last comment: 19/03/08

Fire and Water

Heaven and Earth

Women and Strength

? ? ? ? ?

I have a place in a forum called 'Real Feats of Strength', where women write about being strong. Some of them compete in disciplines like Body Building and Power Lifting and some like me just like their muscles. Unfortunately the site got erased and they are only building it up again right now. It is a rather specialised site because most of these women have dedicated their lives to this sort of lifestyle. However, I am very happy that they are rebuilding the site, because it addresses an important matter:

How are women seen these days?


How do they see their role themselves?

Women have been breaking into the male domain in work life during the past decades, they sometimes are still struggling to break through the glass ceiling and to reach the high end jobs, but more and more of them do. Usually it’s the woman who manages the lifestyle of the family – and still, when it comes to physical strength they are happy to blushingly ask a 'strong man' for help.

I have been writing in this forum about my journey with Body Building and how to make it a mainstream sport for women. It already is for guys. When Tarzan with Johnny Weissmüller hit the screen ages ago nobody had seen muscles in a guy before – well, he actually was just a bit toned. Then muscular guys cropped up in more and more action movies and dear 'Arnie' Schwarzenegger changed things forever.

For some reason that didn’t happen for the ladies. Linda Hamilton was as impressive in TheTerminator as Arnold, great to watch and very well trained.

Why then did the guys hit the gyms wanting to look like Schwarzenegger although his film roles were never what one would call sophisticated, while no women was the least bit interested to look like the female counterpart who was fighting for her future like a lioness? Doing basically the same thing that mainstream woman does on a daily basis - well, we usually don't use guns but we have our weapons...

We can take pain better, we have more endurance, and if we put our minds to something we are usually more persistent. So why are we scared to show how strong we really can be?

Are we just generously leaving the guys the last domain where they usually are a bit better than we?

Physical Strength!

I really would like to know what makes women tick in this respect. My strength only ever gave me advantages:

I always liked the independence my muscles offered me - for most of my daily tasks and hobbies like carrying cat litter, doing DIY and gardening, I don’t need any help. 

I like the way how muscles can shape a body. Since about four years I am gradually building the body I want. Given the seasonal hiccups and the one or the other chocolate binge it goes a bit back and forth, but looking at the grand picture I’m getting there. I’m marching towards the big 5-0 and feel more attractive and confident than ever.

I like the health aspect about it, for example I will never have problems with osteoporosis and my back pain is gone.

Demolishing patio to make place
for a driveway in 2006

I like the calories that my muscles burn. Metabolism goes up and down with body weight (even if caused by fat). Although many obese people claim to have a low metabolism they are wrong as studies show. Since muscles are even heavier and more active than fat - they do look better, though - every pound of muscle I own allows me to eat a few calories more without guilt.

I like how physical strength radiates into my general attitude towards life and achieving things. I dare doing more things, like the jet ski tour. Firstly, because I can rely on my body and secondly, because I know how achievement feels and I want more of it… in any respect.

And I like the compliments I get. Now that I am almost 50, I get more honest compliments than back in my twenties. More honest in a way that I get compliments although the guys know that I am married and a flirt won’t get them anywhere. And they still compliment me.

Well, that may scare some of you: But believe me, there are a lot of guys out there who like their ladies strong. And they come in any age and colour, they are either strong themselves or guys who never hit the gym, they are working class or from university. For me a strong man doesn’t have to have muscles but is able to be peers with a physically strong woman.

Me age 46, 2007

I couldn’t imagine being with someone who would prefer me weak!

Independence health
drive for achievement
easier food management

All good and nice things. And still: women are not interested at all in my way of training. I hear a lot about back pain, weight problems and lack of drive to achieve things. They are trying the standard ways and are happy to exhaust themselves in the aerobic classes, but as soon as they touch a weight they reduce themselves to wimps.

One argument I often hear is that women are afraid to look bulky. Well, firstly I have to ask something: How can one have a pot belly and a fat bum and then be afraid of a round shoulder muscle and a bit of a biceps? How can one have bingo wings and be afraid of a firm piece of tissue in the same place? Girls, you are looking bulkier with the padding you are carrying.

Secondly, I have to say is that I am probably at the maximum of muscle growth that I can achieve, and I have deliberately chosen to work for an all over muscly look. My main sport is the Body Building.

Test picture for photoshoot with Babul 2007

However, someone who mainly is a runner would only train the muscles that make sense for a runner, and someone who has problems with a balanced body image would work to adjust that. The size of a muscle and which muscles one wants to train is an entirely individual choice. Hence I just can't let bulkiness count as a reason against weight exercises as long as one hasn't at least tried.

Then Body Building is blamed to be time consuming. Well, yeah! But how many of you gave up aerobics when you got so fit that the one class wasn’t a challenge anymore and got boring. You may have even taken on a second one, and have been running for an hour instead for just a half, or you went twice a week. And then it became all too much time to invest and then all the achieved faded into the background again – until the next time when you had gotten fat and needed some exercise.

And now I may have even found a counter argument for the time problem. I might have found a training style with which one can get away with 1 ½  - 2 hours  of weight exercises per week. However, this is not a style of training where somebody does it for you. You will have to get to know yourself and your body. One would have to put in something like a 3 month period of building up to the full impact, meaning raising the training intensity and not the duration. During this period quite a bit of theory needs to be digested as well, involving a mental component which comes rather close to Yoga or Tai Chi.

However, all this will become second nature, and the learned will have an impact on every day life as well. After that period one will never have to pay for a personal trainer again, one will know enough to create and amend training plans, and training breaks will not considered to be failure but a need, so no guilt anymore when holidays don't allow for training. I am experimenting with this right now and I’m loving it. Will keep you posted, true to the motto:

Knowledge is Power is Strength is Freedom!

Jan 2009

Articles on Training

Norwich Half Marathon 08
Race for Life 2008
Rowing League 07/08
Imola: MH 10K, 07
Rika: Race for Life 07

Ballet for Oldies
Training Plan 2008
Boxing vs. Kickboxing
What Sport to Choose?
An Experiment
Good Use for Chocolate

Being Strong
Women and Strength?
Why Muscles?
Lucky Number 12
Ladies are Stronger!

Being Fit
Rowing - Fantastic Sport

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Copyright 2007
Author: Rika