Once Upon a “Bulky” Myth…
I recently wrote a post debunking the myth that lifting weights makes women “bulky”. If you missed this post, you can read it HERE.
Today I’m here to share with you a very personal “Bulky” Myth Tale that pertains to this post.
A few years ago I had an interaction with a prospective client within which she criticized my body based upon her irrational fear of building muscle from lifting weights. I have wanted to write about this encounter since the day that it happened but I just recently thought of a way to write about it in a way that would help others, rather than be angry and lash out against how I was insulted, and further educate women that they will not get “bulky” from lifting weights.
I hope that by sharing this story, it will help those of you who are still not convinced that lifting weights does not make women “bulky”, and/or those of you who are still afraid to lift weights for fear of adding on mythological “bulk”, realize how ridiculous this myth can be. In addition to how it can irrationally manifest itself in some women’s perceptions and subsequently, even be hurtful to others.
The story involves the following picture of me…
My Iron Body Studios Co-Owner and boyfriend, Eric Gahan and I, hired my amazing photographer friend and colleague Essdras Suarez to take these professional photos for us for our website. He did a phenomenal job, didn’t he? (The pictures he took are not re-touched either). So how could I possibly have anything negative to say about this picture? Read on…
Eric and I had a prospective client come to us for a consult a few years ago. She was a thin, frail, looking woman in her 60’s. She was interested in strength training, getting stronger, and getting some “muscle definition”. To be honest, she didn’t have much muscle on her, so she needed to strength train, and particularly at her age since she was in her 60’s. In general, strength training would help her to have a better quality of movement, and life as she aged towards her 70’s and beyond. More specifically, strength training would help her to increase muscle mass and prevent low bone density so that if she fell she wouldn’t break her hip or any other bones.
At the end of the consult she decided to purchase a small personal training package (Note: this was the only personal training package she trained with us). As we were seeing her out the door we gave her our business cards. My business cards have the picture I posted earlier on them. She was looking closely at the picture and speaking to me and then as she pointed to my triceps in the picture she said:
“I would like to look like you and have muscle definition like this but a little less HERE.”
I was shocked, speechless, and hurt; how incredibly inappropriate of her, to say the least.
So, since you are criticizing muscles on my body and not fat on my body that makes it OK??
WRONG. It’s NOT OK.
Criticizing a fit person’s muscles and body shape is the exact same thing as criticizing an overweight person’s body. Just because a person is fit does not mean that it is OK to insult how they look. Furthermore, you cannot make a pre-conceived judgment based upon the fact that a person is “fit”. You don’t know that person’s story; you don’t know how hard they work to maintain their fitness or how hard it was for them to achieve their current state of fitness.
As a service provider who was interacting with a client (which she was at that point), I was left speechless. I also didn’t expect to have her insult my body on the way out the door. I just smiled, because I didn’t know how to respond to it at the time.
This was the first time someone had criticized my body, in this manner, and in this context of service provider to client. I had been criticized before by strangers outside of my place of business (which is also not ok!), but never had I been the actual victim of such an insult within my own place of business.
Most of the time I get comments on my muscles, mostly in good humor and often from men:
“Yeah, well, I have biceps too, but they don’t go *BA-BAM!!!* as I’m reaching to pay my bar tab.”, Some random guy to me, at a club in Washington, DC Summer 2007
“Why don’t I look like that in MY tank top??”, Some random guy to me, at a car wash in Ballston, VA, June 2008
Even my 75 year old father has said to me, “I wish my arms looked like that in my tank top!!!”
When I get comments from women, most of the time they say they want my arms like mine and I even had a client nickname me “Armtemis” 🙂.
There were plenty of things that I could have said to her about her body that would have matched what she said to me about my body but the thought didn’t even cross my mind because I had no intentions of insulting her and it would have been downright cruel.
Beyond the insult, what I don’t think she realized was that she criticized my body shape and my body type. Not just my muscles.
My triceps look like that, not because I lift weights, but because these are the arms I was born with and inherited from my mother.
This is me next to my mother. Can you tell where my arms came from??
In addition, look how camera angle plays a part in how my arms look. They look very different in the picture of me and my mom from how they look in the other pictures taken that day:
Even before lifting the really heavy weights that I lift now, my triceps have ALWAYS looked like that. It’s my genetics.
Everyone in my family, (even my father still at age 75!), tends to respond to exercise and weightlifting very quickly. We are fast learners when it comes to learning movement and we also build muscle quickly. I have a mesomorph body-type, which means that I tend to be muscular and build muscle quickly. This woman had a completely different body type than I did, I would say she was more of an ectomorph, so she would never build muscle the way I do. She doesn’t have to lose sleep over building triceps like mine, because she never will 🙂.
These pictures show how my arms have pretty much stayed the same throughout the years. The most new development that I have as a result of my heavy weightlifting is some shoulder definition. But you will see there is really not much difference:
2006 – Pre-kettlebells, exercise was mainly spinning, running, kung fu (included bodyweight exercises like push ups), and some weightlifting
January & April 2008 – Pre kettlebells, exercise was mainly spinning, running, kung fu, and some weightlifting
December 2008 & January 2009 – Exercise was spinning, kung fu, kettlebell training, and other weightlifting
July 2010 – Exercise was spinning, running, kettlebell training, and other weightlifting
November 2011 – Exercise was spinning, running, kettlebell training, and other weightlifting
Summer 2012 – Exercise was running, kettlebell training, and some kung fu
August 2013 – Exercise was kettlebell training and yoga
SO, if she doesn’t want my triceps, well, she certainly doesn’t have to worry because she will NEVER have my triceps. She will always have the triceps that she was born with, and perhaps they will develop some muscle as she strength trains, or perhaps not. Her genetics, body type, and diet will help to determine all of that.