Doing Some Deadlifting And Thoughts From the Dark Side

Here’s my deadlift session from yesterday. I plan on posting a concise, thoughtful–or an awkward, dorky–written post early next week. For now, training is going quite well and I’m slowly but surely turning myself into a cow.

Actually, I probably shouldn’t make fun of my bulking like that. It’s not a show of solidarity with the part of myself that’s all “long term goals! Work towards them!” and it’s rather cruel. It speaks to the insecurity I harbor about getting bigger. I feel bigger. I can see it. I, in turn, feel clunky and highly unattractive. I guess I’ll get used to this, but I’m definitely not at peace with it right now. I wish I could be more positive about this process, but I am generally doing pretty well if I cruise on neutral in my attitude about it at the moment.

As I’ve mentioned before, the dark truth of the matter is that I’m very happy (and simultaneously very miserable) keeping myself as small as possible. I’m good at it. A part of me cannot WAIT till I make the decision to try to bring my weight down again–because I will, in service of my lifting and competition and at least partly my own vanity. I wish I could write otherwise, but I can’t. I should, perhaps, be focusing on other thoughts about my training and my body in this blog, but I also don’t want to be anything other than honest in this space.

I believe the true key to making peace with the relationship between oneself and one’s body when choosing to, as a woman, get bigger is to step far above the process of championing a larger body as being comparably beautiful to a smaller one. I don’t think finding a bunch of images of ripped women, “curvy” women–whatever iteration of the female body’s composition that carries more mass–and declaring that aesthetic as “beautiful, too!” is going to solve one’s issue of self-denigration. There are two problems with this type of “fitspiration:”

1. As I have said before, if you look at a picture of another woman, you are looking at something that is unattainable for your own body. I don’t care if you end up with the same lean mass to body fat ratio as anther woman–your proportions do not exactly match hers. Your body is genetically programmed to carry muscle mass in certain areas more than hers probably is (example: I have stupidly large obliques for absolutely no reason other than training and mostly genetics. I NEVER spot-train obliques, but proportionately they are very large on my abdomen, partly due to how short my torso is). Comparison will always fall short when the goal is to “feel better” about oneself.

2. The bigger issue of the two problems I’m outlining here is worth as defined by perceived beauty. We cannot get over this idea that we have worth, social currency, and yes, power, if we possess pleasing aesthetics. I believe this is a far greater problem than whether or not I feel good about how I look–because I feel less of a need to have an opinion related to how I look if I don’t feel like it’s my key to social survival. No one wants to talk about this for fear of getting labeled as unreasonable–“of course looks are important! You can’t deny it! It’s irrevocably entrenched in our collective, perhaps biological consciousness to consider looks!” I won’t deny this. I also refuse to be prisoner to it, I refuse to not work towards and promote a mentality that is “above” it when judging my own worth at a fundamental level.

I like pretty things. I like stupid Pinterest. I like makeup, I like screwing around with my somewhat hopeless hair, I like neat-looking workout clothing that I can’t afford. I acknowledge that I hold a mental duality in hoping to rise above a qualification of myself that relies on aesthetics while simultaneously taking pleasure in engaging in augmenting them. I believe, however, that I can separate myself from being wholeheartedly devoted to my image as being what determines my effectiveness as a human being. When I’m down on myself for metamorphosing into a cow in the name of my sport, I am failing to rise above the lines drawn by subjectivity that determine a false worth.

I’m pretty good at picking up a loaded bar. I’m trying to be good at picking myself up.

My lips disappear when I pull.
My lips disappear when I pull.

Jennifer Petrosino Discusses Women’s Metabolism

Jenny is an incredible powerlifter who competes in the 97 and 105 lb weight classes. In this video, she discusses how macronutrient breakdown and different types of training can have an impact on women’s metabolisms. This topic is incredibly under-addressed perhaps because it’s a complicated one, and I think that discussion of it as Jenny puts forth here is crucial to furthering an understanding of how our bodies respond to lifting.

I encourage everyone to subscribe to Jenny on youtube and find her on Instagram (I am so addicted to Instagram, argh)–her username on both social media platforms is “jennympetro” sans quotation marks, of course.

Compare and Despair and Instagram is My Self-Help Tool

Compare and despair. This is one of the more annoying phrases with which I was ever inculcated while in therapy, but I find myself unable to dismiss it on grounds of it smelling of overzealous positivity–it holds truth. I both follow and actively compete in powerlifting, and both the following and the competitive engagement are difficult to pull off without a social component. Indeed, it is the communal aspect of powerlifting that in part buoys my passion for it. I am generally a loner, and certainly an introvert, but powerlifting gives me the opportunity to have social exchange while still being able to train exactly as I want and compete in my own little self-defined bubble of progress.

Unfortunately, the latter, my “self-defined bubble of progress”, is a bubble that rarely gets through the day without my managing to pop it by comparing my progress to someone else’s via the vast social blanket that is the online lifting world. I am relatively certain this is not an issue isolated to my own experience. On the internet, the ability to an identity with a liberal sense of editing makes for an easy delivery of the best version of oneself. Shit, I do it. Do you see a lot of images of me showcasing how short and thick my torso is? Do you see images of me sitting in my chair, right now, with fuzzy “puffy princess hair,” no makeup, feeling bloated as possible, stubble on my legs, haven’t brushed my teeth yet and it’s 12:45 PM, not really accomplishing anything with my life after acquiring an MFA (hi Dad, I know you’re reading this, and I’d be concerned too. What am I supposed to do with an MFA? Huge mistake, that one. I mean, not as huge as a DUI, in my opinion, so you can’t fault me for at least getting the drugs and alcohol thing right, right?), indolence-inspired slumping shoulders. How much do I go online and write about how absolutely petulant I felt and acted during particular training sessions? If you follow my log in the two places I currently log, which, chances are, you don’t–although you can by clicking here–sometimes I make mention of the poor mindset accompanying certain training dates. I don’t usually go into much detail.


And I am sure as hell not getting on Facebook and trumpeting “I am a freaking baby! My volume squatting sessions aren’t even that damned difficult and I still pout like a four-year-old during at least two thirds of my work sets!” Instead, on my good days, I get on Facebook and post this:

Screen shot 2013-06-19 at 12.51.14 PM

Granted, I didn’t go as self-congratulatory as I could here and note that I squatted 175 x 5 during this session, which, for me, is a pretty significant rep PR. I’m trying to keep this self-aggrandizing crap to a minimum on Facebook, I swear. But even if everyone’s trying to keep their ego in check, and they’re not, and at least half of those people who are not are probably just rocking really solid levels of self-confidence, which is awesome and I don’t have remotely as good a level of it, myself–even if they’re keeping the flow of “I’m awesome” posts down, if you’re friends with, say, 200 lifting-related individuals, you’re probably seeing a sizable amount of stuff in your Facebook feed about stuff those 200 people have managed to do well. And if you’re not among that percentage of people who have figured their shit out and have a pretty solid level of self-confidence, you’re probably doing the comparison thing.

Stop it. There is no greater threat to your lifting than your own mind, and when you’re consciously highlighting ways in which you perceive yourself to be falling short, you are spreading negativity through your psyche. In a sense, you’re poisoning yourself. So you’re probably going to say to me “yeah, but _____ is better than me. That’s truth. You can’t deny it, you hyper-positive freaking cheerleader” and I’ll respond with “yeah, you’re right. I think this way all the time. And then I realize I’m thinking about it, which is exactly what’s doing the poisoning. Only YOU can look at someone else’s lifts, body, manicure, beard, 5000-watt ring, dog, test score, whatever the hell, and rule that they are better than you for their given attribute or acquisition or achievement.” In other words, you take in the information “x just squatted my max for a set of seven” and you can either stop there or you can poison yourself.

It is that easy. And if your default is to poison yourself, then you are responsible for doing the work to make that stop. The easier thing–the self-toxicity–is not the best thing. Here’s a shot of part of my Instagram feed.

Screen shot 2013-06-19 at 1.07.59 PM
notice there are two bicep flex poses going on here as well as a Frenchie. O, beautiful collection of beauteous beauty. 

This is a pretty typical scan of the content in my feed, and for a while, I considered just getting the hell off Instagram because I’d be going in there and being all “oh hell no, I’m like an elephant with no lean mass compared to that” and “why do you get to eat that? Do you get to eat that often? FML and weight classes” and “I just want a French Bulldog, why doesn’t anyone understand this and just give one to me and also have my landlord be okay with it?” And then I realized that I didn’t need to get off Instagram because I am in charge of how I feel in encountering its offerings. And now, I basically use Instagram as a way to work on feelings of jealousy, inadequacy, and the gentle, cloying fear that I have basically turned into a bum post-graduation. Instagram is my self-help tool; lifting is my therapist.

As an end note, I guess I tend to focus on my flaws in this blog quite often. I feel like I do. This is perhaps another small rebellion, aside from bulking, I try to execute: I’m not going to present a fabricated self to the world as much as I’m capable of not doing so. I mean, seriously, no one wants me to document how gross my body actually is, or how my hair looks like the “before” stages in the Disney transformation movies unless I make an effort at it. Because if I documented that, it would just take up pages and I wouldn’t probably get solid lifting in. But I promise to continue to try not to be the “fuck yeah I’m awesome” girl unless I manage to do something truly awesome, which for me is generally breaking lift PRs. If I do that, damn straight I’m going to put it out there.