glow notes

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

This is the house that jane built

When the subject of bodybuilding comes up, most of us think of Arnold Schwarzenegger or, for those who occasionally read muscle magazines, Ronnie Coleman.

Traditionally, bodybuilding refers to weight training and manipulation of dietary intake with the purpose of developing a particular physique. Participants liken it to a sculptor carving and adding clay to create the perfect form, only the medium is one's own body. This is not the same as either Olympic weightlifting or powerlifting, which are sports that emphasize sheer strength and the technique of the actual lift. The aesthetic that professional bodybilders aspire to is determined in large part by the trends of the day, and has tended towards the HUGE in recent years - though muscular balance is also important in judging.

It's a sport, there's money in it if you're dedicated (and genetically gifted and, in many cases, willing to take illegal drugs) , and that's all well and good if that's your thing.

But most of us in the weight room are not trying to turn ourselves into super(wo)man, nor do we expect to be paid for our efforts. Yet we are all intent on building our bodies, to one end or another.

The amazing thing about the physical body is that it is in constant flux. Every few years, every cell in our body is replaced - we have, in effect, a totally fresh body. And what this body feels like, looks like, and can do is very much up to us.

Our bodies, like our minds, like our lives, like everything, respond to our actions and beliefs.

When I pick up a 20-pound dumbell in one hand and curl it 10 times, I'm telling the muscle fibers in my biceps brachii that I need them to be stronger, as there will be things to pick up and carry. I'm also telling my brain that it needs to get used to doing this, as we'll be doing it often.

Conversely, if I -don't- use the muscles in my arm, my body figures I don't need them and conserves energy by allowing them to atrophy. My brain, also, becomes flacid if I don't work towards goals and build habits.

Not that weight lifting is the only way to train your body and mind. It's just one of my favorites.

So, back to bodybuilding. I am building a body that meets my needs. I want to be strong and lean into old age. I want to feel good and not be injured. I want to experience the exhileration of my heart pumping fast and hard as I run along the beach. I want to be able to lift and move heavy things so that I can be a good partner to my man, so that I have the power to affect my world without asking for help.

Do I care how I look? Yes. I want my belly to be flat, my muscles defined. Do I want to look like a supermodel? No, it doesn't occur to me to compare myself to anybody else. I want to look like the very best me, the strongest, leanest, most disciplined me.

I am building a body that expresses who I am.

I am building the house that I want to live in.


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