Of all the conflicting messages women get about their bodies, none may be more complicated than how we’re are supposed to feel about our muscles. The party line seems to be that toned is beautiful—unless it’s bulky.
Just before Christmas, my roommate Amy, who’s a freelance dancer and personal trainer, dislocated her left ankle and was stuck in a cast for about a month. She recently graduated to a removable brace, and the other night we were checking out the difference between her two legs—it was crazy how drastically her muscles had atrophied in just a few weeks! Her right leg was still the powerful limb of a dancer with a bulging calf and athletic thigh muscles. The other had shrunk remarkably (except for the swelling around her ankle). In the nature vs. nurture debate of how much our actions can override our genes, nurture was kicking nature’s ass, showing us just how much exercise (or a lack thereof) could transform her body.
What was disturbing, though, was our reaction. First, we both laughed about how sad and wimpy her left leg looked. But then I complimented how thin her calf was and she admitted that she kinda preferred it, too. For a moment, we were both inspired to lie completely still for the next month or so to de-bulk our bodies.
Obviously, that’s a sick and twisted thought. But it got me thinking about the love/hate relationship we ladies have with our muscles. We go to the gym, take yoga classes and do our crunches trying to get a toned physique. Working out burns calories and helps melt off our love handles. But, like most women I know, I’d be terrified of sporting rippling Madonna arms—or worse, getting “bulky.” In all honesty, I really only love the look arms—or worse, getting “bulky.” In all honesty, I really only love the look of my muscles for how it can highlight a lack of fat. Fit is great, but thin is better.
Too many of us associate muscular with masculine. Yet male or female, muscles are what give us our strength. I have to remind myself to embrace my muscles for how they make me feel and the power they give me. Without my quads, I wouldn’t be able to run. And although I’ll always wish my arms were sleeker, I love being able to knock out 10 push ups. If I were to stop moving, sure, my body might get smaller and lighter. But would I really want to be a flimsy weakling? Not so much.
As for Amy, she’s been the most inspiring gimp I’ve ever seen. She’s determined to stay in shape and to keep her body as strong as possible. In addition to taking hip hop classes from a chair(!), she’s been performing one-legged workouts at the gym.
Check out Amy’s blog here
Amy in Action!
Photo by-Alice Olivia Photography