Update: I had a wonderful reader’s response to this post. When you’re done here, please read this response to female strength.
The majority of my kettlebell students are women. They come to class for what they pretend are many different reasons, but the fact is that they are all there because they want to look better. But the reason they want to look better is usually perhaps because they think they need to look better, usually for someone else. Or perhaps because there are some very skewed norms out there that determine what “better” actually means, when applied to the female body.
I grew up with two beautiful sisters, and I have a lovely wife, but I have never been able to convince any of them that they are anything but fat monsters. It is like they can’t hear me. My life sometimes feels like an endless pep talk as I try to convince the women in my life that they are beautiful enough. That they are strong and desirable and worth so much more than any magazine might suggest. Honestly, I’d probably feel like they do if I was a woman.
They have been taught that female strength is not as desirable as jutting clavicles and pouty lips.
In a recent personal training session, a stunning young woman told me that she is feeling extremely frustrated because she can’t figure out how to lose fat. I would be astonished if this girl has bodyfat above 7%, I am not joking. But it’s not a joke to her.
Because I am a librarian, I usually ask people what they like to read. I can’t help it. Would it surprise you to know that this student of mine says she primarily reads magazines?
Yep, magazines full of those razor sharp clavicles and weak-looking women.
Permission to be strong
I require everyone in my classes to have a strength training goal. It has to be about lifting more weight in an exercise, I don’t care which, but they have to be gaining strength in something that I can measure, not just spinning their wheels and sweating so their damned clavicles will stick out more.
And without fail, once a woman realizes that she can deadlift and not turn into a man, or that she can bottoms up press a kettlebell without breaking into a million pieces, or that she can clean and jerk a loaded barbell without sacrificing any femininity, a light comes on. That’s a lazy-sounding trite comparison, but I think it’s the most accurate.
Once they get bitten by the strength bug, they pursue their strength training with a ferocity and dedication I can’t even begin to replicate in many of my male students.
Based on what I have seen, I believe that the best thing most women could do for their confidence is to put on ten pounds of muscle. Nothing looks better. And maybe I’m an oddball, but few things are as attractive to me as female strength.
Ladies, if I could snap my fingers and change the world, you would all be lifting heavy, living happy, and ignoring the unreasonable expectations from the nonsensical world of magazines, movies, and television.
Men and women worth knowing will not be intimidated or terrified of your strength and confidence.
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