Nov 25

The Powerlifting & Pole Conundrum

A couple weeks ago, Susie wrote a post on fitness shaming that addressed something I’ve been meaning to write about for a while now, because it feels like there’s a very unfortunate air of negativity that seems to purvey the internet these days. I’m all for advocating for healthy lifestyle changes and loving/being proud of what you do, but sometimes, it gets taken a step too far.

I’d like to think that there is no single perfect formula to reach your fitness goals. There is no real perfect method that will work for everyone.

Case in point: I love lifting weights, because I’m actually fairly decent at it, and it makes me feel like a badass (most of the time). It is still very much a male-dominated sport, but the guys (or really, everyone) at the gym that I’ve interacted with have always been very respectful and super supportive!

That Awkward Moment When...

I actually usually get more negative-ish comments from females (usually along the lines of a backhanded compliment, like “It’s cool that you do this, but I wouldn’t. I don’t want to get too big and look like a man.” …Trust me, you will not.).

"I don't want to get too big."
I’ve also probably reiterated in here time and time again that I detest cardio and that I’m absolutely terrible at running.

However, that’s purely because I don’t derive the same amount of joy out of it that others do; I’ve never experienced this elusive runners’ high that they speak of, and I’m more the variety of human being that gets the dying, gasping-for-breath, how-much-longer-until-I’m-done-what-was-I-thinking-when-I-started-this feeling. If I’d been blessed with more super-awesome type I muscle fibers, I would probably love running.

But it’s just not what works for me. (Notice that bold there!) And it’s not like I never gave it a chance.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

But there is something wrong with bringing someone else down just because s/he doesn’t do exactly what you do.

As a female lifter aspiring to someday lift the equivalent of 3 me’s or more, the kinds of [negative] comments* I usually get include the following:

  • “Don’t get too big. It’s unattractive./You’re going to scare away all the guys and be alone forever.”
  • “No guy’s going to like you if you’re more muscular than him.”
  • “Girls don’t need to lift. You can just ask guys to carry things for you.”
  • “It’s bad for your knees/back.”
  • “I thought I had a daughter, but you’re so masculine, you’re basically like 3/4 of another son.”
  • “Why don’t you take up running instead? That’s more of a girl’s sport.”

Bitch please. Lifting weights has totally transformed into a man. >_>

*These are actually all comments from my family members. Fairly recently, my family has mostly let up on it because they’ve realized that:

  1. I’ve been lifting for several years now, my eating habits (aka the fact that I eat enough to feed a small family) have not changed, and I still haven’t gotten any “bigger.”
  2. It’s actually kinda useful to have me around because I can help them carry/move all the things that they can’t lift.
  3. I’ve casually mentioned to my dad that mayhaps insulting someone with more defined biceps than him isn’t exactly the smartest of ideas.
  4. I staunchly refuse to ask anyone to do things for me if I’m completely capable of doing it myself. (One of the guys in BJJ the other day saw me dragging the giant punching bag back against the wall and said, “I’d totally help you, but I hear you’re a champion weightlifter, so I guess you don’t need my help.” We had a good laugh.)
  5. There’s a 99.99% chance that I would be entirely uninterested in anyone who’d be “scared off” by the fact that I had muscles. I’m not sure why but somehow, I just get the feeling that we wouldn’t get along.

I’ve been lucky in the sense that everyone else has been incredibly supportive (especially my friends and the dudes at the gym that I share the weight room with). They spot me and cheer me on, and tell me about competitions they’d love to see me enter because I’d be a total badass and win everything.

On the other end of the spectrum is my other favorite fitness activity/hobby: pole dancing, which is classically associated with females, femininity and sensuality. Lifting weights definitely helped me out a lot when I first started poling, because, for better or worse, if I couldn’t do a move, I could at least muscle my way there. (I learned to do it more gracefully later on though, I swear!)

Pole dancing also tends to come with a whole host of other assumptions though–usually that I must be a stripper, because surely that’s the only reason why anyone would ever have any inclination to hang off of a pole!

Oh wait...

Oh wait…

I’d just like to point out that there are a lot of guys who pole dance or do Chinese pole (or some such variation), and no, not all of them are strippers either.

Since I’m still living in a fairly conservative area, my close friends (and also readers of this blog; hello there! <3 ) are pretty much the only ones who know that I do this.

Is it because I’m ashamed of it?

Definitely not. I’m just still half-in, half-out of the pole closet. Mostly, it’s because I feel like I have to deal with enough creepers as it is. I don’t want to deal with comments like the following:

  • “So…can I watch?” (winkwink)
    My, aren’t you a clever one? I’ve definitely never heard that one before!!!

That opens a whole ‘nother can of worms though, so why don’t we just leave it at this:

All of us are at different stages of life, working towards different goals, dreams, and areas of focus. Why can’t we turn the negativity around and support and encourage each other instead?

I applaud people who can run more than 3 miles without wanting to die. At one point in my life, I could do that too! (Long, long ago.) I think it’s awesome that people do mud runs, 10k’s, or marathons of any type, that there are mixed martial artists who could easily subdue me and/or beat the living snot out of me in perhaps 5 seconds or less, weightlifters who can lift several times their own bodyweight, aerialists and dancers who make their performances so flawlessly and effortlessly beautiful that for a second, you actually believe that what they’re doing is easy. We all have our little niche in the world. We just have to find it!

At the end of the day, this is the message I wish people would promote instead:

What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for everyone else.You just need to find what you love and go with it.

It’s a very simple concept, but somehow that gets lost in translation.

That’s what I try to explain to “my” [preceptor’s] patients when I’m counseling them. A lot of them don’t know where to start when it comes to making healthier food choices, or starting up an exercise routine. So many of them think they “have” to take up a certain activity to get in shape, or that they “have” to go on a strict diet and give up everything at once.

I like to tell them to start with the little things, and to make small changes. Do you drink 6 cans of soda per day? Why not first try gradually cutting that down instead of quitting cold turkey? Do you like to dance? Why not start with some Zumba or dance classes? Do you usually watch TV after dinner? Why not try spending some time with your spouse instead and go for a walk with them around the neighborhood or park? Hooray for spending time with people in real life, and actually engaging with them! (We as a society are probably way too dependent on/distracted by technology these days, myself included.)

Celebrate and support others with their accomplishments, however small they might seem. Everyone has to start from somewhere!

But how you want to get there is entirely up to you!

But how you want to get there is entirely up to you!

For the record, I listed a lot of the negative comments just because of the point I was making with this post. I’ve actually been really lucky in the sense that most of the people in my life have been super supportive.

I’m linking this post up with The Fit Dish, a fitness linkup hosted by Jill Conyers and Jessica Joy @ The Fit Switch, as well as Fitness Friday (hosted by Jill Conyers)! :]

  • Have you experienced negative remarks/comments based on what you like to do? How do you usually respond?
  • What’s the weirdest thing someone has ever said to you regarding your sport/physical activity of choice?
  • What’s your favorite way to get your fitness on?

Permanent link to this article: http://www.fairyburger.com/powerlifting-pole-conundrum/


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  1. Susie @ SuzLyfe

    So glad that you published this,. I think that it is a beautiful post, and a great look into something that many people wouldn’t realize is so artistic, and so feminine, and in totally unexpected ways. I think people take for granted how strong these acrobats and dancers must be–it requires a helluva lot more work than they expect!
    Be strong, be you–what you do is incredible.
    Susie @ SuzLyfe recently posted…Celebrating My Blogiversary with Foxtail & Moss WorkshopMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      Thank you! And definitely! There are also a bunch of moves that look super easy, but until you try it (as I very sadly learned), you never know. x_x I still haven’t mastered some of em’, but I guess that’s what the practice is for! ๐Ÿ˜›

  2. Montana Ross

    This is a great post Farrah! I totally identify with it as obstacle racing is still very much a male dominated sport (last count 70% male, 30% female). I have people all the time ask me if I feel I have “something to prove” or if I’m just “trying to be tough.” Sean (the EMC at Tough Mudder) said “when people call you crazy you embrace it because it usually means they’re afraid of the fact that you’re getting out there and living your life in a way that they’re scared to.”

    I totally support your pole-ing too …I’ve tried it and it was super fun and a great workout!
    Montana Ross recently posted…5 Reasons You Need Owl Be Sweatin’ HeadbandsMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      I just can’t understand why people would ask that! (Although I guess the same could be said about what I do too, haha.) Why do you have to have “something to prove” just because you like obstacle racing? o_O (I think it’s totally badass and am still in the process of convincing everyone at TKD/BJJ to do it with me next year. hehhh. :D! )

      That’s an awesome quote! :] I’d definitely stand by it!

  3. valerie

    I can identify twit this so much. I used to lift weights in my teens and i used to get those types of comments. It’s been a while since I’ve lifted weights but I want to start again. I will definitely keep your post in mind for when I get those little remarks.

    1. valerie

      With!! Omg!

      1. Farrah

        haha, no worries! I got what you meant! ๐Ÿ˜›

    2. Farrah

      It’s such an awesome workout! :] I wish I’d started when I was younger, but alas. Better late than never though!

      P.S. If anyone makes any nasty side comments, the idea of hurling a plate at them is always kinda fun. ๐Ÿ˜€ I promise I’ve never done that yet. >_>

  4. bree west

    This is a beautifully written post! I definitely identify with it to a certain extent, while I am a runner every time I take on a new challenge people are constantly asking me why, what am I trying to prove or am I having a quarter life crisis. Nope, it’s just what I enjoy!
    bree west recently posted…Spreading Holiday CheerMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      Thank you! ๐Ÿ˜€ It makes me wonder if it’s just in human nature to question everything that’s different from what that particular individual does(?). Why can’t we all just like what we like? ๐Ÿ˜›

  5. Betsy

    Great post! Everyone should do what works for them! There is no right path to fitness and we should applaud whatever path people decide to take!
    Betsy recently posted…2014 FITmas Wishlist + Giveaway!My Profile

    1. Farrah

      Indeed! :] I feel like that’s the only real effective way to get anyone to stick to it!

  6. GiselleR @ Diary of an ExSloth

    This made my day. I was laughing out loud at some of the comments you get (cuz I get them too). The most recent one I got was ‘make sure you buy gloves cuz no guys want girls with callouses’. Yes, because my sole purpose in life is to find a man who likes me for my soft hands…
    Also, you and I are dying, gasping-for-breath, how-much-longer-until-Iโ€™m-done-what-was-I-thinking-when-I-started-this running twins.
    GiselleR @ Diary of an ExSloth recently posted…31 Thanksgiving Recipes Ready in an hour or lessMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      hahaha, I completely forgot about that one! I’ve definitely gotten that one too. It’s most definitely my goal in life to win someone’s heart by my super-soft hands. >_> Way to aim high in life! O:

      I’m actually thinking of starting up again! I still haven’t managed to force myself to actually start, but…the thought process is more in the works now than it was in the last 4 years put together! That’s gotta count for something…

  7. Jennifer Pritchard

    Hahaha awesome photos on this post! Love it.
    Jennifer Pritchard recently posted…Probiotics: Do You Know About the Power of Probiotics?My Profile

    1. Farrah

      hehe, I definitely got a kick out of em’ too! ๐Ÿ˜›

  8. Earl-Leigh

    Yes, yes and more yes! I live in a southern state where “women are supposed to act like ladies” so I have heard many of those comments too often.
    Earl-Leigh recently posted…Stockings and Starbucks {a Giveaway}My Profile

    1. Farrah

      Urgh. :[ I grew up in CA, but that’s what I heard all my life too! (Mostly from my parents, haha. I learned to whistle out of spite because I was told that it “wasn’t ladylike.”) Someday, I hope people will branch out of their bubbles!

  9. Sara @ Lake Shore Runner

    Preach! I love this Farrah. And it great for it to be said out loud. I applaud you for what you are able to do with your body – this is a prime example of everyone gets joy out of different things. There should be no discrimination for that. Can’t wait for you to lift 3 times your body weight. BAMF Status!
    Sara @ Lake Shore Runner recently posted…Tried it Tuesday #2: Goat Cheese, Sunchokes, Fennel + Blue Apron DiscountMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      Thank you! <3 I can't wait either! I will need video documentation so I can relive the awesomeness, hahaha. *-*

  10. Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine

    Great post!!!!!
    I’ve never had negative comments from my lifting. I’m the only girl in my dorm it seems that is down in the gym lifting weights (more than most of the few guys that come down sometimes!) Who cares!?
    I also do yoga, a complete opposite to lifting as well. It all works for me and I love the two together. I would never change that!
    Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine recently posted…The Ultimate Unique Foodie Gift Guide + {A Spectacular Giveaway}My Profile

    1. Farrah

      That’s good! For the most part, I don’t think I’ve ever had any negative comments at the gym. (There are sometimes stares at my butt when I’m squatting, but that’s different. ._.) But I definitely agree! It’s all about finding what you love and going with it! :]

  11. Joely Smith

    LOL loved this post – fact mixed with humor are my favorite types of posts! I was badass in my younger years now I am just okay being a fatass ๐Ÿ™‚
    Joely Smith recently posted…James&Co Faux Leather Jacket ReviewMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      hahaha, I like to think that we all retain our inner badassery in some way, shape or form! :D!

  12. Ronda

    Love this. Some of the harshest comments can come from people you love. The women in my family, big and small like to point out when someone else gains weight.

    1. Farrah

      Same! It’s usually a lose-lose situation in that if I’m eating a ton, they’ll tell me I’m going to get fat, and if I’m not eating as much, they ask me why I’m not eating. Just can’t win! :O

  13. GiGi Eats

    When people say negative things to me, I LAUGH IN THEIR FACE – because if only they could be in my body for 5 seconds, they would realize how amazing I FEEL!
    GiGi Eats recently posted…Maria Menounos, Thank You!My Profile

    1. Farrah

      Agreed! I usually tell them it’s probably not a good idea to mess with someone who can beat them up. :]

  14. Tami

    Thanks for sharing your perspective on this. It’s been on my list of things to start doing for my health.
    Tami recently posted…Growing Child: My Baby Turned Two!My Profile

    1. Farrah

      I hope you find something awesome that you love to do! :] I honestly think that’s the best indicator of whether or not anyone will stick to a workout routine! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

  15. jill conyers

    My favorite is running. I don’t get negative comments exactly. Non-runners tend to think it’s weird. Well said! Thanks for sharing with the #fitfam ๐Ÿ™‚
    jill conyers recently posted…Simplify Active Living To Make It SustainableMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      haha, there’s probably something that can be thought of as “weird” about each and every sport! I like to just embrace it! ๐Ÿ˜›

      1. jill conyers

        I embrace running 100% ๐Ÿ™‚
        jill conyers recently posted…5 Things FridayMy Profile

  16. Angie Bailey

    I think people think I’m lazy because more low impact workouts work best for me. I can’t breathe well enough to run or do high impact cardio and I have a lot of shoulder problems preventing me from doing other things. I can always add more things once I find things I like, things that work well for me. I’ve always felt this way. What works for one person doesn’t always work for the next and there’s no shame in that. (Precisely Mine)
    Angie Bailey recently posted…Ozeri 3x Tower Fan ReviewMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      Agreed! I’m sorry on behalf of those people! I think the best approach is to just be as nonjudgmental as possible–until I know exactly what another person is really going through, I can’t ever completely understand, so I’m in no place to judge em’!

  17. Christine

    Great post! I wish I was in the shape I was years ago but so much for that. LOVE your writing style ๐Ÿ™‚
    Christine recently posted…What to Expect at your Childโ€™s 1st Dental Visit by Age OneMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      Thanks so much! :] I was off the wagon for a bit lately because my ER schedule was so erratic and it’s SO SO COLD (excuses, excuses, haha ๐Ÿ˜› ), but I hopped back on last week, and it feels great! (Y’know, minus all the soreness and all, haha.)

  18. Dominique

    “What works for one person doesnโ€™t necessarily work for everyone else.You just need to find what you love and go with it.”

    I couldn’t agree more!

    1. Farrah

      Thanks! ๐Ÿ˜€ It’s the best method of adherence I’ve found thus far! ๐Ÿ˜›

  19. Jessica Joy @The Fit Switch

    I wish everyone thought this way. Not only would they be a less judgemental (if they are) but they would also realize that if they don’t love to run, that’s fine….there are plenty of other options. People try a few types of exercise, and assume they hate exercise altogether when they don’t like it. Silly. Sorry about the lame-o comments you’ve gotten about lifting. You’re a total stud. And, I have honestly been wanting to learn pole-dancing. It’s beautiful. So nice to meet you. Thanks for linking up!
    Jessica Joy @The Fit Switch recently posted…How to Stick With Exercise. The Fit Dish #11My Profile

    1. Farrah

      Agreed! I really wish that were the case! It’d be pretty awesome if people finally realized that positivity is a way more effective approach, but alas!

      It is a-okay with the lame comments. I’ve gotten enough positive ones that it overbalances it in the positive direction, and as pretty much all the comments come from my family, I’ve learned to take what they say with a giant boulder of salt. ๐Ÿ˜› They’re starting to come around though (finally!)!

      Pole dancing is super fun! :]! If you ever get a chance to take a class, I’d definitely recommend it! (If you’re ever in northern CA while I’m there, I will totally drag you to my favorite studio. They’re such an amazing group of people! <3 ) Great to meet you too, and thanks so much for hosting the linkup! :]

  20. Ricardo

    Have you experienced negative remarks/comments based on what you like to do? How do you usually respond?
    -I think the last time I had a super negative comment about what it was I liked to do was back in elementary school. Playing video games was looked down on, because “why would you want to spend all your time inside” or “why do you want to do something so childish.” 20 years later, it’s like a normal thing, haha. But I started to hang out with other people who loved the same things I did, so I never heard anything negative after awhile. One thing my dad mentioned was during my DDR days. “Why don’t you guys just put on a tournament?” This was back before it got popular, so say 2001. It made me think about how I probably could have made money on something I loved to do. It would have also put a lot of naysayers to shame, haha

    Whatโ€™s the weirdest thing someone has ever said to you regarding your sport/physical activity of choice?
    -“You have a big ass.” So, it was freshman year and football practice had just ended and I was walking back to the locker room. I see a few friends whom I had class with and they see me in half of my football gear on. One of the girls immediately goes “wow, you have a big ass.” It kinda threw me back a bit, because I was still on the large side. I said something to the effect of “thanks?” and just kept think about my general appearance, haha. I ended up losing a ton of weight there after, but from an unrelated thing.

    Whatโ€™s your favorite way to get your fitness on?
    Lifting. It’s become a bit of a passion, if only because I can see my progression on the weights I can lift. But it also let’s me vent like a roided out bro. For instance: ARRGGGHH I JUST WANNA LIIIIFT. GAINZ BRO, GOTTA GET DEM GAINZ BROO. BOTCH I’M LIKE ATLAS, I’LL LIFT YOUR GOD DAMN WORLD UPSIDE DOWN! I-YOU-ARGGHHH-WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU’RE ON THE MACHINE I WANT?! ARRRGGGHHHHH SUPER SAIYAN LEVEL THREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!11!1!”
    Well, you get the point.

    1. Farrah

      An acquaintance I had told me I had a really ghetto booty when I was in high school, har har. :O

      People who hate on other people for their hobbies make me sad. :/ Can’t understand why we can’t all just get along!

      Lifting is definitely one of my favorites too! :]

  21. Angie B.

    I’ve never been a runner either. My sister and my one brother do distance running and tell me all the time “oh you just have to try for a while” No I get side stitches, can’t breathe, my ankles and knees hurt, etc. I couldn’t even run when I was in good shape in highschool and barely 100 lbs. Not even in when I did track and field..I was a short distance sprinter and a thrower. I think everyone needs to find their own thing, what works for them. I enjoy walking and yoga
    Angie B. recently posted…PeekaPak Kidsโ€™ Subscription Box Black Friday and Cyber Monday Deal !!!My Profile

    1. Farrah

      Agreed! I definitely think finding what works is the best way to go, because it means we’ll actually stick to it! :]

  22. Susan Mahlburg

    When I was in high school, I ran Indoor Track. As part of the requirements, we had to weight lift at least twice a week. I think it’s great that you’re thinking about full-body health!
    Susan Mahlburg recently posted…#TryItTuesday: Bliss Micro MagicMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      That’s awesome! :] I really wish I’d done more sports while I was growing up, but better late than never, I guess! ๐Ÿ˜›

  23. Ange @ Cowgirl Runs

    This is such a great post, thank you so much for linking up!
    I love being able to life and move things by myself. One of my (totally useless) movers was surprised when I was able to move and lift things myself. Well, why not?! ๐Ÿ™‚
    Ange @ Cowgirl Runs recently posted…Link Love: 11/29My Profile

    1. Farrah

      Thanks for hosting it! :]

      I love being able to do that too! Always fun when people completely underestimate me! ๐Ÿ˜›

  24. Sam

    Great post! Keep doing what you enjoy doing, and kick ass at it!

    1. Farrah

      Thank you, good sir! ๐Ÿ˜€ I shall keep on truckin’!

  25. Jen @ The Halfway Homemaker

    Fitness is definitely a personal journey. Kudos to you for doing what works best for you.
    Jen @ The Halfway Homemaker recently posted…Hello Kitty Christmas GiftsMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      Agreed and thank you! :]

  26. Shannon

    Great article. It blows my mind that weight lifting still has such a negative response from women…isn’t there enough proof out there nowadays that it won’t make you look like a man?!

    Clothes & Quotes
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    1. Farrah

      I have no idea how the hecks I missed this! o_o I’m so sorry, but I agree with ya–not sure how people haven’t gotten the memo yet!
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