I took off my pink weight training gloves and went to wash my hands. "Are you angry?" a woman with a serious face asked as I washed my hands next to her in the locker room. It was late on Sunday. Some people shut down the bar, I was shutting down the gym. I had been dragging my feet about my upper body workout so when I finally got to the gym at 5:30 on Friday night, I pumped like a crazy woman for 75 minutes, full upper body workout. Generally you do this in 2 sessions, back/arms and then shoulders/chest. But, I wanted to do my homework on Sunday because I was training with Stacie on Tuesday and muscles need to rest at least a day in between workouts. Angry? That was such an off-the-wall question. I felt, strong, pumped, in a great mood. "Why do you ask?" I frowned, completely puzzled, at this random woman, who had obviously been watching me, the only woman pumping iron, the only person pumping iron on that early Friday evening. What was I, the entertainment? "You looked so angry when you were working out, throwing the weights around." Angry, I thought? Is that how women view other women who pump iron in the right way. "No, I feel great!" I smiled, dried my hands and went back out to the gym floor to stretch.
My personal training sessions with Ms. Stacie have taught me how to pump iron. You lift weight that is heavy on the 9th or 10th repetition and impossible to lift on the 12th rep. And then you do this 3 times before you move onto another exercise. You lift until you cannot lift any more. You exhaust the muscle which causes it to "rip" and then rebuild, thus literally building muscle and getting stronger. I am a good student. During my last training session at the gym where the big boys really pump iron, I was sweating, red in the face, grimacing, and pushing my muscles with all my strength as I stepped up, squatted down, lunged across the gym floor. Ms. Stacie smiled as she drank her protein drink and ate her rice cereal sprinkled with wheat germ and hemp seed. "Now that's how you weight train," she told me. After that particular workout, I could not walk without wincing for 3 days after. I had to make my dog, Olivia, stop and wait on the top step of our hallway until I could gently ease my way down to the bottom step (vs. skip down the steps like we usually do) to let her out to pee.
As I drove away from the gym I wondered about this woman's thinking. Would she have asked a man who was sweating, red in the face and grimacing as he used all his strength to get that 25 pound weight (OK, he might be lifting 75 pounds) up over his head, if he was angry? I know she wouldn't. Few women in the gym lift weights. Generally I am alone with a bunch of guys, who kindly, treat me like just another person in the gym.
I used to frenetically spin as though I was peddling for my life 3 times a week, only stopping those early morning sweat fests when I found out that I was actually burning muscle (anaerobic workout) which contributed to my spare tire because I was burning muscle, calories, for sure, but I was also burning muscle. Problem with burning that muscle is that my metabolism, which normally slows down as you age, needs all the help it can get and the help it gets is from muscle. For me, I have learned that moderate aerobics (like walking the dog at a fast pace daily) and focused weight lifting 3 times a week are the only way to get strong, ward off osteoporosis, and bid farewell to my muffin top. Well, I am working on all of that. True, I have changed my eating, as well (6 small meals, always pair a carbohydrate with a protein, and lots of water), but it's the fact that I pump iron like I do that has been the most meaningful change. Angry? No. Happy? Yes! I feel like I have finally learned how to exercise. Now we will wait to see how my body changes in the next few months.....