever ready to spot though). After he topped out at his single rep max I slipped under the bar to try. Loving a bit of theatre I squeaked a little as the bar seemed to collapse down to my chest and he moved to save me. Before he could I pumped out a few reps and returned the bar to the rack. Flexing my chest muscles I innocently said, “that was a nice warm up”.
        “You cheeky brat”, he replied trying to suppress a smile. Now he’s determined to start gymming to get his revenge. Strangely he did pip me on the leg extension machine but upper body strength is where it’s at I say. This competitive interplay is quite recreational for us but each to their own.

  20. Thanks, it’s actually more building than rebuilding – building in the literal sense of the word. when I was young and single I was light on the scales -sometimes – but did not have a good physique, I was what they call skinny fat. I would go to the gym for a little while but would not stay with it so that I would see results, In addition to that I would yo yo diet.

    Your friend sounds like a nice guy. i used to do jogging before but stopped cardio before Xmas so that I could concentrate on building. From what I read jogging can be catabolic. I am going to stick with what I am doing for the next 5-6 months and then re evaluate/change my program.

    • It sounds like your motivation is great. If you ever need to top it up then come back here for support. Keep on researching your training – knowledge is power. Yes, my fella is good. And I love that I have more upper body strength and more developed biceps than him. 😉 And I’m not shy about flexing them – keeps him in line – ha.

      • Thanks for your support, I really appreciate it. I have plenty to keep me motivated, ignorant people to prove wrong, my ex’s opposition, reversing my osteopenia, vanity and most of all my desire to stay out of the nursing home when old. Nursing homes are full of women who did NOT lift, indeed, osteoporosis effects mostly women, hmm, I wonder if the definition of “femininity” means having brittle bones, walking with a zimmer frame and general weakness and frailty!

    • Yes Helen, there is no prescriptive definition of femininity that is agenda free. Now I wanted to share the following method with you and other readers here. I have experimented with it with good results but not taken it to its extreme. Yes, Anthony Robbins has joined the club but don’t be let that influence or dissuade you. In this video (which is part 2) of a discussion it is interesting from the 2:03 point where the innovators espouse how gender neutral the system is, although an uncomfortable Tony then goes back to a gender cliche (and later just refers to how men can develop) ignoring their message to reach out to women too. It consists of a holding a heavy weight in your strongest position (thus avoiding strains) for a certain time, making a time efficient and powerful workout. Here’s the link:

      Share this with other women interested in increasing their physical strength a lot.

      • Thanks Deanna, thing is, non of my female friends, relatives, co workers lift. All they do is complain about various health problems, bad back, knees etc.

        However, I also use hand grippers, I think it’s very beneficial for women to improve grip strength. they are adjustable, later on I will buy captain crush.

      • Helen, I’ve never heard of captain crush – just googled it. Well I am interested in getting (even) better at armwrestling. Might consider it.
        (Deanna pictures self shaking hands with aggressive business exec and calmly bringing him to his knees – ha).

    • No, I’m not on bodybuilding.com but I checked your profile. When I look at it I see potential.

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