When You Put a Barbell in a Girl’s Hand

We gals are supposed to reach for the pink and purple coated 5 pound dumbbells, right? That is what they are there for.  Leave the barbells for the bros.

Today we like to talk about “strong” women a lot, but I’ve come to realize its mostly in the context of “girl power” mental strength, professional strength, mom strength, “doing it all” strength.  But I’m realizing after losing 105 pounds and getting fit-ish, that we have a very narrow window and scope of how physically strong we want women to be and how we want them to be “strong.”

I have literally gone from fat (260 pounds) to strong (150 pounds) in 3 1/2 years.  Quite the transition since I was obese for almost 15 years. I’ve gone from being the invisible fat girl to the other end of the spectrum. But not the lean, thin model type society wants me to be. Apparently this other end has a spectrum too, and I’m supposed to fit I  this narrow window of what “thin and pretty” is.

Society “don’t know me.”  And for those of you that know me, I’m not much of a conformist.

So while I’ve felt beautiful and confident on my journey thanks to a hubby that loves me at any size, great kids and my awesome friends who always compliment me and lift me up on social media, I have also felt like a freak as my muscle definition has become more apparent.  I’m learning not everyone knows how to react to a 46-year old woman who is attempting to tone up a crap-ton of loose skin by building lean muscle.

Which begs me to ask, do we really mean “girl power” only figuratively but maybe not literally?  “Don’t get too strong now honey, you’ll look like a boy.”

No one has said that to me, but I know they are thinking it.

One of my girl friends with incredible upper body muscle definition gets made fun of at work.  I’ve been teased a few times myself…all in good fun it seems, but we do seem to have some genuine discomfort when girls get physically strong.  People fumble with their words when they see me. Almost like, “I mean it’s cool with me if you want to look like that and good job and all, but its not for me.”

Now maybe it’s just the sheer fact that I went from being obese for so many years to fairly fit.  That’s enough to make people stumble over their words. I get it.

My point is, I don’t think we give women too many options in any direction to look, feel and be physically strong.  And I think we should redefine beauty to include physical strength, PARTICULARLY AS WE AGE! I mean my goal in starting this entire JenX Journey was to age well and to tone up all my loose skin in an attempt to avoid skin removal surgery if at all possible. I wanted to see how far I could take my own body.

So why the narrow window of how we all should look? Can we just move on? I’ll do me and you do you…right?

But if we can get beyond the physical appearance of it all, there are some awesome things that DO make you both physically and mentally strong through CrossFit and Olympic weightlifting, particularly for us girls.  I can speak from experience that some cool shit happens when you put a barbell in a girl’s hand…

1. You learn to conquer fear and uncertainty, but not all at once – in a series of calculated steps.
2. You learn about your own movement, your own abilities and physical limitations and how to work with them.
3. You get uncomfortably comfortable outside your comfort zone.
4. You learn how to deal with serious frustration and learn how to overcome it.
5. You take small wins and build on them.
6. You compete against no one but yourself.
7. That the relentless pursuit of the basics and technique make up the BIG things.
8. You can easily yank down that heavy bag from the overhead compartment on the plane.
9. You learn that you CAN shape your body (with a barbell and good nutrition).
10. You learn how to deal with being teased and you don’t care because you can now throat-punch people.
11. You gain confidence outside the gym.
12. You learn to love your body, flaws and all. To nurture it and to push its limits once in a while.  
13. To surround yourself with people who support you and your goals, and not ridicule you about them.
14. Your coach calls you an athlete.
15. You can always open that jar of pickles.
16. You get comfortable with failure and rebounding. You get really good at getting back up and trying again and again and again.

Love y’all.


(Left) Me and hubster Mike in Cabo several years ago and us this past May participating in the Exotic Feline Rescue 5k.
And, PS – as always, thanks those who help me: http://www.elavuscrossfit.com (Coach DJ), http://www.strongeru.com (Mike Doehla and Terri Luna) and http://www.livelightclinic.com (Dr. Christy).

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