Yesterday, I stepped foot into a gym for a first time in years and immediately turned into a dudebro. Taa-daah!
Kidding – hanging out at the gym all the time can be a consequence of dudebroism, but it is not its cause. I joined a network of university gyms that only admit students, employees and anyone with a degree, so I rather hope the percentage of dudebros will be somewhat below average.
There was a token group of manotaurs congregated by the free weights section, but the laws of the universe pretty much dictate the presense of such a group in front of any public or semi-public weight rack. Other than that, the «natives» were very diverse in sex, age, fitness level and interests, making for a pleasantly relaxed environment.
My mom and I had signed up for the basic strength counselling to make starting out easier. The gym provides that service at no additional charge. Our trainer showed us the works and explained that they have most people do a standard six-week-program first, before any individualization takes place. I suppose it serves both as a rite of passage and a thorough assesment of your abilities. This way, the trainer doesn’t have to bother devising an individual program for the high percentage of people who never show up again. It also ensures that you can at least lift the «bar» part of «barbell training».
The program is very straightforward, mostly machines with some bodyweight exercises thrown in. I was kinda hoping to start on the free weights – compound exercises with free weights work more muscles in more ways, making them better suited to dancers’ needs, whereas machines are very restrictive. Then again, six weeks of machines will probably not kill me.
I have to admit that I got the lofty ideas about free weights off Nerd Fitness. I deemed the site to be mostly trustworthy based off the fact that I couldn’t find anything glaringly scientifically wrong with it and it never tried to sell me protein powder. They have an inordinate fondness for Paleo, but it’s not «PALEO OR DIE», so I don’t mind. Plus, they have Star Wars references!
A lifting and scientifically-minded friend also recommended Mark Rippetoe’s book Starting Strength. I immediately bought it, only to discover that not only is it a book to lift by, it is also a book to lift with, especially if you have noodle arms like me. I’m intending to read it by the time my six weeks are through and the manotaurs let me into the free weight section without trampling me.
In case you were wondering, I have two goals. The first one is – obviously – to dance better. I noticed an amazing improvement in my dancing after my summer physio jam and my therapist instructed me to continue along those lines in order to prevent further injuries. My second goal is to be able to do a hand stand. I have never even done a cartwheel, even as a kid, and hand stands were inconceivable. (See: noodle arms.)
This goal was neatly visualised by that one dude at the gym yesterday who was practicing hand balancing while my trainer was talking. Needless to say, I got very distracted!
«But Dork, won’t you look like Arnold Schwarzenegger?» No. Most women lack the testosterone needed to bulk up like many men would. Besides, lifting heavy things regularly will not make you look like a professional body builder. Lifting heavy things according to a strict and very specific training plan, eating a strict and very specific diet and/or taking anabolic steroids will. You cannot accidentally look like a body builder unless you accidentally do all of the above, then accidentally fall into a vat of spray tan and accidentally carb load and dehydrate yourself. Want to see what women who lift really heavy shit look like? Google female powerlifters or Olympic weightlifters instead. And if we’re honest, the odds of me achieving that level are about as high as the odds of me becoming a professional ballerina.
The lifting friend who recommended that book looks amazing, by the way. She is also the person who kinda inspired me to sign up for a dance class. I hope I’m going to look like her – no offence, Arnie. (Except for my face, which is obviously beyond any help, haha.)