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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

in which i torture you with more nostalgia

Apparently February is trip-down-memory-lane month here at MMiNaE.  (We the management do NOT plan these themes, they just happen. Like surprise pregnancies or toenail fungus. Something like that.) Anyway! Today's post is going to travel even further back in time, back back back to the late '70s, when your humble correspondent was in high school.

I've mentioned before that I was a small, clutzy, not particularly fast child*** and that thus while I was not picked last in gym class or on the playground, I definitely was picked in the lower third. And I've mentioned that I therefore grew up not thinking of myself as an athlete in any way, shape, or form and was surprised to find in my middle age that, hey, I'm kinda good at lifting weights and sorta strong for my size.  Since realizing this, I've lamented that I didn't find this out earlier, like, say, in high school or college. It would have made my emotional relationship with my own body for the next 30+ years different, I think, and definitely would have increased my self confidence.  Nowadays when I'm in the gym I (improbably) think of myself as a little badass and that affects**** me outside the gym as well. The funny thing, though, is that I also realize that even 35 years ago, that's what I wanted to be.  I just had no way, and no encouragement, to make that a reality, at least in healthy ways.*****

During my recent closet/drawer cleaning binge, it came to my attention that I only still own three things from my high school days.  A big white piggy bank with red hearts on it that my future ex-husband bought for me for Valentine's Day 1979 at Quincy Market, back when Quincy Market was an awesome cool place to go on a date. (Ha!)  A gold and onyx ring that was not new when it was given to me and that, after many years of being worn on and off, has worn so thin in the band that I would fear to wear it now.  And a pair of 5 lb plastic weights filled with sand I bought my freshman year (?) of high school and that has survived many moves with me, living on a basement shelf unused for the almost 18 years I've lived in this house. Like the piggy bank and the ring, I've never quite been able to bring myself to get rid of them. It's strange.

I always say that my genesis for wanting muscles was Terminator 2, but obviously the existence of those 5 lb weights proves that's not strictly true. I remember buying them at the army/navy/sporting goods store where we all bought our Levis, convinced that if I just did every arm exercise I knew a hundred times every day, I would have beautiful "toned" (gag) arms. Obviously no one had told me (in gym class or in the many many articles in Seventeen or Glamour magazine that promised I would be skinny if I only did the proscribed exercises 20 minutes a day) about crucial concepts like rep schemes, progression, or rest days, and me n' my lil plastic weights were doomed to failure.

Is it time for this picture? Sure. It's never not time for this picture.

Later, the summer before junior year, I have my second distinct memory of wanting a muscular body.  I was in my boyfriend's car, stopped at a light, and a girl/young woman crossed the street in front of us.  She was wearing a racer back tank top and she had what I would now refer to as a V shape as well as beautiful shoulders.  I remember being acutely jealous that her back and shoulders looked like that, as well as thinking that you had to be born with that shape or you'd never have it. See: misinformed again.

Finally, junior year we got a Nautilus machine for the girls' locker room. In 1978, this was fancy shmancy and newfangled and no one was sniffing about how free weights were far superior, yo. No, this was cutting edge. And the reason we got it was--according to our gym teachers anyway--that seeing as the boys had gotten one for the football team to use, they had to provide one for us or someone could sue their asses because of Title IX. (I am woman, hear me roar.  The '70s were basically awesome.)  No one taught us to use it or cared whether we did, but some of the gym teachers would let us stay down in the locker room to purportedly use it instead of playing volleyball or some such shit.  In reality this meant we mostly sat around on it and chatted. But I did love to use the leg press section. Many many many light weight reps of course. Sigh.

So, yeah. If I carefully look back, I always did want to lift weights. I always was drawn to it. I just was never encouraged or taught anything useful about it. That's a pity. What gym class could have been, if only...

The reason I even started thinking about all this today is this article about being picked last in gym class.  In particular, one comment was from someone who said she was indeed always picked last in gym class but that it didn't bother her. She knew she was good at other things and felt it was almost fair for the kids who weren't good at scholastics to have something to shine at. I can see that, actually. I mean, do we rail against the cruelty of spelling bees because of how humiliating they must be for the dyslexic or poor-of-rote-memory? On the other hand, because of my own experience, I really wish gym class was about everyone finding a physical activity that they really like and are potentially good at. That's the kind of thing that will carry through a person's whole life, you know?


***who grew up to be a small, clutzy, not particularly fast adult, go figure

****or effects, possibly. I dunno, I always get that wrong.

*****I mean, learning to pee standing up between two parked cars the summer I graduated high school made me feel like a little badass too and proved useful in the years of drunken shenanigans that followed, but do we REALLY want to encourage that type of behavior?

Footnotes! Out of control since 2011!


  1. Hi, I realize this is totally off the topic but.. I really enjoy the exercise videos you post. I have started to do the kneeling squat but I'm not sure about the foot placement. I have seen clips with the top of the foot totally flat on the ground and then where the foot is more vertical. What do you do?

  2. Oh, interesting question! I always do them with the top of my foot flat on the ground. By more vertical, do you mean like with your toes tucked under? I just got down on the floor to try the movement both ways. (LOL) The only difference I could see was that I got a shorter ROM with my toes tucked, because I aim to completely sit back onto my heels at the bottom of the movement. I will say, the shoes I lift in have zippers on the top of them, so I take them off to do kneeling squats. Otherwise the zipper digs into the top of my foot. Really prefer not to get a major foot cramp with 185 lbs on my back! ;-)

  3. Hi again, Thanks for the foot info . You are right. the toes tucked make it easier due to the shorter ROM. Your 185 lbs. is enviable. Do you find a 1:1 correlation between the kneeling squat and the hip thrust for weight?

  4. Honestly, I've never been able to properly set up for hip thrusts in my gym, so I can't say. From what other people have told me, there is a close correlation between the two, but I can't personally confirm it. At a certain point I think it's going to end up to be like doing standing calves in the Smith--I need to go up to 215-225ish to actually feel it in my calves, but holding that much weight on my back hurts my spine. :-( I imagine that just as my calf strength overmatches my back strength, my glute strength is gonna overtake my back strength. That's the advantage to hip thrusts over kneeling squats. Hip thrust doesn't rely on upper body strength at all.

    (Total conjecture, of course. If anyone reading this has any other experience/knowledge, please chime in!)

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