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Good reads

November 12, 2008

Busy studying still so I have a few things you should totally take the time to click and read.

First, one of my favorite articles from Krista at stumptuous talking about the severe lack of play in most people’s fitness routines.

…adults are the same way about their own lives. Exercise and activity is something that we go to the gym to do. It isn’t supposed to be fun – indeed, it has overtones of moral punishment – and it’s certainly not something that is supposed to be part of our daily lives. It happens only in an approved facility. It involves pain, shame, and guilt. The body is a lumpen obstacle to be overcome, not something that brings pleasure and does cool things…

When was the last time your activity was fun? When you forgot about counting minutes and reps and calories? When you stopped feeling obligated and started feeling inspired? When you felt your legs not as aesthetic embarrassments but as engines that powered you across a field with the wind in your face? When you did something and thought about nothing?

Seriously, read the whole thing.

Next a post over at thefword(different from the-F-word) about push ups and whether or not encouraging things like ‘girly style’ push ups is sexist. This bit that the author, Jess, quotes form the original article gets my HELL YEAH! endorsement:

Here’s a newsflash about why women have a hard time with push-ups: We don’t do them. We don’t do other kinds of weight training that would build the necessary strength. You could be relatively fit, but that doesn’t mean you would go out and run a marathon with no training unless you are crazy. You generally have to practice anything to be able to do it. So what if some men start off having an easier time with push-ups? (And, by the way, I know from training experience that plenty of men are not automatic experts.) There’s no reason women can’t knock out a good set, and do them well from the feet in time.

Women don’t do push ups because they think of them as a man exercise. Same goes for weightlifting. We teach women to strive for thin and toned, but not strong and powerful. I mean, be athletic, but not so athletic that you can kick a guy’s rear end at strength endeavors.

I know from personal experience that when I walk into the free weight area of some gyms, it will be almost entirely populated by sweaty guys grunting in front of the mirror, and that when I pick up a barbell for overhead presses, I will get strange looks from some of those guys. Very few will offer to spot my bench press. And a 1996 study published in the Illinois Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance journal also found that women were more likely to underestimate the amount they could bench press than men. We are conditioned to think we can’t possibly lift like men, or crank out a set of 20 nice push-ups, and, if we do, we are too masculine. We’re taught to hide our strength or minimize it or just avoid using it altogether. “Could you give me a hand carrying this box, guy-from-my-office-who-never-works-out?”

I bolded that part about women underestimating their bench press because I thought that was fascinating and yet not surprising.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. November 13, 2008 11:39 am

    In the gym I attend, women do weights, but mostly not the heaviest. It should be noted that as you get older, it’s imperative to do some weight work just so that you don’t lose muscle mass. Pretty and toned seem o.k. when you are young. When you’re old, muscles keep you from the disaster of falling, or the disability of not being able to carry groceries and being self-sufficient.

  2. julie permalink
    November 13, 2008 4:55 pm

    I thoroughly enjoy kickboxing and step and aerobic type things, but I do body sculpt and weights because it’s good for me. I can’t say that I enjoy it, but I’m getting to that age where bad things, like throwing my back out, pulling muscles, etc., start to happen, and I don’t want them to happen to me. Plus, I like being buff, even if I look at the clock the whole time.

  3. November 13, 2008 10:45 pm

    I totally agree that many of us would be amazed at what our bodies can achieve if we pushed them to do those things, but I think there is a place for “girly” push-ups. When you’re starting out, those are likely to be the only kind you can do, and trying to do them directly from the feet is likely to be pretty discouraging. (I’m sure YMMV.) Now, of course men are not encouraged to do knee push-ups ever, and women are encouraged to be satisfied with only knee push-ups, so I agree the attitude toward this type of exercise is totally screwed up. I just think that women are starting (usually) from a baseline of a little less strength and although there is no reason you can’t achieve anything you want eventually, “transitional” exercises can be helpful in the meantime.

    (I can do between 5 and 8 “real” push-ups at a time these days–2 sets of 8 when I have been practicing them consistently, which is the amount I was interested in working up to–and it’s one of my favorite accomplishments in my strength training.)

    As far as enjoying activity, this is my favorite time of year to run because it’s so cold and bracing. And I definitely time myself and monitor my heart rate, but these are part of the endurance-building I’m working on right now, so I enjoy the running itself as well as the sense of accomplishment when I can go faster at the same heart rate, though I don’t usually just take off running across a field or something just for the fun of it. I do also think I note my body’s improvements in health and strength when I’m doing “non-structured” exercise; if I have to lift something heavy, for example, I will often notice my muscles working or feel pleased that it’s not difficult or whatever.

  4. November 13, 2008 11:39 pm

    Linda,

    Yeah, muscle is so important. In some ways I almost feel like muscle is seen by many people as purely aesthetic which might in part be due to bodybuilding culture. The necessity, especially as we age, of having a strong musculature simply to improve every day function doesn’t get mentioned enough.

  5. November 13, 2008 11:45 pm

    Julie,

    I think it’s probably just as unreasonable to expect to enjoy every part of a fitness routine as it would be to expect someone to do some exercise that they hated 6 days a week. There are some things I do (interval training comes to mind) that I do simply for the end results.

    I think the danger comes when people start to forget that fun can be had during exercise. Eventually, you just start to resent the time you spend on fitness.

  6. November 13, 2008 11:58 pm

    Spacedcowgirl,

    I’m all for modifying exercises. Right now I only do incline push ups leaning on the bar at the gym or on my counter at home. Like you said, I think the problem isn’t in having transitional exercises, but when women believe that that’s all they’re capable of.

    I love fall/early winter for running too. Due to some ankle issues, I’ve had to cut way back on jogging and it’s physically hard *not* to run some days when the weather is so perfect.

  7. November 17, 2008 7:21 pm

    I’m a bit late getting to this, but dear God that pushup comment thread was infuriating. There’s actually a clueless commenter there who couldn’t believe that a woman could deadlift 60Kg (133lbs). Clearly a person who doesn’t get out much.

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