How Much Of Your Workout Is About Attention Versus Intention?
It’s nearly summertime in New York City. Everyone is smiling from ear to ear, brunch lines are getting longer, and the gym is packed as early as 6 am. As I like to say, “Sun’s out, buns out.” This is the time of year notorious for summer body goals and round the clock squats and I’ve been on a bit of a fitness journey myself. As an aspiring runner, I try to get my miles in whenever I can because the goal for me is to be faster and, ultimately, more comfortable with my body. I’m a curvy girl who’s never had an issue lifting weights or looking muscular. I even once considered training to compete in a bikini fitness competition because, to me, a woman with muscles is one of the sexiest things ever.
Sadly, to a few of the men in my life, being visibly muscular in that way is a turn off, especially to potential partners. About two years ago, I ran an obstacle race with one of my best friends. It was a grueling process of lifting one another, tires, and climbing over ridiculous obstacles. We came out on the other side of the race muddy with cuts and bruises, but a newfound confidence that we were a lot stronger than we knew. I mentioned wanting to do this race again this year to a man I recently dated and imagine my horror when he remarked that he’s “not interested in dating a man.” I pressed him to explain his statement and he professed, “No man wants to look at traps bigger than his” and went so far as to state that he wasn’t sure why I was working out at all. It bothered me a bit because after hearing this for so long I began to believe it and slowly stopped lifting weights all together.
As I unpacked my reasons for avoiding strength training as rigorously as I used to, I realized that at the crux of my hesitation was this nagging feeling of wanting to be “chosen” or seen as desirable. Which got me thinking, how much of our fitness journeys and health efforts as women are subliminally tied to the idea of being attractive to a potential mate and not for our own gratification? Are men truly intimidated by the idea of a physically strong woman who looks as such? Does being muscular really negate a woman’s femininity? The problem with patriarchy and the way we’ve been socialized is that we believe that being physically strong and feminine are mutually exclusive concepts that cannot co-exist in a woman.
For so long the idea of strength and muscles has been attributed to men only. The even bigger issue here is that the world still has a hold on the female body. From comments about women in the fitness industry looking too “masculine” to unrealistic expectations and body part fetishes (think waist trainers and butt injections), we’re inundated with mixed messaging that never quite encourages body acceptance one way or another. Think about it, there are more women in the gym sweating on the Stairmaster and worried about only their posterior (or at the very least the parts that seem less threatening to a man) right now than there are men aimlessly doing push-ups. The focus has somehow shifted from actual strength, speed, and agility to solely being able to look like your latest Instagram model in spandex.
While I realize that there is an entire niche community that celebrates women with visible evidence off strength, I can’t help but think that a defined back, quads or glutes — hard-earned testaments to my work in the gym– might take me a bit further away from finding a mate. I’m coming to terms with not only accepting my body as my own but taking ownership of its strength and abilities.Yet I often worry about the women who aren’t at that point yet.
At the end of the day, if you love to lift or flip tires like I do, do it. Earn yourself a body that is not only strong but looks it too, which is all one should ever be worried about. Damn being chosen or seen as “manly” because being “feminine” doesn’t lie solely in softness and coy platitudes. Feminine is strong and sometimes it comes with a six pack and strong quads.
Ladies, does the idea of being muscular prevent you from hitting the gym too hard? Gentlemen, do you really pass over women who are a bit muscular?