I have never been the strongest, fastest, shortest, tallest, blondest, skinniest, smartest or best at anything – and I’m ok with that. I have always strived to do my best at any task, and as long as I’ve worked hard, win or lose, I am satisfied with the outcome. As far as my relationship with the layers of my body goes, I learned to love my muscles when I finally started using them.
As is common with women, my hesitation to lift weights had a lot to do with the fear of “bulking up”. The dreaded fear of actually being strong enough to pick stuff up without hurting yourself, and god help you if your develop quads instead of twigs for legs. (PS any jeans bought off the rack feed into that fear and are SO DAMN TIGHT. Who are they made for!?) That fear was still in my head when I began working out 5 years ago and even more so when I began CrossFit 3 years ago. While I expected to get “in shape”, I didn’t expect to build an appreciation of a layer of my body that had long been insulated and forgotten.
I am currently prepping to lead the Yoga Tune Up Integrated Embodied Anatomy Training in a few weeks. In the back of the manual is an exercise called “Self Inquiry: How Do You Feel About Your Body?” The worksheet goes through the body, layer by layer, and asks a variety of questions – what is your relationship to this layer? If it were a person, how would you treat it? The answers are not turned in, which allows trainees to be honest in their answers.
As I review my notes that probe deeply into the science of each layer and how they interrelate to the rest of the body and yoga, I started thinking about my relationship with my muscles. I’ve considered my relationship on this blog with my skin and my superficial fascia before, but never my muscles.
I still remember the Presidential Fitness Test in elementary school. One week out of every school year, instead of the normal games we usually played in P.E., we all had to complete a series of exercises to “assess our fitness”. We ran a mile, tried to touch our toes, did sit ups, and the most dreaded of all – the hang test. Knowing what I know now about the body and development, the hang test and 99.9% of our failure at it was really sad. Even at 9, only 1 person (if even that) out of 35 was able to keep their chin above the bar for more than .0001 seconds.
Every. Single. Year. I would walk up to the bar, pull my chin up over the bar, and then step off the platform. Every. Single. Year. It would be an instant drop to the bottom.
I still can’t do a pull up or chin up, but I know what needs to be done to get there and I am much closer than I was at 9. Lifting heavy things and putting them back down properly has taught me the power of strength of what my body can do, and the possibility of what is yet to be achieved.
Lifting weights and being strong is empowering. I know now that I have the ability to pick up almost any item off the floor and put it back down without the risk of injuring myself. This is not a skill you can teach in one round – lifting mechanics are taught over a period of time and regularly tested to ensure they are the norm.
I am often underestimated because of my size and my age, but knowing that in this small package is an incredibly strong and powerful woman gives me confidence.
If my muscles were a person, I would be their friend – and I would apologize for not realizing the beauty and possibilities of their strength until we were 27.