a guest blog by Beth Polisson
(originally published May 9, 2011... still SO true! ~Val)
Alright, females, you know I love you, but you be drivin' me loca lately with your questions. Consequently, I need to write about it so that I don't punch the next woman who walks by my office in the face.
Where do I begin? Maybe I'll take you back to college, since that was such an amazing, yet simple time in my life. I played sports in college, and lifting was part of my weekly practice. I had a very good friend who always struggled with her weight. She used to plop herself on the elliptical (along with the rest of the Tufts undergrad female population) with the latest copy of People; she would plod away for about 60-90 mins. "OMG, I burned 1200 calories on the elliptical today!! Can you BELIEVE that, BP??" At the time I didn't really know much about the benefits of lifting (and, alternatively, the downside of too much cardio), so I couldn't really respond appropriately to her loaded question. A couple of years passed and my friend's body NEVER changed - ever. She wore the same size clothes and always had the same physical appearance: no real shape, just soft layers of sub-cu fat, which gave her a rather amorphous shape. She was what I today call "skinny fat." So, our senior year, I asked my SF friend, "Why don't you try lifting? You'd lose fat." The response? Pretty much the SAME response I get from almost EVERY woman I speak with about this: "Nooooo, that makes me bulky. And I don't want to look like a man." A man - really? And please, help me out here - Id love for a SFG to actually define "bulky" for me. I picture someone who looks like a potato sack, or the Michelin Man. Is that REALLY what you all think you're going to look like if you lift weights? If so, the problem is worse than I thought.
I guess my first question is, have you really ever TRIED to lift weights, for more than a week, via a program given to you and designed FOR you by a personal trainer? If not, you simply have no credibility and cannot say that lifting "makes me bulky." I'm going to attach some pictures here, because I think they really do speak 1000 words. The first is of my figure idol, Erin Stern. Erin, IMO, 100% represents the "figure ideal" in this sport today, and her figure looked its best at the 2010 Olympia. Nice shoulders, strong back that tapers into a teeny tiny waist, and athletic, yet lean legs, and a tight tush. The 2nd is of Mischa Barton, who epitomizes what skinny fat girls look like. I'd say the VAST majority of Hollywood, with the exception of maybe 1 person (Jessica Biel) is skinny fat. I think this is where the problem is, to be honest. I think women are looking in magazines and seeing waif-like people and thinking that this is "fit." Ummmmm, no.........couldn't be farther from the truth. And not only is it not fit, but it's largely unhealthy. Do you really think that Nicole Kidman is fit and athletic? If so, please de-friend me on Facebook. If you can't see muscle definition of any kind, you're skinny fat. If it looks like your skin is hanging onto your bones for dear life, you're skinny fat.
Erin does minimal to no cardio in a off season and lifts HEAVY and hard; she eats almost as much as one of her horses. Mischa probably does 35 overhead triceps extensions with a 6lb DB and fuels her muscles with cocaine and vodka, with a side of nicotine. She probably also eats Nerds and Skittles for her breakfast. My point??? Your diet also needs to be on point so that you don't perpetuate the cycle of skinny fatness. Pick up some meat, girls!! And yes, that's what she said.
I'm also going to attach pictures of me. The first is from me before lifting properly (poor quality, I know, but I'm very soft - I was going high rep, low weight lifting and a moderate amt of cardio at the time) and the 2nd is of me after over a year of lifting heavy and eating right and not doing any cardio. The differences in my physique are MEASURABLE. And I do NO CARDIO. My stats are next to each picture - those #s don't lie ladies.......they simply don't. I am not bulky, I am not manly; I lift heavy, and I don't see a treadmill until it's time for me to hit the stage.
I'm here to tell you that you will NOT get bulky if you lift. And you need to lift HEAVY in order to change your physique. So many women are SO afraid of doing fewer than 20 reps of ANYTHING. I get frustrated when I see women grabbing the 5lb DBs and doing 20 bicep curls and calling it a day. There IS something to be said for endurance lifting as part of your program, but your entire program should not consist of just endurance lifting. "12 lateral raises with a 25lb DB? No way, I'll look like a football player!" Not..........muscle burns fat, gang; the more of it you have, the LEANER you'll appear. Don't worry about the # on the scale. In fact, throw that shit away. The scale is a "random number generator" as my old coach, Erik Ledin, likes to say. And he's right. All it tells you is how much you weigh at the time you weigh yourself. It says nothing about body composition, which is WAY more important than weight. Women are so focused on the # on the random # generator. How are your CLOTHES fitting? How do you look naked? These are the questions you need to be asking yourself. Erik also says, "Train for a look, not a number." So. Freaking. True.
There is so much science and so much evidence to support me, ladies, and I know what's holding you back is your fear. But I PROMISE you that you will not get bulky, and you will certainly not look like a man. And I'm not saying that you have to walk around looking like Erin Stern; if you want to walk around looking like Jessica Biel, you gotta lift.
And that reminds me. Jess WENT to Tufts, and I used to watch her train in the gym. She was preparing for Blade III her Soph year, and she did nothing but eat a lot of chicken and lift heavy as SHIT. I'll attach a pic of Jess so you can see how fly you can look if you actually pick up some substantial weight and do more than just look at it. Because, you know, Jess is sooooooooooo manly.