One day, not too long ago, I stopped by the grocery store to pick up a few items. As I got out of the car I spotted a woman with beautiful, long hair wearing a tank top going in ahead of me. She had an amazing physique. Her shoulders, triceps and traps were beautifully shaped…muscular and lovely. I immediately started considering my own workouts lately. I started regretted not lifting heavier, with more emphasis on muscle building. My back has always been my favorite and most responsive body part to train and although I still lift diligently, I’ve not been pushing the very heavy stuff around for quite a while. Most of the time I’m pretty satisfied with the balance I’ve been able to strike. Although I’m not lifting super heavy I’ve still been able to maintain a little muscle mass and my joints are much happier than they used to be.
…But that woman! Seeing her sparked that old competitive spirit that lurks inside. I was comparing her physique to my own (both the new and the old) and watching her so intently, I wondered if she could feel me from across the parking lot.
As she turned inside the store to grab a cart, I was jolted out of my musings. She was a HE! The woman I’d been watching from behind was actually a man with long hair! I had to laugh. For years, I’ve had relatives telling me that my view of an ideal female body is skewed. I like more muscle than they do by far. I suppose this is one story I’ll keep to myself at family gatherings!
That’s me in the crystal ball. More than 25 years ago, I saw a magazine with natural, female bodybuilders in it and my life changed. I loved the look of all that beautiful muscle and that’s what drew me to the gym. I never managed to put on as much muscle as I wanted but I certainly changed my physique for the better and along the way discovered all the wonderful benefits (like stress reduction) that bodybuilding brings into your life.
More than once, I had someone (usually a well meaning relative) tell me not to “get any bigger” that “muscles aren’t feminine” or that I was starting to “look like a man.” They didn’t appreciate the aesthetic I love so much but save a few moments of thought the first couple of times it happened, the advice had no effect whatsoever on my determination in the gym.
Here’s to all the ladies who, like me, think women with a little muscle on their bones are gorgeous!
I’m happy that I’ve been able to keep some muscle on my frame while not lifting as heavy as I used to. My biggest fear in switching my program around was that I would end up looking like a broomstick with little spaghetti arms and legs. I’m not as muscular as I once was but my new program is sustainable. I love my workouts again, and that means I’m winning the biggest part of the fitness battle!
Here I am celebrating my 51st birthday, happy to be healthy and so enjoying my family and friends. I think a lot about my good fortune. I’m still here when so many other kind, brave and wise people have had to leave life so early. I’m always pushing to make myself better with the realization that these days are a gift and I fully intend to use them well. I’ve said it before and will say it again, I want to be proud of myself when I die. That’s the stick I measure myself with. I always fall short BUT I’m always pushing to be better and I do give myself gold stars for each little thing I’m able to improve.
Later, when someone asks me what I remember about my birthday this year, I will tell them about my gratitude for more days, about my delight in being here to raise my children and also about how awful it feels to be waiting for the President of the United States to willfully rip up our Constitution as he has threatened to do. He has made it clear, yet again, that he’s only interested in enforcing laws he agrees with. When it comes to our immigration law, the will of the people be damned. He believes he knows better and will use his executive powers to thwart the laws that are on the books. I find it distressing.
Please understand, it doesn’t matter if you agree with the outcome of his action or not. His promise to circumvent Congress like this is a disgusting display. It sets a dangerous precedent going forward which is why even if you like the result of what he’s about to do you should object to the method most strenuously. It’s a matter of power gone wild, political hubris in the extreme and those who are applauding his actions are incredibly misguided. Rest assured, if this does happen, it will happen again in the future with some other issue. When another President gets tired of waiting for Congress to fix something he thinks is broken he will use this as benchmark for his own actions. Once a course like this is taken successfully, it’s impossible to see that it doesn’t happen again. It’s an unforgivable breach of public trust, of the Presidential Oath of Office, and it’s extremely dangerous to this nation’s successful future.
It’s times like this, I feel compelled to recommit to efforts to keep myself strong in body, mind and spirit. I’m still here which means I can still do good work. I still have the opportunity to teach and guide my children and I still have something to contribute to the public debate over issues of freedom, liberty and proper conduct in this beautiful country of ours.
Now and then it’s good to stop and assess how you’re doing in terms your goals. I have had the same goal for the past 22 years….muscle gain/maintenance without fat gain. You can look in the mirror and that tells you plenty but photographs help tell the story as well. You can’t always see yourself in the mirror properly, especially when it comes to your rear view. When you’re trying to make an informed assessment a few photos can help round out the overall picture.
The photos I just took tell me that I’ve lost a little bit of mass. I’m not upset. I expected that based on my workout program for the last 6 months. I will take steps to remedy that by switching to a lifting program that focuses a little more on heavy weight and lower reps. I know that will stimulate muscle growth and I’ll combine the heavy lifting with a few (not too many) extra calories to help things along. To get the extra calories in comfortably, I’ll just add one extra snack each day…something like almonds and an apple or turkey and avocado roll ups. Little adjustments make a big difference. I don’t want to add a ton of extra calories because that just invites fat gain and that’s not what I’m after.
Over the course of the summer, I’m confident that I’ll get some extra muscle to stick to my bones. Ready, set….LIFT!
Deadlifts sometimes get a bad rap but I think they’re one of the best exercises around. Done properly, they are safe and incredibly effective. Deadlifts are a compound movement and hit many muscle groups. They use your legs, back, biceps, triceps, glutes and core. If you don’t already incorporate deadlifts into your program think about adding them. My advice is to ask someone to show you proper form before you get started. In every gym I’ve ever been to, the trainers will show you how to do a specific exercise the right way without charging you. You can’t expect them to design a whole program for you without a fee but usually they’re happy to give you an occasional tip regarding form to keep you safe. Once you know the correct way to do them, you’re ready to put them to work for you..and work for you they will. Within a few weeks of beginning you’ll see (and feel) the difference they make in your overall program.
On Wednesday of last week I asked my ten-year old to take my phone and use the camera to get a photo of my back. He did so and then we scrolled through the pictures to see if he’d been able to get a good one. He pointed to this one and said “You look like a guy that’s been shrunken down and got a woman head put on him.” It made me laugh. You see, he wasn’t trying to be rude at all. He knows I like muscle and that I’m always chasing just a little bit more so it definitely wasn’t a mean dig.
I took a look at the picture and I had to concur. I wouldn’t say I look like a shrunken man but there IS something off about this photo. I think my head looks especially giant…or something. Together we decided the reason the photo looked strange is that my phone was broken. That’s it…a broken phone! Clearly, the camera suffered a catastrophic malfunction. Good thing we figured out what the problem was.
This just goes to show that while photo documentation is a great tool, you’re not always going to like what you see (especially if you have an enormous Tweety-bird head in the picture). It’s a good time to have a laugh and move on.
When I got back from my recent trip to South Africa I took a photo for the Marines. I actually took a couple of bikinis and a Marine Corps flag along on my vacation with the hope of being able to get a cool shot with a giraffe or a colorful African sunset in the background. That didn’t work since I could never find a private time or place to take the photograph without making of a spectacle of myself.
The word spectacle makes me laugh because it reminds me of what my younger sister would say now and then when we were little. She’d put her hands on her hips and say “Lynnie, you’re making a speckle of yourself!” I don’t know WHAT she meant since I was always perfectly well-behaved, but I digress. Although I do enjoy photography of all kinds I’m shy when it comes to taking photos of myself and prefer not to have an audience. There are times I grin and bear it when I think it’s for a good cause like when I insisted on marching out onto a well populated beach in San Diego with a different Marine Corps flag, and when I climbed a hill overlooking a resort in Utah with my American flag, oh yeah, and when I put on my American flag bikini in Mexico and ran up the knoll, past security, to the warning flag overlooking the ocean and a busy beach. OK…sometimes I do make a speckle of myself but an appropriate time in Africa never came around. About a week ago I decided it was a good time to try to get the photo I wanted.
Now take a good look at this photo. I do believe I’m looking a bit curvier than usual. As you know I don’t rely on the scale to tell me what to focus on in my workouts. The mirror does an excellent job of accurately pointing me in the right direction as does the camera. My “holding steady” workouts over the past couple of months and my 2.5 weeks off combined with big eating in Africa (did I tell you I ate an entire pizza for lunch three days in a row in Cape Town? No? Left that part out I guess). The point is that although I came back weighing just about the same, my body composition is clearly different than it was a couple of months ago. This is the juncture in the conversation when I used to say “I’m fat” which I learned caused my friends (who aren’t lifters) to become extremely agitated and yell out things like “You’re crazy!” or “You’re obsessed!” (which could possibly be true but has nothing to do with my very accurate assessment of my body’s condition). What I mean by fat is that although I’m clear on the fact that I don’t look like the Michelin Man, my fat to muscle ratio is not where I like to keep it. This doesn’t put me in a bad mood or make me regret eating large quantities of cheesy, salty, delicious, delicious…did I say DELICIOUS pizza. I just know it’s time to go to work. It’s easy when you note the trajectory early on and change course.
These last few days have been just fine. I’ve made adjustments (oatmeal and egg whites for breakfast instead of ham and cheese omelets for instance) and I’m putting some serious effort into the workouts, particularly my lifting (I’m keeping the cardio to 30 minutes per lifting session). Pretty soon those dangerous curves will be gone and then I’ll be rocking the pretty, muscular curves that I love so much!
The other day I was on the way to the gym. It was late which isn’t my habit. I like to get my workouts done in the morning but sometimes I have to switch my schedule a bit. It was already afternoon by the time my schedule cleared so I hopped in the car. I was passing a clothing store and on the spur of the moment decided to stop in for a minute and see if I could find a normal pair of jeans.
Jeans should be easy to find, right? Sadly, that’s not the case. It seems the powers that be in the fashion universe have decided that a good old pair of jeans is simply too boring and they’ve come up with a fashion forward substitute they call jeggings. Jeggings are a horrible combination of jeans and leggings. They fit like the most uncomfortable pair of tights you can imagine. They cling to your legs, they cling to your EVERYTHING and there are exactly 6 women in the entire world they look good on.
I can hear you guys out there thinking. You’re saying to yourself that these don’t look so bad and that this is a great thing for a woman to wear, right? Well they make them for you too. That’s right, If you want to see women wearing these I say you should stuff your…stuff in a pair for a day and see how comfy you feel.
I didn’t have much luck finding regular jeans but I did find a pair of shorts I wanted to try on. I went into the dressing room, shut the door and realized that the lighting was excellent in there for taking physique pictures. Good lighting and a three-way mirror…a gym rat’s delight.
All body sculptors (and photographers) know that lighting makes a big difference in how your body looks in a photo. I’ve learned that no matter what my body really looks like, it’s going to look washed out and flat in my upstairs bathroom and therefore I never enter that room. That’s a joke but I don’t try to take physique photos there. Now and again you find an unexpected place that has excellent conditions like the dressing room at a department store. I never did get any clothes but I did get a couple decent photos.