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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

then and now

If you hang around any online fitness forums, I don't have to tell you that your average 17 year old boy is completely convinced that all that stands between him and success with the ladiez is obtaining rippling ab muscles. I often want to advise these misguided children that charm and personality will get them laid more--a lot more--than that six pack they crave (after all charm can totally be deployed in situations where it's impossible to go shirtless). I'd like to suggest they work on developing conversational skills and a twinkle in their eyes, rather than hanging legs raises. But I'm not their wise old auntie Andrea and kids don't listen anyway.

My same-age friends and I occasionally wonder amongst ourselves when having a six pack became a "thing". It seems like, much like pubic hair removal or pedicures, it went from being something that no one ever thought much about to something almost mandatory overnight. The other day I postulated that no one in the 70s and early 80s had abs and told my audience to go look it up. But because I don't trust anyone to do so, I thought I'd do the work myself.

Here's a man who was one of the biggest sex symols of the early 80s:

And here's a man who is one of the biggest sex symbols of the 2000s:

From "maybe you can make out abs if you squint a little" to "yeah, you could grate cheese on that."


Most famous swimmer of the 1970s:

Most famous swimmer of this millennium:

[In fairness to Mr Spitz, his medals might be hiding some of the glory, and Mr Phelps is less cut in one of those pictures than the other.]

How about famous musicians that women would drop their panties for, no question? 70s version:

Today's version:

And stars who've been around forever can illustrate for us the metamorphosis of no abs to abs:

But what about the ladies? There are a lot of young women who want a six pack too these days. I don't know what they're seeing in the media to drive that, because I had a hard time finding examples of female celebrities with really defined abs.

There's everyone's favorite pr0n star turned fitness guru:

And there's Miss Jackson (if you're nasty):

And then there's Megan Fox, who apparently men find irresistible:

But back in the late 70s and early 80s, we had this:

And, from one of the most iconic film scenes of my youth, this:

Lovely, lovely abdomens on lovely young women, but not a popping muscle to be seen.

And then, of course, we had this:

When your sex symbols are wearing bathing suits like that, the rest of us weren't worrying about our 4 or 6 or 8 packs, capice?

So, kids, I hope this little travel through time has convinced you that my thesis is correct: in my day no one had abs! But as in everything in life, there are always early adopters.

Take it away, Iggy!


Friday, August 19, 2011

half of life is just showing up

Is that the correct quote? You'd think someone with google at their fingertips could, y'know, go look it up, especially since "go" would mean clicking on a new tab, not walking to a book shelf or, like, the library in three feet of snow, uphill. You'd think that, but you'd be wrong. We're just gonna pretend that's a famous quote. If not, it should be. In fact, it is now: "half of life is just showing up"--malevolent andrea, 2011. Tattoo that on your person somewhere. Not too close to your crotch though, 'k?

Ahem. Whatever are you talking about, Andrea? Oh, just that I won my online muscle-building competition today. Solely and completely because of the other five chicks who signed up in April, I was the *only one* who made it to the finish line in August and posted ending pictures. Yes, I won by default. Not the most glorious of all possible victories, but one hundred bucks and some free supplements is one hundred bucks and some free supplements!

Tenacity and a high tolerance for public embarrassment will indeed get you somewhere. Life lesson, all y'all.


Monday, August 15, 2011

grow lats or die

That's going to be my new motto.

Yesterday I took end-of-contest pictures for the silly little online muscle building competition I've been doing for the past four months and my back, she don't grow width-wise. Which is why not being able to zip that dress all the way the other week was particularly maddening. But anyway, I see very minuscule changes in my before and after pictures all around, even though I have been working hard and working hard at eating. Let me tell you something about this whole bulking business. Eating even when you don't want to is surprisingly harder than you would think if you have never been in the position to do it before. It is in fact work.

This all leads me to the big ol' philosophical upchuck I'm about to spew on you. (See what I did there?) One major reason I entered this competition was so it would commit me to keep bulking for the entire four months. I knew that if I didn't have some kind of outside commitment, it would be very easy to give up on it. Not that making a public commitment to something guarantees I'll follow through, but it helps. But why would I find it difficult to keep on doing something that, on the surface, seems pleasant? After all, eating more, and indulging more, sounds fun and enjoyable, right? And there isn't a chance I'd suddenly decide I didn't like going to the gym, because you know I think it's the most fun you can have with (most of) your clothes on. So what's the prob, Andrea?

Some of it I've detailed (ad nauseum) before. It's scary after having lost a chunk of weight to voluntarily put some back on. Psychologically, you (by which I mean me) can feel constantly one extra bagel away from OMFG obesity epidemic! It's not rational, but feelings are feelings. And, as I have also mentioned frequently, there's the whole cultural piece in which people of the female persuasion can never be too thin or too small. Purposefully putting on weight seems almost like a perversion in our culture. But it struck me in examining my (lack of) progress pictures that there is one more and perhaps most important piece to this.

Why would I decide to stop bulking and start dieting? Because, for me--for most women--losing weight is hella easy and putting on muscle is motherfucking hard. Last spring/summer I lost between fifteen and twenty pounds in three months and totally transformed my body. Like, my body at the middle of May and my body at the middle of August looked totally different. This spring/summer I put on maybe three pounds of muscle and three pounds of fat and water weight over four and a half months. My body at the beginning of April and my body at the middle of August look...not totally different. You gotta kinda squint and use wishful thinking to see any kind of changes in the progress pictures.

Losing weight was easier in terms of effort too. Once you spend the first few days being miserable, you (yeah, by which I mean me) get into the groove and you get used to not eating as much and not eating whatever it is you've chosen to cut out, and there's all this external validation as the scale numbers go down and the pants keep getting looser and looser and everyone keeps saying, OMG! you're getting so thin! Whereas the muscle comes on so slowly and no one notices, except maybe if you have a kind and supportive trainer like Liz who points out the striations in your rear delt and makes you want to very inappropriately kiss her. So you're plugging on and plugging on with no real external validation that your hard work is doing anything, other than that your lifts are going up. (And then, if you are me, you read a bunch of people saying that your lifts should *always* be going up, even when you're dieting, and that makes you feel like, eh, again, what's the point of me eating all this damn food?)

Having realized all this has reaffirmed my commitment to keep on bulking, even now that this contest is going to be over. Why? Because, damn it, I ain't giving up just because it's hard. To steal and twist around someone's hilarious sig line, I may have a vagina, but I am not a pussy. So, yeah. Grow lats or die!


Friday, August 12, 2011

books i hate, part II

The Scarlet Letter! Only "classic" of "world literature" that I had to read both in high school and in college. It wasn't any better the second time around. Nathaniel Hawthorne, you got a lot to answer for. Oh, wait, it's supposed to be books I hate that have to do with fitness. Never mind then.

But before we get to our real next book review, lemme tell you a little story. Two summers I ago I was a combatant in what I fondly (ahem) called The War Against My Uterus. Hey, when you bleed from your vag for ten weeks in an eleven week period and then the hormones they put you on to stop the bleeding while they try to figure out what's wrong with you and schedule surgery make you way crazier than you were to begin with, you gotta laugh or you'll cry, y'know? In my attempt to find out more about my uterine uprising than what webMD was telling me, I went on to see if there were a womb book equivalent to the famous Dr Susan Love's Breast Book.

Well. I looked in "Women's Health", which is where I would think a reasonably intelligent person would seek literature about female reproductive organs, no? Well, thinks women's health is comprised of two areas and two areas (mostly) alone: pregnancy/fertility (reasonable) and weight loss (WTF?). Yes, a vast number of the books they classify as "women's health" are diet books. This made me rage. [Believe me, when you have a period that lasts two and a half months, you are even crankier than usual.] Furthermore, almost all the diet and fitness books aimed at women promised one thing: that you'll be sexier. Oh, that made me rage more. Yes, I suppose that is an enormous health problem, what with expiring of non-sexiness being the number one killer of women in America and, indeed, probably most of the developed world. Once malaria and bubonic plague are taken care of, our undesirability or lack of conventional good looks is what knocks us off like flies, doncha know.

So, yeah, even when I am not anemic, spending a fortune on tampons, and/or hormonally deranged, I am not a big fan of nutritional and exercise advise being peddled to women as being first and foremost about making them sexah. First of all, there are way more important reasons to be fit and at a healthy weight. Secondly, the whole idea that having a certain body type and shape as the only factor in sexiness is so far from true--no matter what the media would have us believe--it's ridiculous. Being thin does not equal being sexy. Being muscular doesn't equal being sexy. Being sexy is all about a certain je ne sais quoi that you either have or don't and which no diet book can give you. [Ed. note: I have it; that's why I am chronically single. Oh, I crack myself up. Carry on. There really is a book review coming in here somewhere. Seriously.]

This all brings us to another classic of world literature, The Female Body Breakthrough by Rachel Cosgrove. The only reason I bought this book was that Charlotte Hilton Andersen of The Great Fitness Experiment (whose book I did NOT hate, incidentally; in fact, I liked it very much and you should probably buy and read it yourself!) said that the workout in it gave her the most results of anything she had ever tried. I wouldn't myself be able to tell you if Ms Cosgrove's weightlifting program is indeed stellar and does indeed build your muscle and cut your fat like all get out because reading her book for approximately five minutes filled me with such loathing that I will never ever try it. Yes, this is a book all about lifting weights for women whose selling point is mainly ooo, lifting weights will make you hawt! and you will get teh menz you want and all the other bitchez be jellus of you! Rage.

Now it is entirely possible that Ms Cosgrove is not entirely, or even mostly, to blame for this. It is entirely possible that this is what her editors wanted and demanded and the only way she could get this shiz published is to write and sell it that way. Too bad. She is complicit. When she starts talking in the freaking introduction about wanting to turn me into a "fit and fabulous female", I want to fly to California, go to her gym, and punch her in the head. Repeatedly. (That, I'm sure, is a good workout, but it might not make me sexy.) So, what is a "fit female"? Let's let Ms Cosgrove answer that in her own words, shall we?

You know the girl...the one at the last party you went to who walked in the room feeling sexy and confident in her flirty black dress without a roll or a bulge in sight and worked the room with her confidence, looking fabulous! At the time, you may have referred to her as "that bitch who walked in the room thinking she is somebody," and you might have wondered who she thought she was. But deep down we all know she has what all of us want

Um, yeah. That's us chicks, always jealous and competitive with other chicks and hating all the ones we think are better looking than us. Have we time travelled back to 1952 or something? Except, yeah, wasn't true then either. Maybe we've time travelled back to middle school! Sigh. Yes, Ms Cosgrove wants us to be a BITCH, except "from now on, BITCH stands for Be Inspiring, Totally Confident, and Hot!" Tell the truth. Don't you want to fly to California and punch her, too? Do I need to quote more examples, or do we have the flavor here? This is a weightlifting book for women who a.) read Cosmo and b.) take it seriously. I wasn't sure there was anyone over the age of 17 who does that, but whatever. I'm sure Ms Cosgrove and her editors scoped out their target market.

I myself am waiting for the weightlifting book for us wimmenz that approaches it as "throwing some iron around is gonna make you feel all RAWR!" Can't we sell fitness to women as something that's going to make them feel, and be, strong and badass? I myself am more empowered when I look over and notice that I am rowing more than the guy on the bench next to me than I am by having someone check out my ass. Don't get me wrong, being checked out is always (ok, sometimes) nice and feeling attractive is empowering in its own way. It just is not the only freaking thing in life. Rawr!

And now, to reward you for reading my anger-filled screed, here's an example where "sexy" did NOT piss me off. I kinda love this to pieces.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

the land of expensive yoga pants

You'll all be thrilled to hear that I got my delayed myofascial massage from Jim this morning. Two massages in three days. Next we'll be calling me "Lance", huh? The only problem with that--and believe me, I do know two massages in three days should not allow anyone any room to bitch--is that I had to tip my comped massage *and* I had to tip Jim. So I spent a bit more money than planned. This will perhaps come in later in our story. Oooo, foreshadowing!

Anyway, one of the things Jim did when he was stretching my legs and mobilizing my hip flexors for me, was have me push against his resistance. "Engage your gluts," Jim says. "Like you're squatting." Oh, we're going there, are we? Okay. "Strong legs," Jim says. And I say, smirking, "I lift a lot of weights." Oh, I am such a douche. "Good for you!" Jim says with nary a trace of sarcasm. The ability to forgo sarcasm despite its almost overwhelming pull is quite useful in a gratuity-based profession, n'est pas?

I left with all my fascia ungunked and, since it was pouring rain and my feet were soaked to the ankle the minute I stepped foot outside and my hair was frizzing out to four times its normal volume, I figured there was no point in going home. Stay out and get even wetter! It seemed the thing to do. And thus I ended up (eventually) at the Pru, home to the temple, the shrine, of expensive yoga pants, Lululemon.

Now my friends all know that I frequently make jokes and bemoan the fact that apparently (if the omniscient google ads is correct, and god knows, they are omniscient) no matter how punk rock I see myself in my mind, I have actually turned into the kind of person who buys expensive yoga pants. But actually I don't. I buy the less expensive knockoffs of the Lululemon yoga pants from the Gap, which while not what one might actually call *inexpensive* can frequently be found on sale. I have been in the Lululemon store exactly twice before today. It kind of scares me.

But today I wandered in because I was in the neighborhood and I had heard that their sports bras are very good. I'm on the verge of needing a new one and my old one is no longer on sale at the place I bought it. On my way to the fitting room with my prospective new bra in hand, I pass by a rack of shorts. These shorts, to be exact.

These are the "biker groove short" and they cost $52. I take them into the dressing room to try on with the bra in some kind of momentary insanity. Because, sweet Mary mother a god, they are some kind of miracle short. I don't know what kind of engineering marvel is involved, but they suck in everything that should be sucked in, and push up everything that should be pushed up. They made me look the way I think I should look for how hard I work at the gym as opposed to how I actually do look, if that makes sense. So much so that I considered very very hard whether I wanted to buy them. $52 shorts. And here was my reasoning. I got back a rebate from Home Depot for $25 in the form of a Visa check card. I also this week got the $15 co-pay I paid my GYN's office back in February refunded to me for reasons that are not clear. So, if you think about it, that's $40 that's already been spent. That I wouldn't have missed if it hadn't arrived in my mail. I could buy those shorts and, y'know, it would really only be like paying $12. I managed to talk myself out of it. After all, I spent $35 in massage tips this weekend. So I'm only really $5 up.

Those of you who actually manage your money like adults can stop laughing now. Thanks!

When I got home and searched for them online so I could stick that picture in my post, I found that they ship for free. So now they're sitting in my cart. Probably I will empty it. Probably. But just imagine how much swagger those magical miracle pants would give me. I'd probably be all like this:

No? Too much? How about this then?

Just remember. No matter where you go, you are what you are, playa. (Even in expensive yoga pants.) Peace!


Friday, August 5, 2011

how to get a comped massage and fail in the squat rack

I've been feeling really tight in the shoulders (stress) and really tight in the hip flexors (lots of leg work, lots of walking, failure to do my yin yoga stretches like I know I'm supposed to). On a good day, I can do this:

Lately? Not so much.

Since the friend with whom I usually trade massages has been very busy with family and traveling, I decided I would, alas, have to suck it up and pay for a massage like a normal person. Son of a bitch.

Also, since I felt like it was the fascia in my hips that needed loosening before I resumed my regular hip-opener stretching program, I decided to book some myofascial work at the bodywork place that is convenient to my work and my gym. And since I train with Liz at 6:30 on Fridays, but get out of work 3:30ish, I figured, oh! perfect! I will book an hour massage at 4pm, be redressed and, y'know, sheveled by 5:15, with plenty of time to have a bite to eat and clear my fuzzy massage brain, change into my gym clothes, and pump out a few minutes of warm up cardio before it's 6:30 and time to squat.

Well, it wouldn't be my life if things went seamlessly according to plan, now, would it? This afternoon the massage place calls and says that my therapist will be delayed, and could I possibly come at five pm instead. I say yes. I really want this massage. But it screws up my itinerary plenty. Now I have to eat something at 4, when I'm not going to be particularly hungry, and go have my massage on a full belly. And then I will have only half an hour to redress, clear my head, and get to the gym to warm up. Nevertheless. I REALLY WANT THIS MASSAGE.

I get there at 4:58 and the receptionist/office manager tells me to have a seat. She does not say anything along the lines of, "Jim will be with you in a minute" or "Jim will be out to get you shortly." Indeed, she has what might be construed as a slightly worried look on her face.

Not that worried, but definitely not relaxed.

Minutes tick by. It is getting to the point where I think I am going to have to say that I cannot stay as I have another appointment immediately after. Just as I'm about to do that, the manager lady and a lovely young woman come over and explain Jim is still 30 minutes away and stuck in traffic and they feel terrible and while The Lovely Young Woman cannot give me an hour myofascial treatment, she would like to work on me without charge and then we can reschedule my appointment with Jim. Fair enough!

And she does a very nice job, including performing the simplest and yet best feeling psoas stretch I've ever felt (leading me to wonder why the fuck I *didn't* know it). I would love to show you pictorially, but my amazing google fu has failed me. What she did was abduct my leg so that it hung over the side of the table and my pelvis fell open and then...just left it there for awhile. So simple. Felt so good.

I was enjoying my massage so much that I really didn't have a good sense of how much time had passed. Well, apparently "can't give you an hour myofascial treatment" didn't in fact mean "can't give you an hour treatment." My little therapist left the room for me to get dressed and, holy crap, it was 6:20 pm.

And thus it came to pass that I appeared at the gym still fuzzy-headed (with a side of adrenaline jolt) and with face-cradle face. I proceeded to fail my last squat rep of my last two sets. Stuck in the hole I was.

Like that guy. Only, y'know, with fewer plates. Probably he had bodywork too close to his leg day workout too!