Posts Tagged ‘rant’

“Your Poor Spine!” (and other head-bashing news)

I don’t like to complain, but sometimes it is HARD to be a female in a weight room.  I’ve posted previously about some of my experiences here, but overall I don’t have too many issues.  I normally work out on weekday mornings.  The trainers and most of the other members know me, and they respect my space, need for certain equipment, etc.  No one’s kicking me out of a squat rack or grabbing my kettlebells between sets (often).  With my new cycling program, sometimes I need to lift on the weekends.  No big deal – I’m not about to miss a workout, and lifting always starts my days off right!  The last TWO weekends, I have had issues.  Both sets of issues involve Overhead Squats.  Before I begin my tales of woe, let me first say that my mobility is good, my form is on-target, and I have been performing this exercise consistently and effectively on and off for about 18 months (including using it as accessory work for 5/3/1).

Two Weeks Ago..

During my second set of Overhead Squats, I felt fantastic.  I was feeling ready to add some weight, but since I was pretty depleted from eating low calories the day before, I decided to save that for the next workout.  As I finish the set, I saw a little skinny guy and a couple girls head over to a bench.  The guy loaded 135 on the bar and proceeded to ALMOST DROP IT.  I was seriously considering running over to help him when one of the girls with him lifted the bar off his chest and helped him rack it.  He then sat on the bench and…I don’t know what he was doing…nursing his ego??

Anyway, I start getting ready for my final set.  I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but I have a bunch of little preparations I do before any set – making sure the weights are loaded tightly, double-checking that my hands are positioned evenly, chalking up (when necessary), a couple deep breaths…you get the idea.  I unracked the weight, pressed it overhead, and started my set.  After my third rep, I notice him coming over toward my rack.  As I start to descend on my 4th, he DUCKED UNDER THE BAR! I almost smashed him in the face with the bar, but, fortunately, was under control enough to be able to keep both of us safe.  He then gave ME a dirty look (and I bet he would’ve totally blamed me if he had gotten hurt!) and walked away.  Thank goodness I was using the rack with a mirror or I never would have seen him coming!  A bit shaken, I re-racked the weight, did my preparations and began again.  Fortunately, I was a bit more aware of him, so I saw him coming when he tried to do it again!

I’m not sure where this guy’s survival instinct was – he definitely was upset with me for almost hurting him, but I think he was risking his own safety…all to grab some 10# plates off my rack.


Last Weekend…

I felt great.  I was NOT depleted and had increased the weight on all my exercises so far.  I had been complimented by 2 other gym members during my first couple exercises.  As I finished my set of heavy single-leg RDLs (20kg – a new best for me at that volume), I noticed a guy working out kind of near the rack (we’ll call him the Pastor, since I later found out that he is, in fact, a pastor).  He seemed to vaguely know what he was doing, though he focused on the “mirror muscles.”  My husband was at the gym with me, but doing his own workout.  I went to the rack, set up, and did my first set of Overhead Squats.  It felt great, and I was contemplating whether I should increase the weight by 5 or 10 pounds for the next set.  As I turn, I notice the Pastor standing directly behind me.  He gestures for me to take off my headphones, and I expected a compliment, support, or at least something positive – I had just rocked my set, and had gotten 2 other compliments already (guess my self-esteem was SOARING!).  I was wrong.

Pastor:  “Your poor spine!”

Me:  (confused look on my face)

Pastor:  (in a patronizing tone)  “The most DANGEROUS thing you can do in a gym is put weight over your head when you’re not sitting with your back against a bench.  I’ve seen guys blow their spines apart trying to do that.”

Me:  “Well, this…”

Pastor:  (interrupting) “That other thing you were doing” (demonstrates a 1/4 squat) “is great, but it’s really important to put the bar on your shoulders so your spine doesn’t have to work so hard.  Then, try to do the squatting motion.”

Me:  “I’m actually..” (as the Pastor interrupts again, I am able to catch my husband’s eye, who comes over)

Pastor:  “Please, please don’t do that again.  I’m a pastor and I care about people.  I just don’t want to see you get hurt and putting weight over your head is SO dangerous.”  (Looks at my husband)  “I was just telling her that she is doing some really dangerous stuff over here and I don’t want her to get hurt.  You should show her some other things she can do so she’s not trying to push things over her head while squatting.  I’ve seen guys blow their spines apart – her poor back!  That’s not something just anyone should be doing…”

Husband:  “You’re right – it’s not something just anyone should be doing.  In fact, I don’t have the mobility to do it correctly so I don’t do it at all.  SHE has really great mobility and is able to keep her spine stable and in alignment while doing the exercise.  It’s actually a fairly common, though advanced, exercise.”

Pastor:  “Really?  People squat that way?”

Husband:  “Yes.  I bet you can find lots of videos on YouTube to show how to do it, but it’s used in CrossFit and several fitness professionals recommend it.  The program she’s doing is by Alwyn Cosgrove, who writes for Men’s Health sometimes.”

Pastor:  “Oh…well, I guess I’m no expert.  I just didn’t want her to get hurt.  Maybe I’ll try it sometime.”

Me:  “I appreciate your concern, but I take the time to make sure I’m safe in the weight room.  If you do try it, make sure to drop the weight.  I can back squat significantly more than I can overhead squat.”

Pastor:  (eyes widening)  “Really??”  (looks at my husband)  “Sorry, Man.  Didn’t mean to interrupt.”


He then proceeded to do TERRIBLE bent-over rows.  Terrible.  With the same amount of weight I use with GOOD form.


The whole situation sucked.  My husband said I should just fluff it off, but when people are that condescending and make it SO clear that they don’t think I belong in the weight room, I definitely lose some wind in my sails.  I did finish the workout, but I didn’t add as much weight as I probably could have.  I didn’t want to struggle for reps and have this guy on my case again.  He probably wouldn’t have come back over, especially since my husband stayed with me while I finished up, but the whole thing was ridiculous.  If my husband hadn’t been there, I probably would have just left.  I know I don’t “look” the part, but I’m just not clear why people think they can make these kinds of comments. The guy clearly had most of his fitness information from 1995, but still…

It also really bothers me that the guy felt it was totally ok to mess with my workout, but wouldn’t even let me get a word in to explain what I was doing.  Once another MAN was there, suddenly he’s open for discussion.  And then to imply that my husband should “teach” me how to lift??  I actually taught HIM how to make his lifts safer!  Ugh.

Only “bros” and “personal trainees” can use that equipment!

Ok, I get it – I don’t look “the part” in the gym.  It’s a work in progress!  As an overweight female, I have to stake my territory in the weight room, but once I do that, I usually get enough respect that I can complete my workouts with nothing more than a quick smile or gesture to another member.  My gym is pretty fantastic overall – we have kettlebells, an Olympic lifting platform, two squat racks, a prowler, rowers, TRX trainers, etc. – not so bad for a commercial gym!  Generally speaking, staff and members are friendly and there is a sense of community while working out.  Admittedly, I get a pretty hot/cold response when I’m lifting – but mostly because women aren’t supposed to lift heavy weights, and I go against the grain.  🙂

Lately, though, I have had some irritating encounters with fellow gym-goers.  A couple months ago, we got a shiny, new Power Rack – YAY!  Fortunately for me, it was Squat Day.  I was very excited – like Christmas morning – but there was no one else who shared my excitement (literally, there was ONE elderly lady in the area, and I think it scared her)!  I did my dynamic warm-up, and stepped into the rack.  I noticed that there was some weight on the bar, so I unloaded it (still, no one else in sight), and completed a couple reps with the bar.  Suddenly, a “bro” showed up in my field of vision and told me that he was using the rack.  Grateful that I wasn’t in the middle of a heavy set, I racked the weight and asked him to repeat himself.  He told me that he needed the rack and proceeded to flex his biceps and make his pecs dance (ok, I might have made that part up, but you ALL know exactly the type of guy I’m talking about!).  I explained that I was squatting, but he interrupted me to ask me to move to the other rack because he really NEEDED the rack for his workout.  Like an idiot, I agreed to move. The way I saw it, I had used the old rack for awhile and could easily use it again, since this guy must be gearing up for some heavy squats or rack pulls.  I continued my workout and glanced over at the rack to see the guy doing biceps curls in the Power Rack! He wasn’t even using much weight – seriously, I could have matched him pound-for-pound on that exercise.  He saw my horrified expression and said, “Sorry, I really wanted to try the new equipment.  Plus, I figured you didn’t REALLY need it.”  WHAT? I was not pleased.  I think I earned some respect from him by the end of my heavy squat workout, but I’ve never seen him again, so it was all for nothing!

And it Continues…

Since I’m not on a heavy lifting cycle right now, I’m using a circuit-style approach to my workouts (Todd Durkin’s Impact Body Plan).  Today’s first circuit was:  KB Sumo Squats, KB Push-ups, TRX Rows, TRX biceps curls.  I grabbed the only pair of 24kg kettlebells and started my first round.  As I finished up my TRX rows, I noticed that one of my kettlebells was GONE.  I turned my back for ONE minute, and it disappeared!  My gym has another single 24kg kettlebell, but it is a different size, so I was basically screwed.  I have no idea what weight I used for my second set, since the kettlebells in the higher weights aren’t all marked.  I’m pretty sure it was more than 24kg, which is good for progressive overload, but I was still annoyed.  I eventually found my missing kettlebell – it was sitting next to a group of people having a personal training session.  No one was really using it, since it was heavier than they expected.  Ugh.


Of course, none of these things are the end of the world, but I would like to think that I have as much right to use equipment as anyone else.  Before I step up to a rack or grab a set of weights, I ALWAYS check to make sure they are not in use – why don’t other people do that?  Where’s the etiquette?  Also, at what point is it appropriate to chase someone down and ask them to give me back my kettlebell??

Did You See This?

I follow several different blogs, especially in fitness and nutrition, and I was somewhat shocked (and a little disappointed) to see this article, “America:  A Big, Fat, Stupid Nation” linked in a couple different blogs.  I should be clear, though, that I wasn’t disappointed that the article was linked, but that there is enough evidence to support an article like this.  In it, the author (Justin Stoneman) quotes several different research studies about the effect obesity is having on American society.  He credits the ADA recommendations to eat more carbs and less fat with the expansion of our collective waistlines, and mentions the scary prediction that by 2010, 75% of Americans will be considered overweight or obese.  Yikes.

Stoneman continues by quoting Einstein:

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

This, according to Stoneman, is the prevailing problem with America’s food/obesity/sedentary lifestyle issues.  It seems that there is an element of pride around food – we all want to be “free” to make our own food choices.  No one wants to be a “slave” to calorie counting, or to give up precious TV time to hit the gym.  We deserve to relax, right?  But are we really FREE as we continue to gain weight and lose mobility, health, vitality, and so many other things that make life exciting?  Yet, this is the mindset shared by many Americans as they (we?) struggle to lose weight.  Everyone wants to be a bit slimmer, but no one wants to do the work to get there.  And there are a LOT of excuses – believe me, I know!

Stoneman takes this a step further with some insight into corporate America, the food industry, and the DIET industry and concludes that “an unhealthy America is, perversely, a very profitable America.”  Yikes again…  Check out this quote from the article:

“If I own a sock company, I need people with feet to maintain my business. Similarly, if I own a diet company (total combined U.S. industry value: est. $45-$100 billion), I need fat people. Luckily for the diet industry, the even more powerful food industry (estimated value: astronomical — U.S. food-based retailing alone >$1,200 billion) make their main profits from cheap processed foods. Foods which make people fat.”

So basically, our food industry is stocking our grocery stores full of crappy processed foods.  We eat them, and gain weight.  We then turn to the diet industry to help us lose the weight.  That can’t be right – where’s the impartial government regulation?  Oh wait – turns out that the American Dietetic Association is SPONSORED by food manufacturers.  The ADA is the primary (and one of the only) sources of dietary advice in this country.  More info from the article:

“With that in mind, who precisely is ‘sponsoring’ the ADA and the nutritional advice you receive?

My friends, it is a beautiful army. Partners (recent and current — and their latest annual revenue figures):

Coca Cola (revenue $31.4 billion), GlaxoSmithKline (revenue $42.5 billion), Hershey’s (revenue $5.3 billion), Unilever (revenue $55.8 billion), Aramark (revenue: $12.3 billion). There are even some ‘premier sponsors’: Mars (revenue: $30 billion), PepsiCo (revenue $44.3 billion), Truvia sweetener (revenue of parent company Cargill: $116.6 billion), Kellogg’s ($12.7 billion).
ADA ‘sponsors’ have combined revenues of over $400 billion.”

Oh boy.  Sounds like there are a lot of cooks in our government’s kitchen (big surprise, right?), and they all stand to profit from “official” guidelines.


So what do we do on an individual level?  Stoneman says:

“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. Spot the devil. Uncover the scientific facts about fat and carbohydrates. Stand up for the truth. Or stay big, stay fat and stay stupid.”

And I agree.  We need to be aware that there is bias in almost all advice.  We need to remember to eat good, wholesome foods.  One of Michael Pollan’s Food Rules is to avoid eating any foods that our grandparents wouldn’t recognize as “food.”  We need to increase our vegetable intake, too.  These are basic things – common sense – that could go a long way in helping people live healthier lives.


On a personal note, looking at the graphs and reading the statistics in the article scared the hell out of me.  Some of it is a bit alarmist (most journalistic health articles have some element of that anyway), but you don’t need to look far to see people making unhealthy choices and either feeling entitled to do so, or claiming it’s their only option.  One good decision leads to another, and I am going to continue to focus on that as I work on improving my own health.