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Moving Day!

22 Apr

It’s been pretty much forever since my last blog post.  And for that I apologize heartily.  But it’s all been for an excellent reason – I’m moving my blog to my own site!

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From here on out, all of my blogging will take place at –

www.howwerollfitness.com

If you’re currently an email subscriber, you’ll move with me to the new site (exciting!).  If you’re WordPress subscriber, you’ll move with me too (equally exciting!), but you’ll have to sign up again for email notifications on the new site.  Please do that – I love my subscribers!

The site will be up and running pretty much right away, with new content as soon as my brain comes up with it.   If you want more posts about derby, and training, and good times, please head on over to http://www.howwerollfitness.com, it’s going to be amazeballs!*

*actually, it’ll be pretty much just like this site, just in a different inter-webby place, and with way more frequent blog posts 🙂  See you there!

Sex & Sports & Fitness, Oh My! (Part Two)

19 Sep

Sex sells.  Lots of things, in lots of different ways.  Our media is awash in lots of sexy, irrelevant advertising.

In part one, I addressed how I’m pretty okay with using sex to sell women’s sports. Mostly because I think in time, more spectators who actually care about the sport will help to broaden our definition of “sexy” as it pertains to femininity and athletics. In time, I think female athletes will be able to choose exactly how they want to be marketed, and all sorts of marketing strategies will be successful. But for the time being, the sports-watching majority watches to see attractive women do something cool. It’s about novelty, and it’s about sex.

Let’s not deny our primal urges – watching men’s sports is rooted there too. We like to watch virile specimens engaging in simulated war on the field, court, or ice.

hockey

So, using the most primal of urges, sex drive, to get fans revved up about organized sports isn’t so far off the mark.  At its best, sex appeal in sports advertising adds to the athlete – making them seem both a fierce competitor and an object of desire, not a bad deal.  Despite the spin, you’re still selling the sport.  Maria Sharapova’s scores still get listed,   Anna Rawson’s golf games are still televised.  Sexy ads might draw more viewers, but the sport (and drawing spectators to it) is still the focus.

Now to fitness –

Personal fitness is an individual pursuit, not a spectator sport. It does not rely on asses in seats.  The only ass it needs to motivate is yours. It’s something you do (mostly) with yourself and (hopefully) for yourself.  Personal fitness should make you feel awesome about who you are and what your body can do.  And if it’s something you do for yourself, you should get to set the parameters of what you want to get out of it. Here’s where fitness marketing throws a wrench into the works – they say they’re selling fit and healthy and then give us this:

endurance

This is a gym ad. Seriously. Ugh.

It’s easy to get up in arms about using hot girls (and the potential for them to have sex with you) to sell gym memberships to dudes (see every gym ad ever).  And it’s easy to think using sex (almost exclusively) to hype fitness is silly since essentially personal fitness is about the business doing real life things, and most of us don’t spend the majority of our waking hours boning (we might say we are, but seriously, almost no one is getting it on 24/7).

However, fitness is about getting in touch with our bodies, and our bodies have primal impulses.  For argument’s sake, let’s give fitness marketing the benefit of the doubt and say fitness=success at biological imperatives and reproduction=biological imperative, so fitness=winning at sexy times.   Even if that is true (which is a stretch), let’s take a look at the routes they choose.

29565-Strong-Is-The-New-Sexy

My major issue with marketing sex appeal as fitness is that “sexy” looks pretty narrow in the marketer’s eyes.  “Strong is the new sexy” (or “Real women have curves”, or “Suck it up so you don’t have to suck it in”) throws up guidelines about what’s sexy, and if you’re not hitting the benchmarks (skinny, muscular, still have boobs, thigh gap, perky glutes, no cellulite), you’re not it.  Whereas in sports, sex appeal can add to what we think of the athlete, in fitness sex appeal diminishes what we think of ourselves.  It gives us a sexed-up image of strength (apparently the only image of strength that sells, seeing as the ads aren’t full of powerlifters or moms toting multiple children and bags of groceries), and forces us to admit we don’t measure up.*

Relying on the same tactics to sell personal fitness as sports (and cars, and Axe spray) to the public belies the fact that those selling it want your dollars (you know, the ones you shell out because you feel bad about yourself), not your well-being.  Since most of us aren’t professional athletes, we don’t get coverage of how great we’re doing day-to-day, we don’t read articles about how well we served a customer, or how insightful a report we wrote, or how diplomatically we handled a PTA meeting – all we have is our less-than-airbrushed bodies to compare to the glossy ads.

reebok-easytone-shoes-ad-campaign1

No one uses phones with wires anymore. Just sayin’.

Fitness marketers aren’t so concerned about celebrating the personal accomplishments you’re achieving now, they’re concerned with getting you to spend money to get where you want to be next.   If you feel a little bit inadequate, you’ll be more motivated to buy into whatever it is they’re selling.  The worse you feel, the more you’ll buy.

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With a hard focus on the superficial outcome of what clean eating and hard training can bring,  sexy ads imply that you and your self-worth amount to what your body looks like.  That the more cut (or lean or disciplined or whatever) you are, the more sex with attractive people you will have.

And with less pants.

And with less pants.

I’d like to challenge that – I think oftentimes more focused you become on super-sexy extreme leanness, the less connected to others you become, and the more you begin to treat your body like the enemy.  The more unrealistic the images used to market, the more hardcore the message, the less attainable the “end product” becomes.  “Do what makes you feel accomplished, energetic, and healthy” turns into “cut for that 6-pack until your hair falls out,  you’re cold all the time, and your sex drive is totally shot.”.

nike obsessionIn one of my favourite posts about sex appeal, Juliet asked the real question:

“What really makes us attractive? Sure, a physically attractive body never hurts to look at – I won’t argue that point. But! How much of that is adding to our sex appeal? How much is our pursuit of sex appeal making us less appealing?”

In the post, she really digs into the fact that a) we all have physique goals, whether we are willing to admit them or not, and b) sometimes the crazy things we do to achieve those physique goals end up making us less attractive to potential partners (and ourselves). Single-minded fixation on your physique goals, whatever they may be,  is not appealing.  I speak from experience – my partner doesn’t find it attractive when I bitch and moan about how much I hate (certain parts of) my body.  Yes, we all want to look better naked – but at what point does wanting to look better naked turn to being disgusted with what you currently look like naked?  Trust me, feeling terrible about the way your body looks (no matter what it shape or size or state it’s in) is a great way to drastically cut down the amount of sex you’re having.

You know what’s “sexy”?  Confidence.  And advertising that makes you feel like you’re failing isn’t really a confidence-booster.  Hotness as a fix-all in your life is a fallacy – if hotness fixed everything, people wouldn’t have multiple plastic surgeries.  Fitness can make you hotter, sure, but it doesn’t necessarily make you more confident.  If you drink the Kool-Aid about the “ideal” body, and aren’t getting the “right” results, fitness can make you feel less confident.

fitness-center-campaign

So, what’s the fix?  Total media blackout?  Stop trying to get hot and forgo fitness altogether?  Deny that you have physique goals (and secretly think that you’re vain because you still do)?

I think the solution is the same with sports marketing – broadening.  Expose yourself to all types and shapes and sizes of sexy.  Celebrate your body for what it can do.   Move.  Eat well and joyfully.  Give yourself a freaking break.

Figure out what makes you feel sexy – maybe it’s a PR deadlift, maybe it’s strapping on your skates, maybe it’s making your family a beautiful meal, maybe it’s reading a book in your jammies – whatever it is, be mindful of it.  And keep that sexiness with you for the next time you see an ad that makes you feel “less than”.

 

* For an amazing (and fantastically snarky) deconstruction of the marketing of fitness through “fitspo”, look no further than Kevin Moore’s brilliant post.  I LOVED this article.  My favourite part: “I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being skinny. I’m also not suggesting that being skinny and strong are mutually exclusive. I’m only pointing out that strength only sells when it’s sexy and, make no mistake, advertisers want very badly to make you feel like you are currently failing at both.”

Sex and Sports and Fitness, Oh My! (Part One)

5 Sep

A recent article in the Daily Mail caught my eye.  I’m not on the Twitter, so I didn’t see any of it first hand, but 15th seeded French tennis player Marion Bartoli, who won June 6th’s Wimbledon final, was trolled like crazy on Twitter after winning the championship.

First of many? Marion Bartoli beat Sabine Lisicki to grab her first ever grand slam title

The trolls made fun of her looks, calling her ‘ugly, ‘manly’, and ‘a fat slob’.  You can read all of the nasty details here.

First, that it’s a shame that I was able to find more coverage of the internet trolling of Bartoli than details of her win.  Second, that I’m pretty sure this sort of thing wouldn’t happen in men’s sports.  Which got me thinking, how much of a role does sex appeal play in women’s sports?  It also got me thinking about how sex appeal sells fitness, but I’ll cover that in another post.

Let’s look again at tennis, where Wimbledon officials (in the 2009 tournament) admitted that they take physical attractiveness into consideration when assigning courts.  Anna Kournikova, once ranked 19th in world, routinely makes more sponsorship money than much higher ranked players, including the Williams sisters.   She starred in a music video with Enrique Iglesias.  She does countless magazine covers.   Nora Lanktree, of Lanktree Sports Celebrity Network, who matches endorsers and athletes says it’s a matter of economics – ”For an advertiser, the most important element is visibility,” Ms. Lanktree said. ”And in sports, women are just not as visible.”  Female athletes who get that visibility are less often the ones with great accomplishments, and more often the ones who are easiest on the eyes.

Even golf, which has not traditionally been a sport centering on sex appeal, has parameters about the appearance of their players, said LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw, “The very number one point … is performance. Everything else follows from that. But, you have to also find ways in which you make yourself relevant to our fan base, play the game and represent the sport with joy and passion, be mindful of your appearance and also be approachable so the fans want that autograph and that interaction with you.”

LPGA golfer, Anna Rawson

LPGA golfer, Anna Rawson

Millions of viewers tune in to the Legends Cup (formerly the Lingerie Bowl), while WNBA games can barely attract 250,000 viewers per game.

Women’s beach volleyball (with ALL the bikinis) was one of the London Olympics’ hottest tickets.

Sexist?  Sure.

A detriment to women’s sporting culture?  Well, let’s take a closer look at that.

One empirical study out of the University of Minnesota looked at whether or not sex really does sell women’s sports.  Mary Jo Kane and a colleague showed a variety of age and gender specific focus groups photos of female athletes ranging from “on-court athletic competence to wholesome “girls next door” to soft pornography”  They then asked the participants to rate their interest in watching, reading about, or attending the sport in question.   According to the results of the study, the sexualized images alienated women and older men, and offended some of the viewers.  They noted that while the prime viewers of sports, younger men, found the provocative images “hot”, they would not be more likely to attend an event based on them.  The studies claim: Sex sells sex, not women’s sports.

Hm.  Maybe.

Another point – Many marketing campaigns for women’s sports (the ones that don’t rely on sex) focus on family values, and the wholesome nature of sport.  They appeal to all generations, often highlighting father-daughter connections.  If that’s the image we’re selling, sex appeal might not be the most complimentary bedfellow.

That being said, I  don’t think this issue is as black and white as Mary Jo Kane’s study would have us believe.

To deny that sex appeal is a part of women’s sports is to deny what I believe to be a pretty obvious truth.  Men are the major consumers of mainstream sports (don’t get all up in arms, I didn’t say only, I said major).  Men are visual creatures.  Men like action, they like aggression, and a good number of them can appreciate a fine-looking lady.

Does complaining about how sexist that is help to bring more fans to women’s sports?  Not a chance.

Too often we make the mistake of assuming that using sex to sell women’s sports is all bad.  That it’s an just insidious mindset that makes female athletes into objects, and downplays their real athletic abilities.   That by relying on sex appeal to get asses in seats, we we give up any claim to sporting prowess.

I call bullshit.

Sure, it might set your teeth on edge, but women’s sports do have something to gain by not denying or railing against the incorporation of the feminine and the athletic.

The primary image we hold of sports is traditionally male (hockey and women’s hockey, basketball and women’s basketball, etc.).  Since Title Nine in the States, girls have become more and more active in sports, operating under the existing structure of high-school and college competition – a structure that used to be for the boys.  This means more and more male coaches, and a “hyper-masculine” approach to training and achievement.  To get noticed, girls have to push themselves even harder than boys of comparable skill.  If you want to read more about the benefits and pitfalls, I highly suggest Warrior Girls, a great book about girls, sports, and the culture of injury that’s been built up.

Generally, women who play sports and play them well don’t fit into the box that we use to define femininity or the one we use to define athleticism.

Katy Kelleher, of Jezebel, puts it this way:

Female athletes seem to serve as a never-ending well of material for those obsessed with both the female body and the importance of femininity. There seems to be a real difficulty marketing athletic women to the general public without resorting to these tricks, which continually reiterate that this is about a woman in sports, a female athlete, someone with two X chromosomes. In a way it makes sense that a physical career would lead to coverage that is so heavily centered on the body, but the emphasis on womanly-ness and athleticism undercuts the fact that many women are naturally athletic, that it is not impossible to be both.

Also in Jezebel, Margaret Hartman writes,

At the core of (the) stereotypes is the idea that athleticism is inherently masculine. While women’s sports are supposed to be about greater equality and empowerment, female athletes are still expected to strike a balance between being too sexy and not attractive enough. Unfortunately, until Serena Williams grunting on the court and wearing a dress and pearls during an interview are seen as equally feminine, there won’t be a level playing field for women in sports.

Again, derby, solver of all of the problems of traditional sports culture, I look to you.

Powerful AND Sexy. Photo courtesy Joe Mac

Powerful AND Sexy.
Photo courtesy Joe Mac

Roller derby holds a somewhat unique place in sports because it is defined by its female-played incarnation.  It’s roller derby and men’s roller derby, as opposed to hockey and women’s hockey, basketball and women’s basketball, golf and ladies golf, and so on.  We can define exactly the image of the sport that we want to send out to the public.  And, in my opinion, I think it’s best that image be both powerful and feminine.  Both athletic and sexy.  Roller derby is many things to many people – from the little girls wanting to be just like their skating idols, to the frat boys wanting to see hot chicks beat on each other, to the die-hard fans tracking the stats.  If we play our image card right, we can appeal to all of these people, and change (in our own small way) the way that female athletes are marketed.

The key is to make strength, power, and athletic competition appear sexy, not to sex-up the strong, powerful athletes in a context outside of their sport.  I appreciate ESPN’s annual bodies issue, but I get all up-in-arms when the athlete’s photos have nothing to do with what they do for a living.  When Suzy Hotrod was photographed, she was wearing her skates.  They’ll often have basketball players dunking, or runners in the starting blocks – fantastic.  Just lounging around like you’re on the cover of Playboy (or Playgirl as the case may be) – not as fantastic.  The photos that are the most captivating are the ones that show the athletes doing what they do best.

I guess the core of what I’m saying is that too often the pendulum is way to far in either direction when it comes to selling sex and women’s sports – they’re not antithetical.  The sex is there – but it doesn’t need to be the reason you start, the reason you stay, or the reason that drives you way deep in your soul.  Market the sport, market the action, market the power and the pull of strong bodies.  As female athletes (and marketers of roller derby), we should accept that we can be feminine and athletic.  Some examples from other sports:

jen-kessy

“The Olympics is a platform to show we’re real athletes, …Walking out there in a bikini, trust me, I don’t feel sexy. I am mean. I am tough.” (US beach volleyball player & silver medalist, Jen Kessy)

“We don’t apologize for …the marketability of our players off the court, they’re attractive. They’re fit. They’re recognized as great athletes, which they are — some of the greatest athletes in the world.” (Women’s Tennis Organization CEO Kevin Wulff)

“It’s really wonderful to be feminine, I mean, why do you have to hide your femininity to be a professional athlete?” (Jan Stevenson, Senior Tour player)

Jan Stephenson A 2011

Ms. Stevenson goes on to say, “They may go watch the other cute girls, but when, when it comes down the stretch, they’re going to be watching winners.”

Let’s aim for a more encompassing definition of what it is to be a female athlete, and embrace all of the aspects of who we are and what we offer to the sporting world.  Let’s be strong, be agile, be whatever shape, size, and composition we are, let’s be fierce competitors, and world-class athletes.

And let’s not forget that being all of those things is pretty darn sexy.

F**king Derby!: The Science of Sport and Cursing

18 Apr

Sometimes, in derby, in the heat of the moment, we say bad words.

Sometimes to our opponents, sometimes to our teammates, and sometimes, even sometimes, to the refs. And sometimes we feel bad that we lost control of our mouths like that.

curse

But what if it wasn’t our fault that we had momentary trucker mouth?

What if it was the fault OF SCIENCE!

Of late, I’ve been listening to an audiobook called Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs, it’s awesome, go read it. In the book, he talks about a study wherein cursing increases pain tolerance. This is my kind of study. Obviously, my mind went straight to all of the cursing that happens in roller derby, and that it just might be that science is making us profane.

A study was conducted by Richard Stephens and Claudia Umland, where college students were recruited to put their hands into buckets of ice-cold water.  Some were allowed to repeat a curse word of their choice, one that they might use if they hit their thumb with a hammer, others were only permitted to say a non-curse word. 73% of those who were permitted profanity were able to withstand the stimulus longer (31 full seconds!) than those who weren’t.  They had the groups switch words, the results stayed the same – cursers were better able to withstand the pain and their perception of the pain intensity was lowered.  These results replicated the results of a study that Stephens had conducted in 2009.

“Swearing increases your pain tolerance,” says Dr. Stephens, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Keele University and lead author of the study.  Uttering expletives engages the endogenous opioid mechanisms, the brain’s natural pain-relieving chemicals.  This process is part of the body’s “fight or flight” response.

The results suggest that cursing is more of a reflex than a choice, that using a curse word  serves as an alarm bell to the body.  When study participants used expletives, their heart rates were consistently higher than when they were repeating non-obscene control words — a physiological response consistent with fight or flight.  “In swearing, people have an emotional response, and it’s the emotional response that actually triggers the reduction of pain,” says Stephens,

“Our research suggests that swearing is a useful part of language that can help us express strong emotions or react to high pressure situations.”

cursing

Steven Pinker, a Harvard psychologist, thinks humans are hardwired to swear cathartically (which is different from swearing artistically) .   If you step on a dog or cat’s tail, it will yelp.  “Swearing probably comes from a very primitive reflex that evolved in animals,” Pinker says. “In humans, our vocal tract has been hijacked by our language skills, so instead of barking out a random sound, we articulate our yelp with a word colored with negative emotion.”

Now here’s the thing; in the study, if you were a regular potty-mouth, you didn’t get the same benefits from being allowed to curse during the study. Just like any other opioid, you can build up a tolerance.  Those who swore just few times a day doubled the amount of time they could withstand the ice water when allowed to swear.   On the other hand, those with the highest levels of everyday swearing (max. 60 swear words per day), did not show any benefit when permitted to curse.  Overuse  “blunts [swear words] of their power when you do need them. You should save them for just the right occasions.”  says Pinker.

Whether on the track, or being cut-off in traffic, choose those choice words sparingly.

So, if you’re having a tough jam, and you’ve just gotten taken out by an opposing blocker’s massive strike – let those f-bombs fly!  Your brain will release the chemicals you need to keep at it, and your tolerance for the pain will be momentarily improved.

This study is awesome news for derby skaters – not only does swearing bulk up our pain tolerance in the heat of the game, we can’t even be blamed for doing it because we are physiologically built to do so.

Take that, ref!  No two-minute penalty for me!

ref2

photo courtesy of Joe Mac

Science is awesome.

Want to learn more about why we swear?

Steve Pinker, who pretty much has the best job in the world, lays it out for you in this fascinating two-part video.  If you have 20 spare minutes, it’s well worth a watch:

References:

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1913773,00.html

I Can See Clearly Now

18 Feb

I did something that I didn’t expect to do.

It’s a little bit airy- fairy for my normal modus operandi.

I made a vision board.

arts-and-crafts-pic

It’s one of those things that “self-actualized” people tell you to do to clarify what’s important to you. When I first thought about making one, I was like, “sure, arts and crafts will totally help me get my mind right”. Side bar: I totally love arts and crafts, but normally they’re just one more job, so I’ve been scaling back of late.

You know what though, I think I’m going to need to eat my snark about hippie crafts not being useful. As soon as I glue-sticked the pictures to the paper, I actually felt somewhat inspired. And clearer. And like I had a bit more direction than before I made it.

So, the lesson is: don’t dismiss a tool just because it doesn’t look like a tool you would ever use. Maybe those tools are the best one to try when you’re hitting a wall. Maybe doing something you normally wouldn’t will help you see yourself and your situation with new eyes.

Here’s my masterpiece. It won’t mean anything to you, but (somewhat surprisingly) it means something to me. I might even frame it.

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Try something new today. Try something you think might be ridiculous. It might be totally worth it.

Ready, Set, ‘Mo: The Start of Movember

1 Nov

It’s the first day of November, and you all know what that means:

Movember.

A whole month of moustaches.

The first couple of weeks of Movember are tough for everyone, I think.  All the dudes look like this:

And it’s just awkward for everyone.

Mid-month is where we really separate the men from the boys, and by the end of November, some moustache glory happens.

My lovely and talented spouse is officially participating in Movember for the first time and I’m super-proud of his efforts.  His first effort being shaving off his epic sideburns to start with a clean slate.  Next, to grow this:

He likes to aim high.

That said, if there’s one thing that Slim is good at, it’s growing hair out of his face.   If you want to follow his efforts, click on the ‘stache.

Yes, I know this post isn’t really about fitness, or about derby (though Slim announces derby all over Ontario so it sort of is), but it is about health.

Whether or not you can get behind the ‘staches, ‘Mo Bros raise vital funds and awareness for men’s health, specifically prostate cancer and male mental health initiatives.  So far, Movember’s initiatives have raised over $310 million globally.

To put it eloquently, from Movember Canada’s website: “Mo Bros effectively become walking, talking billboards for the 30 days of November. Through their actions and words, they raise awareness by prompting private and public conversation around the often ignored issue of men’s health.”

Yes, the moustaches are silly.  Yes, everyone looks like a nerd for the first week of November.  Yes, it becomes much tougher to make out with your spouse as the month draws to a close.  But it does so much good.  So, I’m cheering for Slim and won’t shave his face fur off while he sleeps.

Good luck, Slim’s upper lip.  I’ll see you again in December.

Strong Curves: Women, Muscles, Bulk, and BS

18 Oct

“I don’t want to get big and bulky, I just want to be lean”.

If you are female, and in the fitness industry, you’ve heard someone say it.  You’ve seen women turn time and again to the cardio machines, instead of the weight room.  You’ve seen women lifting those pink 3 lb dumbbells so they don’t turn into some raging muscle-bound hulk.  You’ve maybe even been told (hopefully back in the mists of time) that you needed really high reps and really low weights to make sure you stay lean.

You’ve also likely seen the backlash – the Strong is the New Skinny campaign, Women and Weights classes at big box gyms, groups like Girls Gone Strong telling women it’s not only okay to lift heavy – it’s awesome.

Here’s the thing – some of us do think it’s awesome to lift heavy, to be able to see the definition in our muscles, and to train “like the guys do”.

There are a ton of benefits to lifting, not the least of which is fat loss.  Most people get into fitness because they want to feel better about themselves and look better naked.  Simple as that.  Want the most dramatic results?  Lift weights.  Aerobic training just doesn’t cut it if you want to change your body.  The more muscle you carry around, the more energy you need just to sustain life and maintain that muscle mass.  The more energy you need, the more calories you burn, even at complete rest.  Therefore, more muscle means a more efficient machine.

Women have been told for years that in order to “stay lean” and lose weight, they need light weights, high reps, and more aerobics.  Aerobic training (and tiny pink dumbbells) being the best tool for fat loss may be one of the greatest lies ever sold.  I could rail about how fitness marketing misleads and confuses people into buying items they don’t need, and following programs that are based on questionable (read: made-up or massively lacking) science, but that’s not really the point I’m trying to make here.  If you want to read more about that, JC Deen has a pretty great article about the way fitness marketers talk to women.

But fitness marketers aren’t the only ones who should be on the hook.  As a trainer, I say to my female clients, “lifting weights won’t make you bulky”.  I assume they’re talking about body-builders bodies, and assure them that figures like that take tons of dedicated work, and incredibly restrictive diet and training programs – neither of which they’re engaged in.  I tell them that the she-hulk they’re imagining they’ll become doesn’t happen by accident, and not to worry.  I tell them about the various health benefits of lifting, and how it will help them move in their day-to-day lives.

But I don’t know what “bulky” looks like to them.

I only know what it looks like to me.  Leigh Peele wrote a brilliant post about this disconnect.  Long, riveting read short, according to the 2000 women she polled online:

  • The majority of women don’t like the look of muscle on themselves or others.
  • The majority of women think that men prefer the look of a lack  of muscle on a woman’s body.
  • The majority felt that Jessica Biel and Hilary Swank (in Million Dollar Baby) define “bulky.”
  • The majority of the women expressed little interest in lifting weight, even if it didn’t result in a “bulking” effect.
  • A large majority of women would rather be too thin than either too fat or too muscular.
  • More women would choose to be fat over muscular.
  • Based on the actresses’ looks, women prefer softer and trim over too lean or too muscular.

Here’s my arm:

Here’s my stomach:

I’m practically The Situation.

Here’s my back:

Ask me now, and I’ll tell you I’m incredibly proud of the work I’ve put into my body.  I love lifting and I love the way it helps me look.

If you’d asked me five years ago, and I’d have told you that girl looks kind of, well, bulky.  My idea of what is healthy and hot has changed over time. I’ve gotten used to the way that my body has changed over the years, and as a result my ideas about what’s sexy and what I want myself to look like have changed.  It’s important to understand that “sexy” looks different to each and every person.  And on that note, to know that “healthy” feels different to each and every person.

Yes, there’s lots of science to back up the benefits of weight training and building muscle.  Yes, I love to lift heavy and hit PR’s.  I love that there are groups like Girls Gone Strong that encourage women to rock it in the weight room.  I love going to a gym where I can do more pull-ups than a dude. But, as trainers, we have to make people fall in love with fitness first.

If women feel like they’re getting conflicting messages about what works, and they don’t love what they’re doing, they won’t keep doing it.  More than anything, I think it comes down to listening, and meeting people where they’re at.  Will their opinions change over time?  Maybe.  But finger-pointing, name-calling, and self-righteousness don’t make people fall in love with anything.  If you’re a fitness enthusiast, no matter what level, find something you love to do, and rock the hell out of it.  If you’re a trainer, help your clients find something they love and encourage the heck out of them.  In my (limited) experience, once a woman realizes how strong she can be, she’ll fall hard and fast for that feeling – but she has to come to it herself.

Your body is your own.  Only you should choose what it should look like, feel like, and do.  Just because some folks still say you should lift tiny dumbbells for a million reps, that doesn’t mean you should.  Just because lifting heavy for women is in vogue (read: finally being encouraged) right now, that doesn’t mean you should either.  You should find the thing that makes you feel awesome, that makes you feel accomplished, that makes you feel like you are owning your body – and do that thing.  A lot.

If you want to learn more about lifting heavy, I’d suggest you start here.  Nia has some amazing tips for “lifting like a girl”.