Thoughts on Fitness Porn

I follow a number of fitness-related Facebook pages. Some are powerlifting related, some are related to general weight training, and some are specifically geared towards women. I do not read every article. I do not express my appreciation of every post by “liking” it. I read articles that are of interest to me, and I “like” stuff that specifically speaks to me. Occasionally, something will come across my newsfeed that causes me to pause but probably not for the reason it was posted. While I am interested in strength training, I am not interested in fitness porn. Most of the time I simply scroll past it, but once in a while I pause to consider how necessary that page is to my day-to-day life.

This scenario happened a few days ago, when a page I follow posted an article about glute training with a photo of a bent over woman holding a barbell while wearing shorts so short they were halfway up her butt. Now I wasn’t offended by the photo. The woman was obviously in good shape, but it was also obviously a staged photo. How many women actually wear that kind of clothing in the gym? Those shorts were so short they couldn’t possibly be comfortable or sanitary. Initially I just scrolled past the article, feeling inner dismay that someone felt the need to use such a picture. Apparently I wasn’t the only one dismayed, because there was quite the buzz in the comments later about the photo. A few women expressed similar sentiments as to what I feel; however, I was even more dismayed to read how many more women reacted with hostility towards the few who didn’t appreciate the photo. Even the page owner (a man) became rather defensive and almost condescending towards the women who didn’t appreciate the photo. He even felt that the picture was okay because his girlfriend selected it. I found it ironic and sad. The women who stated their dislike of the use of the picture were never angry about it. They calmly and rationally expressed their opinion and accepted that everyone wouldn’t share their opinion. The backlash was less kind. Those of us who would rather not see a practically naked woman with the article were called haters, bitter, out of shape, and jealous.

The comments and opinions have been bouncing around in my head ever since. It’s a jumbled mess, I know, because I see the inside of my head all the time! But I have some thoughts and opinions and need to get them outside of my head.

  • The owner of this particular page is himself a powerlifter, trainer and gym owner. His page is an extension of his business, so he can do what he likes with his page. Totally understand and agree.
  • That said, his page caters to women. I also follow a few strength training pages that also cater to women. While I can’t say that there has never been a fitness porn photo on those other pages, I do know that the bulk of the photos and videos show real women wearing real clothes. When I say real women I mean women of all shapes and sizes, including the ones with amazing bodies. When I say real clothes, I mean anything from leggings and baggy t-shirts to short shorts and sports bras. There is a difference between short shorts and the shorts that expose half your ass!
  • I also follow pages that have a more male focus, and I don’t recall ever seeing a man posed as if lifting while wearing virtually nothing. I did a quick scan through these pages today, and all I could see was men in long, baggy shorts. The only exception is when a guy was trying to show off his quads and had his shorts pulled up as high as they’d go. Double standard much?
  • The controversial photo didn’t offend me. I am not a prude, but I suppose you can call me old-fashioned. I wear shorts when I train, but everything is covered. Sometimes I wear t-shirts and sometimes tank tops. I don’t think I could ever just wear a sports bra, but that’s just me.
  • What bothers me about the photo is that it was unnecessary, especially, in my opinion, on a page/site geared for women. Will some find it inspiring or motivating? Probably! Will everyone? No. Is it even healthy to hold someone else’s body up as inspiration or motivation? I could be wrong, but I don’t think it’s a good idea. When I started my fitness journey, I wanted to lose weight and get in shape, because I didn’t like the image I saw in the mirror. Anytime I tried to force myself into somebody else’s box, I never fit. My self-confidence grew as I learned how to use my body and grew stronger. The weight dropped and my body slimmed down, but I could never look like Model A or Model B and would only make myself sick trying. While there wasn’t a whole lot wrong with the photo, I think it has the potential to send the wrong message and create the wrong focus among a gender which has long struggled with body image.
  • I unsubscribed to the mail list for this page today. So far I haven’t stopped following the Facebook page, but I am thinking about it. The photo isn’t the ultimate factor, although it is a catalyst. There is plenty of useful information in the articles; however, the same articles show up in my newsfeed with regularity and that bothers me even more than the photo. I don’t need or want to see the same article every week.
  • Some of the defensive comments pointed out that the only way to see all of the glutes was to wear practically nothing. Okay then. Whatever.
  • Yesterday I was at a commercial gym to do some bench pressing, since my coach was still on holidays. Mirrors everywhere. Since I was without my coach, I took some video of my sets. I wore a tank top and shorts. You know what I noticed in the mirrors and in my videos? Some muscle definition! Even with my butt covered. I may not have a body for stepping onto a body building stage, but I have worked hard to be where I am at. Even though I am 45 years old and not a size 0! I am not jealous of anyone with a sculpted body. I know that comes with hard work in and out of the gym. I just choose to not use another woman’s body as my role model or wish list.
  • Can we just accept that fitness porn is a thing and unnecessary? The other female pages I follow have no shortage of followers, even without showing excessive flesh. Obviously fitness porn isn’t absolutely necessary for a fitness business to survive.

Whew! I think I got most of that out of my head. I sure hope so, because I would really like to sleep tonight. This is going to be a crazy, busy, exciting week! After working four closing shifts last week, today was a solitary day off, and I work 3 opens and 1 midday shift over the next four days. Earlier I tried making a list of all that I need to do (because I make lists), but I found that task more challenging than usual. My week definitely feels crunched for time, especially free time, but on paper it doesn’t look like I have too much to do. Ha! Keep telling yourself that, Angela!

The Undiscovered Country

The commercial gym…the final frontier. These are the voyages of Angela. Her mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out a new life, to boldly go where she has never gone before.

Okay, so I have been in commercial gyms before, but today was indeed an entirely new experience. I went to a commercial gym to train this morning, to weight train with free weights…all by myself! There were a couple of instances last year where I had to do some weight training at a commercial gym, but my husband was there to give me a spot and hand-offs when necessary. Eons ago, when I had a gym membership, I never touched the free weights. So training solo today in an unfamiliar gym was a step outside of my comfort zone. Thankfully, I wasn’t planning on attempting any maximal weights, so I felt reasonably confident that I’d be okay on my own.

One thing I do not like about commercial gyms is the equipment. Although I haven’t been to many gyms, my experience has been that commercial equipment is usually awkward to use. The squat racks are impossible to set at the ideal height for me, which means I either need to have an awkwardly low set up or difficulty unracking and re-racking the bar. The deadlift platform had a wicked slope to it, probably just old and worn out. The benches were too short. The markings on the bars were unfamiliar. There wasn’t enough knurling where I needed it. The collars sucked. The rubber plates for deadlifts were a pain to put on and off. No chalk. Too many mirrors. My experience today, however, was not all that bad. Yes, the equipment was unfamiliar and awkward, but I didn’t have to wait for a squat rack or a bench or a platform. No one hassled me. In fact, the only person to speak to me was a guy asking if I was finished with the deadlift platform after I put away all my plates. I was able to do what I needed to do, and the woman at the desk was really quite kind and pleasant. She didn’t charge me the drop-in fee and gave me a 10-day trial pass to use in the future, and she was rather interested in and proud of my powerlifting pursuits.

1a. squats-low bar, with sleeves

45 lbs x 8, 95 x 6

with belt: 135 x 3, 165 x 3

185 x 3 This set was a little bit ugly. I pitched forward coming out of the hole on the first rep and had to take a step forward to catch myself. Pretty sure I saw my life flash before my eyes, and I was seriously tempted to rack the bar; however, I took a couple extra breaths, gave myself a little pep talk, and finished off the set.

195 x 3, 195 x 3

The first set here felt a bit tough but not horrible. Yesterday as I was tentatively hashing out what I would do today, I had thought that I might try some triples at 200 or 205 pounds, depending on how 195 felt. Although the first set felt a bit tough, it wasn’t maximal effort. Still, I decided to do another set at the same weight and then possibly go up for the final set. The second set felt decent, I think, but I had some troubles unracking and re-racking the bar (commercial gym problem!). Getting the bar back on the rack required more effort this time and resulted in some awkward body movement, so I figured that adding more weight wasn’t going to be a good idea. Then I decided to scratch the third set for the same reason. The last thing I need right now is to hurt my shoulders or aggravate my disc or SI joints again.

1b. bench press-competition grip

45 lbs x 10, 65 x 6, 85 x 5, 95 x 3

I had wanted to do these lighter sets with my feet on the bench in an effort to minimize strain on my back, but the bench was too short for my feet to rest on it. Seriously? Why such short benches? So, I had my feet on the floor, used my leg drive, but tried to keep my arch as small as possible for the lighter sets.

105 x 3, 110 x 3, 115 x 3

I did use a full arch and leg drive for these sets. I didn’t film any of my bench sets, but I think the bar moved well and with decent speed. I even made sure to pause each rep. When I decided to scratch the last squat set, I also scratched doing another bench set at 115. I’m sure I could have done it, but I also didn’t want to end grinding any reps.

2. deadlifts-conventional

95 lbs x 8

with belt: 135 x 5, 165 x 5, 185 x 3

These sets felt good. It seems like every deadlift session feels a bit better than the previous, which is a good thing considering how very little I have deadlifted since January. My coach never actually gave me clear and precise instructions for today’s training (he’s on holidays this week), but he seemed to indicate that I could work up to 205 for deadlifts today. With how good 185 felt, I decided to be a tad more adventurous and try a couple of singles at 215.

215 x 1, 215 x 1

I’d say that those two singles felt pretty decent. Last week I did a single rep at 225 and it did not feel good at all. These singles felt much better than that, and this is a perfect example of how each deadlift session feels better than the one before. Yes, it is 10 pounds less than last week’s single, but it was faster, smoother, and felt better on the back. I’d say that’s progress.

Yesterday I asked my coach what he thinks my opening deadlift will be at Provincials, and I have to admit that I was crushed by his response. His feeling is that I will open with 205 pounds with my final attempt being 255 pounds. I know that I cannot and should not expect to deadlift a personal best this time around, but I felt instantly demoralized upon seeing my coach’s projections. His anticipated final attempt isn’t even as heavy as my opening attempt at any of my previous three competitions! I know I’ve not had the best training because of the back problems, and I’ve been mentally preparing myself for a mediocre performance…but, but, BUT I have to be able to do better than 255 pounds! Of course, everything is variable. It changes day by day, and the day of competition is always unique. The numbers aren’t set in stone, and we can make the final decisions on the day based on how the back feels and how my warm-ups move.

135 x 7

Since my chiropractor wants me to get more light reps in, I decided to do a drop down set at a weight that would be fairly light while still providing enough weight to require good technique. Then I called it a day!

I survived the commercial gym! It was as hot as Hades in there, so I was sweating buckets, but I did it.

Remember the Deadlift

When I walked into the gym this morning, my coach said that we’d do some deadlifts if my back was feeling okay. I’m sure he was hoping that my back was feeling okay, because, aside from wanting me to be healthy again, being able to deadlift is kind of important heading into a competition! Last week I was allowed to do one super light set of deadlifts at 65 pounds, and those felt good. I did have a couple of deadlift sessions in March, but the second one was cut short because of the back. Really, I have hardly deadlifted at all since the beginning of my back problems at the end of January. As excited as I was to be allowed to deadlift this morning, I was also tentative and nervous. What if the back screamed in pain? What if deadlifting set me back again? Only one way to find out…

1a. deadlifts!

but first a set of Romanian deadlifts 45 lbs x 10

95 lbs x 5, 135 x 5, 165 x 3

with belt: 185 x 2, 205 x 1, 205 x 1, 205 x 1

Although I haven’t deadlifted for a while, we kept my reps low, because why run the risk of aggravating the back for the sake of more reps! The first couple of sets felt pretty good. I think I first “felt” my back during the set at 165 pounds. It was fine as I set up and even as I created tension, but I could feel some discomfort and pressure in the low back as I lifted. I think that first “heavy” set was the worst in terms of how the back felt, but there was a measure of discomfort, maybe even pain for the rest of the sets. As a result, I was probably more tentative than I should be. The second rep at 185 was too far from my body from the start, but I was using a double overhand grip beyond what I would normally be able to manage. An alternated mixed grip for the heavy singles worked well, and each single improved on the previous. The deadlifts weren’t all perfect, but I was able to deadlift. The best part is that there was no pain or discomfort in the back beyond each rep. After my training I went to work and still felt no change or increase in back pain or discomfort! Hopefully the back will still feel as good tomorrow!

1b. bench press-close grip

feet on bench, small arch: 43 lbs x 10, 63 x 5, 93 x 5

with legs and arch: 103 x 3, 115 x 3, 115 x 3, 115 x 3, 120 x 3

With how much benching I’ve done over the past five months, I am beginning to dislike the close grip. The range of motion is just so huge, and I always seem to have more issues with bringing the bar down to the same place on my chest consistently. My last set at 115 was the best and fastest. The set at 120 was kind of slow, and I’m pretty sure the second rep’s bar path was a mess.

2a. reverse hypers with long strap

60 lbs x 20

2b. single arm kettlebell rows

16kg x 15 each

 

Continuing On

successladder

I think my brain is still in the process of gathering up the pieces, but I have to believe that I will get there eventually. Even if my heart and my brain aren’t there yet, I am too stubborn to stop trying.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” ~ Winston Churchill

1a. bottoms up kettlebell presses

10kg x 10 each, 10kg x 8 each

It’s highly satisfying to hit little PRs in the gym considering, or despite, the limitations I’ve been experiencing for the past couple of months.

2a. split squats-with safety bar and flat shoes

75 lbs x 12 each, 95 x 8 each, 115 x 7 each, 125 x 8 each, 125 x 8 each

2b. floor presses-moderate grip, no legs

45 lbs x 10

I didn’t have to do that many reps for the first set, but I had to fiddle with my leg positioning in order to find what would be the least bothersome to my back. Michael didn’t want any arching, but having my feet in the air and bracing is too painful on the back. Although I’ve been find with my knees bent and feet flat on the floor, today wasn’t super comfortable. What actually felt the best was to have my left leg bent and my right leg out straight on the floor. There was still a small arch in order to have some sort of good shoulder positioning, but I think it was small enough to not be a bother.

65 x 8, 90 x 8, 105 x 8, 105 x 6

I think these were all reasonably solid reps with decent speed.

3a. glute ham raises

x 10 just bodyweight

10kg kettlebell x 10

3b. single arm kb press while kneeling on a bench

10kg x 10 each x 2 sets

These felt a little tough, especially as each set wore on. I’m also not convinced the back liked these a whole lot, but it wasn’t too bad.

3c. single arm kettlebell row

16kg x 12 each x 2 sets

While the weight wasn’t overly challenging and I could have gone up on the second set, I think the better decision was to stay at the same weight rather than risk aggravating the back. There wasn’t significant pain during these, yet I could feel a bit of pressure in the back.

3d. ab wheel x 0

Despite having no troubles using the ab wheel earlier in this injured season, I just couldn’t do it this morning. I started to roll out but didn’t get too far.

hanging knee raises x 12, x 0

These were generally okay, except for the last rep. I’m not sure what I did…maybe lifted my knees too high or too fast or flexed my back a bit…I don’t know, but that last rep hurt. A fair bit. Tried for a second set and the very first attempted rep hurt, so I just hung out until my grip began to fail.

And just like that I had a decent training session, maybe one of the better ones I’ve had in the last week or two. Still so far from where I want to be, but focusing on what I can do is more productive than moping over what I can’t do.

Sorry/Excited

notasplanned

My competition is 11 weeks away, and I have been dealing with this SI joint problem for about 8 weeks. Isn’t it funny how oddly time can feel? It seems as if I’ve been dealing with the SI issue for so much longer, while competition seems to be coming towards me like a high speed train. These past 8 weeks have caused me a great deal of pain and frustration, physically and emotionally. I haven’t always handled it well. I’ve been frustrated with myself, because it was my own stupidity that resulted in the SI problem in the first place. I’ve been frustrated with the pain, the discomfort, the restrictions to my mobility. I’ve been frustrated that getting back to normal seems to be taking so long. I’ve been frustrated by the interference to my training, and that interference has been messing with my confidence as I look forward to Provincials and reaching new goals.

I hit a low last Wednesday when my brief deadlift session didn’t go as planned and the SI issue reared its ugly head with renewed fierceness. The day before had been such a good day, probably one of the best since the problem started. I was feeling hopeful that the worst had passed, that I was finally on my way to normal. Wednesday took all of my hope and joy and crushed it. I was in pain. I was crushed. I went to see my chiropractor…in despair and misery. He promptly gave me a hug, because he said I needed one. He made me laugh and “dance”, and he told me we had lots of time yet before Provincials. Simple things. Well, getting me to dance is no simple thing, but he didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. He was just himself, and a major reason why I even see a chiropractor is because of his character and nature. I needed that hug just like I needed to laugh and dance and be reminded that I would be okay.

That day was definitely a low one; however, each day is new and full of hope and opportunity. I had to remember who I am and what I am capable of. The path behind me is littered with reminders of my character, focus, determination, and ability to press through tough spots. This SI joint issue has become much more than a speed bump, but it doesn’t have to become a permanent road block. My training might not go as I’d like leading up to a competition, but I know how to work hard and smart. I know how to focus on the finish line and to fight for the goals I want to reach. I know the importance of a positive attitude and outlook. I know how to see threads of silver in the storm clouds, and I know the beauty and wonder of the rainbow once the storm has passed.

My focus is narrowing, because I do have goals and I am not content to stay stuck. The SI is still cranky, but my own crankiness is waning. Crankiness is being replaced with excitement. I don’t know what the next 11 weeks will hold for me, but I am determined to make the most of them.

Bulgarians Bite

This ongoing SI joint issue is super frustrating. In some ways it feels like I’m back at the beginning of the issue but not completely. Some things are better than at the beginning of this ordeal, so I have to trust that this won’t last forever, but I’ve determined that I am going to do everything within my power to get through this with grace and strength. I can do that. Right?

1a. front squats

43 lbs x 8, 93 x 6, 123 x 6

with belt: 133 x 6, 133 x 6

At least I can squat without pain in my lower back!

1b. glute-ham raises

x 10, x 10, x 5 + 5 with 8kg kettlebell

with 8kg kettlebell: x 10, x 10

1c. floor presses, with a pause at the bottom

43 lbs x 6 + 63 lbs x 5, 83 x 5, 103 x 6, 103 x 6, 105 x 6

1d. ab wheel

x 10, x 10, x 10, x 10

Michael said the first two sets were too easy and wanted me to roll out a bit further and slower, so I did. This is an example of how there is still improvement in my lower back, because I couldn’t roll out too far when the SI joint issue started. But the back bothered me too much to do sit-ups on the GHD…

2a. Bulgarian split squats with 54 lb vest

x 10 each leg

My balance was terrible. Although the extra weight isn’t always fun, I tend to find it slightly easier to balance if I’m holding some dumbbells in my hands. No counter-balances today though. I think part of my problem is that my back foot never quite feels secure, and that was definitely the case today. I’m glad I only had to do one set, otherwise I’m not sure I’d have been able to walk.

2b. single arm kettlebell rows

20kg x 15 each

 

Good Morning Glutes

I was grumpy for most of the weekend, likely a combination of the lingering SI joint issue, feeling defeated and frustrated with food, and just my own internal demons. Although my attitude began to shift yesterday afternoon, I think the grumpiness left completely this morning. I woke up feeling as if I needed more sleep, probably due to some tossing to find a comfortable position. As I opened the living room curtains, I realized that I still have another day off to look forward to, and that realization made me deliciously happy. I love my job, but days off are nice. It also helps that the SI issue is improving. In fact, I noticed that I was moving with more ease at the gym this morning than I was last week. Before my back hurt to bend over to pick up a light kettlebell, to lift a 45 pound plate onto the bar, or to even lay back onto the bench. I could do all of those things today without any pain or difficulty. The pain may not be all gone yet, but I’m so glad that there is improvement. Sitting is still a painful activity. As little as I do sit, unfortunately I have no choice but to sit while driving!

1a. goblet squats with kettlebells

16kg x 5, 24kg x 10, 32kg x 8, 40kg x 6, 40kg x 6

This was the first time I’ve ever done goblet squats with this much weight, and it was pretty good. They didn’t bother the lower back, but the 40kg kettlebell was definitely a challenge for the upper back. On both sets I tried for a seventh rep and bailed at the bottom.

double 24kg x 0

Michael thought that this might be easier to hold, but I didn’t feel comfortable at all and never even attempted a rep.

double 16kg x 2

This weight felt more doable, but the back of my left shoulder/delt was burning with fatigue and couldn’t hold position anymore.

1b. bench press-competition grip, no legs

43 lbs x 10, 65 x 10, 85 x 9, 95 x 6, 95 x 5

These got a bit tougher as I went along, probably because of holding the heavy kettlebells for the squats.

1c. plank with 2 small sandbags on my back

4 sets of 30 second holds

I’m not really sure how heavy the sandbags were, but I am reasonably confident they were more than 30 pounds.

2a. landmine presses

43 lbs x 8 each, 53 lbs x 8 each, 53 x 8 each

The left shoulder was still burning at the beginning of these, but that fatigue had faded substantially by the final set.

2b. Bulgarian split squats-with 54 lb vest

x 10 each

My balance was all over the place this first set, so I wanted to hold a kettlebell for the following sets.

plus 10kg kettlebell x 10 each, x 10 each

2c. ab wheel x 4 or 5?

The abs didn’t feel so good.

lying leg raises x 11

3a. dumbbell flyes

15 lb x 12, x 12

3b. hip thrusts with band around knees and large sandbag on my hips

x 30, x 30

Again, not completely certain the weight of the sandbag…maybe 70 pounds?

All in all, it felt like I did something this morning! A personal best for goblet squats! The suggestion that I might be able to do squats on Thursday (depending on the back, of course!) And I somehow managed to complete all 30 reps of the hip thrusts even though my glutes were on fire by the midway point! I’m still thankful that I’m not training three consecutive days this week, and that tomorrow is a rest day!