Friday, June 13, 2014

When Oly Girl Gets Awkward (FAQs Part 3 - Final Portion)

Question: "What is the most awkward thing (in the gym or out of it) about being a woman who lifts?"
American Standard - My Role? Moena - The Toilet

This was probably my favorite question of the FAQ round that happened on Facebook the other night.

Now, just to give you some perspective, I started my theatrical appearances doing more comedies than anything else. I've appeared in British farces like Caught in the Net and Blithe Spirit, and even my musical theater experience proves to be less 'leading lady' and more 'character role'.

I mean, I played a singing dancing toilet for about three years to largely sold out houses.

There was a time where I could traffic in the absurd and live in the awkward - despite being a fairly straight laced girl. For some reason, people thought I was funny.

The experience of being involved in theater taught me a lot, but not the smallest of these lessons was not to take myself too seriously. (And believe me, it's hard to take life seriously when a director is yelling at you while you belt out, "I want my Charmin back! With him I'm so flushed with pride. Bring me my Charmin back, my squeezably soft double ply...")

That said, I'm very used to explaining myself and having people not take me seriously. It's just par of the course. That really isn't much different when it comes to weight lifting.

So let's get to the funny awkward moments first, shall we?

* The first time hitting my rack instead of the 'rack' in the gym.  This one was pretty much already covered about 2/3rd of the way through this blog, so click here if you feel the need to relive that moment of awkwardness.

* Clocking myself in the chin with the bar for the first time in the gym.  There is a running joke that I haven't had a good work out unless I smacked, hit, or bruised some part of my body unintentionally. It's usually the chin, neck, knees, shins, or the aforementioned 'rack'.

* Clothes shopping. Yes, there are worse problems to have for sure, but nothing fits quite like I think it should - and jean shopping is the worst. I save clothes shopping until I can go alone and until I'm in a good mood - good enough to ignore the number on the tag.

*But By FAR the most awkward situations occur when I run into
'that guy'.
This isn't a specific person, but there always seems to be one of them floating around. Here are examples of what I mean:

      'That Guy' in the gym.
Even at the YMCA, there is almost always one in attendance. (It's one of the reasons having a six foot plus male trainer hovering over you is a positive thing.) One night, I was flying solo and rocking out a last minute Metabolic Conditioner before the gym closed. It was something like a few rounds of Thruster repetitions, a lap or two around the track, and some sit ups. The weight room was pretty much empty except for one guy who was wandering around more than actually lifting. I threw on my headphones and went after my own work out. About two thirds of the way through my workout, he approaches the mirror, raises his shirt, and checks out his abs. Really dude? I wanted to answer, "Yes, your abs are still there. We all have abs. They don't disappear when your shirt is down."  Now, I'm completely okay with people showing off their hard earned hard bodies... but that was an inappropriate time obviously attempted for 'my' benefit... If I were a man, I bet you that would not have happened. 

If you actually approach me, say hello, or make eye contact, you're probably not "That Guy"
I actually enjoy people (male or female) stopping by to say "hi" during a lifting session about 80% of the time.
One day, an older lady was watching Trainer Guy and I work on some overhead lifts. She asked, "What's the goal of all this?"
With a smile, I answered her, "To get stronger."
It started a short conversation and I make sure to say hello when I see her in the gym.

On another occasion, I was working on a PR for my Split Jerk. One guy was watching me in the mirror as Trainer Guy coached me through climbing up and up and up in weight. Finally, he stood up and turned, and began openly watching and encouraging me for the last few (ugly, but done) reps. The guy was doing 100lb bicep curls. I didn't mind the encouragement and he was supportive and respectful. 

But 'That Guy' makes an issue of it.
I've been asked everything from if I'm lesbian (no, I'm not) which I found to be truly odd (because only women attracted to other women lift?! I don't even understand the correlation...) to "Is your husband afraid of you? I bet he is." (, he's not. He's actually my biggest supporter.) I've also been told on more than on occasion that I'm engaging in "false advertising" because I don't wear my wedding ring when I lift. (In fact, I occasionally go entire days without it, because my fingers sometimes puff up for a few hours afterwards, and by then I'm usually at home, so it's a non-issue.) My Sailor actually encourages  me to leave it at home so I don't lose/break it during these types of work outs.  But 'That Guy' (who, for the record, is occasionally female) decides to make an issue out of EVERYTHING.

A favorite tank top - Dip, Drive, Drop, Repeat
How do I deal with it?

That's pretty much where the fun work-out gear was born. Let's face it - a girl lifting heavy, especially explosive Olympic style lifts, is going to attract attention in a gym were most folks are doing isolation style training. Even a man would attract attention doing them. It's not gender specific. They are a particular skill set that isn't seen too often in most gyms. But a woman attracts even more attention. I figured I might as well have a little fun with it while I'm at it.

Come to think of it, I have a handful of fun tanks on the way... can't wait to break them in.

The other awkward moments come from family and friends.  My family never intentionally tried undermine me. They were afraid I'd get hurt. Now that I've spent about a year injury free, they are on board.

Friendships only get awkward when they ask me to help their (insert-absurdly-distantly-removed-relative-here) to help move... I actually appreciate my friendships that are formed outside of the gym as well. There is nothing quite like their attempts at a straight face when I mention my 90lb Snatch.

If I think about to for too long, I realize that I'm actually constantly proving myself over and over and over...
But when, in any occupation, aren't we doing that? We're always proving ourselves to an employer, a client, a parent, a teacher, and perhaps most of all to ourselves.

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