Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Do I Even Lift?

Yesterday I doubled up my shift at the Park Slope Food Co-op, to make up for missing the last one because of a short-notice meeting reschedule.  I was still weighing out bags of dried mango slices when the new shift started to filter in, including a woman about my age who looked vaguely familiar.  I looked familiar to her too, but we never found the connection.

In trying, though, we made a new one.  When she mentioned her gym, I asked her where she went—because her knee socks were screaming "Crossfit!" to me.  All the hardcore Crossfit chicks wear those knee socks—it's half style (they're cute) and half function (they protect your calves from scrapes when you're snatching, cleaning, and deadlifting).  And indeed, my guess was right.  I've been thinking about Crossfit, and told her so.  She recommended her gym, Crossfit South Brooklyn, over Crossfit 718 (which is closer to my apartment), and talked about a recent media kerfuffle they'd had and her experience there as a woman.  She was friendly and felt immediately like-minded, and I found myself just sort of coming out with my actual questions about joining a box: my confidence about the weights but concern about the cardio, my reservations about the risks of body and eating talk in a group fitness setting.  (I have concerns, too, about giving up my solitary time with the barbell, my meditative/electric experience of my own embodiment.)  It was awesome to find someone who could actually address those questions.

We were chatting and working next to another woman, a pretty blonde who turned out to be a linguistics professor—she entered the conversation when my new friend and I were commiserating about doctors using size/BMI as a proxy for health status, rolling our eyes about "chronic cardio": "Wait, I can still run, right?" she said.  It felt weird to have her look at me as if I could decide what her training should look like, and I assured her she can do whatever she likes and changed the subject.  Shortly afterwards, I mentioned the story about lady lifters' funding struggles.  She remembered reading about Holley Mangold.

So the two biggest women on the shift talked lifting gloves and women's bar vs. standard bar and deadlift grips (she suggested I try an alternate grip—that is, one hand under the bar and one hand over) and why it is that women rarely push ourselves to failure (I've never failed a rep on anything but the bench press, and I should have—the fact that I haven't means I don't push as hard as I could for strength gains).  Suddenly it seemed like the whole shift was talking about the Cheryl Haworth documentary and faulty expectations of what an "athlete" looks like.  The shift leader told me about the weights work he'd been doing to target his shoulder flexors so he can hold his frame better in his own hobby, competitive ballroom dance, and when he did it sounded like he wanted my approval.  I approve of you, dude!  I am sort of shocked that you are not disapproving of me!  I approve of you for that alone!  "It's so cool that we have two women who lift weights," he said.  I didn't even mind that he also told us about how high the dried mango slices are in sugar.

It was kind of incredible.

...and so, after several MONTHS away, today (not shamed, mind you, but re-enthused) I finally checked out the weight room at the rec center across the street from my apartment.  And it's totally inadequate.  It's tiny and crowded and open to the bustling ping-pong room, and most importantly, there's no squat rack.  So...next up, we check out the Park Slope YMCA.  Then Body Reserve on 5th, which I pass all the time and which looks endearing, although also like it's going to be more expensive than ideal.  O Bed-Stuy Y weight room, why are you so far away?

(What I want in a perfect world is for someone to buy me a membership to the South Brooklyn Weightlifting Club, which I've been ogling for almost a full year now, even though hilariously they are featured in the Times today.  It is perfect.  But SO expensive.)

Anyway, this conversation was energizing, and enjoyable, and surprising, and it was just what I needed.  And maybe if I make some good progress at the Park Slope YMCA, assuming it's adequate, I'll save for a few sessions at the SBWC during this fall or winter.

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