Recently, I've become a member of a gym again, thanks to my husband taking out a year's family membership. It's given me the chance to start going to classes again - something I did regularly for a few years until the children came along. Before I got pregnant, I used to do 4 classes a week. I tried going again between children but never made more than 1-2 classes per week and as the children got older, I tried again a few times more. One of my issues was that one of them would not like being left in a creche.
But now is the time. The children are in school all day and I can make full use of the membership. The same sort of classes I used to do - namely Body Pump and Body Combat - are still offered where we are members, and all I had to do is get back in the habit. For me, it has not been difficult because they are both classes that I used to love.
When I first started going to these classes, I was really unfit and couldn't move for days. Thanks to some home exercising, it has not been like that this time.
In particular, I can feel the progress in Body Pump. For those of you that have never done it, it is a workout using a barbell to music. Each track is designed to target a particular muscle group, and the class is always done in the same order. There is something about me that likes that about this class.
Knowing that overdoing it would only cause injury, I started on the smallest weights possible and decided to listen to my body and how it coped with each track, making a mental note to up it next time if it felt too easy. My first class was 20th October and I've done about 8 classes in total. In that time, I have moved up weights in all the tracks but in some, I have already moved up 3 times, and am ready to go up again for one of those.
In other words, I can feel myself getting stronger. I can see it too. My arms in particular are looking less flabby and more "toned". (It's actually a word I don't like using that much for other reasons but I can't think of a better way of putting it) Bingo wings in particular are much less diminished.
I called this post "Strong is sexy" because I think it is - and I mean in women just as much as men. I know however that lots of people disagree with me. Now, what I am not suggesting that this is the ideal:
Particularly as she has no fat and women look wrong without a small amount of fat to soften their outline. But if you do like that sort of thing, then fine. You go for it.
What I do mean is more like what my friend Jo achieved. Look here for her weight loss pictures. And she achieved that mostly through weight training. Or perhaps this:
I canvassed opinions on twitter the other day and was surprised how negative people were - about women being "strong". Most people felt that a strong woman was a turn off. Most expect strong women to look like the first picture (they don't, that's very rare and I suspect involves taking steroids) or to be stick thin and that's a turn-off.
I don't think it has to be like that. Yes, the woman in the bottom picture has some muscle definition, but she does have a softness to her outline that the body-builder doesn't. Some of that is down to body shape - I am hourglass so always have curves whatever I do. I suspect unless you see a body-builder like in the top picture, you'd never know that a woman does strength training unless she is very thin.
But is it just about the body shape and how a woman looks? Is having physical strength something that men feel threatened by? Certainly, you will find blokes in Body Pump classes the world over loading up the bar because they are damned if they are going to be outlifted by a "mere" woman. The instructor that sometimes teaches me admits he did the same at his first class and nearly did himself a mischief in the process. They seem to forget that Body Pump is about working to your own level - to the level that works you hardest but safely. It damages their ego that a woman could do better. I see blokes struggling or doing downright dangerous things in classes sometimes because of it.
Now, I am a long way from reaching my goals so I'm not about to post pictures of myself in my underwear on this blog. Body Pump is, however, helping me to progress. I like the feeling of getting stronger. It's empowering because it helps me do things. Does it make me feel sexier? I guess it does. All empowerment does and it's just another form of empowerment. I'm not about to take up body-building, spending insane amounts of time in the gym and possibly risking my health by taking steroids. Body Pump makes the building up of bulky muscles almost impossible in women anyway because we don't have the testosterone in the their body. I'll ask to be taken out and shot if I ever do look like the woman in the top picture. If I end up with a figure like the woman in the bottom picture, or Jo, I will be over the moon. I suspect it might end up being a curvier version of either, thanks to my body shape, but even then, I won't be unhappy. Building some muscle helps to boost your metabolism (because muscle burns calories, even at rest) making it easier to keep the weight off in the longer term. That sounds like a good thing to me too.
So I tell you - strong is sexy. You may disagree with me, and if so, feel free to explain to me in detail how and why it isn't in the comments below because I'd like to know.
This post was linked to the Show-Off Showcase oh The Boy and Me blog for Saturday 19th March 2011. Click the badge below to see more entries.