I was recently on a flight, leafing through a copy of The Box, an unfortunately-named magazine for people who do Crossfit, or, like myself, have done Crossfit but are extremely injury-averse, and instead simply incorporate many of the good parts of Crossfit into their own training. I like to say “training” in reference to working out, because it makes you feel like you’re working towards something, as opposed to just being a rat on a treadmill. Me, I pretend that one day a wealthy madman is going to approach me and say “I’ve been watching you train, and I’d like to hire you to kill James Bond.” Whatever gets you to lift weights, you know? Whatever works.
But, anyway, I’m on the plane, and I’m reading The Box, because Annie Thorisdottir is on the cover, and I find her Inspirational for her strength and chutzpah. Now, she’s not going to be in the Crossfit Games this year, having fucked up her back (I am not blaming Crossfit, partly because they will show up and yell at me, but also because accidents happen, although this is also why I decided to max out my squat before I technically “had” to and why I do not do a ton of Olympic weightlifting in a competitive environment). They went ahead with the shoot anyway, and she looks as pictured.
And the woman next to me on the plane, who I know was coming from a place many women come from, after decades of being slowly consumed by the expectations and standards for how women ought to look, said, in the conspiratorial tone unique to criticizing the bodies of others:
“I would NOT want to look like her, would you?”
I would. I would love to look like her, which I said to this stonily disbelieving woman on the plane, because I think she is incredible-looking. I would love to look like her, and do what she can do with her body. I would also love it if they gave her a lot of Method Acting classes and cast her in the next Thor movie, but our desires are not our realities. I could eat exactly what she eats, and (try! try!) to do exactly what she does, but unless she turns out to be my separated-at-birth identical twin, those quads are not my quads.
But training, or working out, or lifting, or whatever, cannot really be approached as a way in which to look a certain way. Training has finally, after DECADES of typical body-malaise, made me love my body, but not because of how it looks. I like how my body looks, sure, but I love what it can do. It has brought me genuine happiness. I train three days a week, now, like a monster each time, and if I don’t get it, I become irritable and bitchy. And so I’d like to talk a little bit about what my bi-weekly fitness coverage is going to look like, and the philosophy behind these choices.
For the first few weeks, we’re going to talk a little more generally about our relationship to being strong, as women, how to start your strength-training journey, an eensy bit of advice about taking in food in relation to workouts, and a lot about emotions and attitudes and money and muscle and adaptations for the equipment and time you have. Come the fall, when we’re better acquainted and have our feet under us, you’ll be getting the world’s lowest-production-value fitness videos, which I am making with a marvelous personal trainer who has made me a half-inch taller by meaningfully fixing my posture, and my buffest female friend, an ex-powerlifter who needs to be careful about her messed-up discs, and who can rip out 12 non-kipping pull-ups to my 2.5 non-kipping pull-ups. We will be unstyled and red-faced and sweaty, and doing our best. I think we’re going to have a great time. I hope some of you decide to start or continue lifting weights and doing horrible, unpleasant things like inch-worms with us, but if you just want to giggle at how often I claim to be dyinggggg, that’s fine too.
This is now where I come to a really, really important disclaimer: being physically strong is not possible for all bodies. You may live in a body with different limitations from the limitations of others. Being physically strong is not a moral imperative, nor does it have anything to do with your character. It does not have to be a goal for you. It is a goal for me, and I will be doing this series for people who share that goal, as well as the merely-curious, but your body is your body, and what you do with it is your own business.
Okay, I think that’s good for today. We’ll be back on July 25th, and we’re going to talk about GOALS AND EXPECTATIONS.
We’re looking for a dorky name for Nicole’s fitness coverage, please send us your suggestions, and we’ll be meeting back here every other Thursday at eleven am.
Nicole is an Editor of The Toast.