Before I retired, I put up three goals on the white board in my cubicle; to get my 401K/457 accounts maxed out, to get my weight down to 140 lb., and to reliably bench press 75 lb. I hit the first two goals, but I got stuck at bench pressing more than 65 lb. I considered hiring a personal trainer to see if I could do it, but it seemed like cheating. As I tried to get past 65 lb., I realized that not all goals make sense.
I also made a list of things I wanted to do with my free time. So far, I’ve only learned how to work out with kettlebells. I haven’t started the second blog I want to write, I haven’t attended introductory yoga, and I haven’t cleaned up my room (I straightened out and rearranged the piles).
I’m an obsessive person. I try to divert myself from binge overeating and compulsive shopping by taking on new projects (paradoxically every project requires purchasing some books or equipment). If you looked at the stack of books by the couch, you could figure out my current project is revamping my gym workout. There is also a book on hoarding, and another on Afghanistan.
It took me ten years to get bored with free weights. I like how butch it feels to use dumbbells and barbells. It separates me from the women at the gym; they mostly use the circuit machines and rarely use the benches. They go to yoga and dance classes; the studio is always full of pencil thin women in their thirties.
Working out helps me manage my gender dysphoria and feel strong in my body. I don’t compare my muscles, or how much weight I’m lifting, to anyone else. Some women are scared to work out because they don’t want to look muscle-bound; I wish it was that easy. I accept that if I don’t use testosterone my body will never look ripped. I will never be able to lift significantly more than I do now. I can master the form. I can get compact and sturdier. I can feel more powerful.
The kettlebell books for women are about core and tone. The ones for men are about building up muscle. You can paint the exercises pink or blue; you can picture yourself either way. I like the historical way. The bells were counterweights in the farm markets in the Ukraine. The lightest ones were a pood (16.38 kg or 36 lb.) and used by circus strongmen. This resonates with me.
You have to start out using a light weight to learn the proper form of an exercise. Once you have mastered it, you can move on to a heavy weight. Two problems. I had to get over my self-consciousness at learning new moves, and the lightest kettlebell in my gym was 8 kg (17.6 lb.). It was too heavy to learn the one-handed overhead moves.
I didn’t want to be the dowdy middle-aged butch lesbian with the hairy legs asking for special order lightweight equipment. But, I sucked it up and went and knocked on the manager’s door. I asked her if the gym had any 6 kg bells, and the manager said they should. I asked her to see if they were hidden somewhere, and if not, to order them. I admitted that the 8 kg bells were too heavy for one or two exercises.
Last week I saw the little bell on the rack and used it to do vertical cleans and overhead presses. I made another trip to the manager’s office to thank her, and to let her know I noticed.
Then I went down to the locker room, showered, and put on my blue camouflage boxer briefs, my binder, and my jeans and flannel shirt. Twenty lithe women changed into lycra capris and tank tops before going upstairs for their yoga class. I stepped out onto Seventh Avenue, feeling like a Ukrainian strongman.