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.
My home workout is too routine now, and I need a change, but I dread the idea of going to the gym. Thinking about it. As an aside, I thought that hoarding book was great.
The hoarding book is great, but a little scary. I’m a collector, not a hoarder, but I can see how I could be at risk to become one.
I go to the gym because we have no space to work out in, and no place to put equipment. I have always had mixed feelings about it – but the gym I go to is fairly basic (New York Sports Club – the McDonald’s of gyms) and not fancy. It is the most comfortable gym for me – I looked at a bunch before I joined. There are some gyms that are expensive (and therefore exclusive) and pamper their clients.
I have changed my workouts over the years, but always with free weights and some aerobic activity (stair master or elliptical trainer) – but I just got so bored that I was at risk of stopping. The kettlebells are a good change up for me.
Morning. I was reading your blog before getting up (my iPhone is a great procrastination tool) and misread the title (didn’t see the “not”) and I thought “hmm… I don’t know that yoga is such a great idea…” I used to do it and your boobs and crotch are often being pushed into the ground and you can really feel them so I thought that may not be good for the dysphoria… Anyway, sounds like you are doing great with the weights! I admire your ability to set goals and then work towards them (instead of forgetting they exist) and then, if the goal seems not quite right you let it go (instead of beating yourself up about it, I hope). Keep up the great work!!
Thanks. I thought about making the title Om not going to yoga class, but I didn’t know if everyone would get it. The first place I get hung up on starting yoga (for flexibility and strength) is in what to wear – because I am not a spandex person. Then there is still the desire to do stuff that feels more masculine than feminine, and it hard for me to picture yoga that way even though in India it was a guy thing first. Eventually I may still do it, but right now I’m happy swinging the kettlebells around.
I also have quite an addictive / obsessive personality. Good thing I’ve never been interested in drugs! Some goals take a lot longer than others. You will get there I’m sure 🙂
I worked for New York City Transit which did routine random drug tests – which I complained about – but was probably a good thing because I was a bit of a pot-head while in college and grad school and I had to stop smoking when I took the job. Compulsive eating is the hardest thing to break, and I’m still working on it.
It is hard to accept that I’m going to always have serial compulsive projects, but as long as they don’t do my any harm, I guess it will be what I do.
Hey, keep going with the kettlebells, they are a fantastic all body workout, especially for the legs. Legs are the easiest place to build muscle, and every pound of muscle converts to an extra 50 calories your body needs to burn each day. I have a personal trainer, he had me and my Mum doing the same exercises, because the way to get ripped on top isn’t about just upper body exercises, but as much to do with legs.
The exercises drilled in were kettlebell swings (lots and lots and lots), high-pull, squat, dead lift and military press. These exercises are multi-compound meaning it works out loads of areas. Kettlebells are better for working out than free-weights, but helps no end to achieve those goals of getting the big lift on bench press. It takes the whole body regimen to get to individual goals, I find.
There’s new fields of man yoga specifically for building strength and flexibility, so don’t discount it, especially for the stretches and relaxation.
I’ve been doing a lot of the exercises you mentioned – the military press (one handed overhead press without using a hip thrust) was the one that had me going to the gym manager for the small bell. The squats and swings are intense, which I like. I did a “regular” gym workout recently and I could feel the difference after working out for 6 weeks with the Kettlebells.
I can’t imagine working out with my mother (besides that she is dead) because she was the most judgmental and complaining person ever, but I had a good laugh trying to picture her at it.
Wonderful post Jamie. You can try aerobic classes it is a fun way to reduce weight.
I think the aerobics classes are too girly! It is interesting that in our gym even though everything is open to everyone (the locker rooms are sex segregated but everything else is technically co-ed) the gym is very segregated – it would be nice to find something that is more mixed. The only area that is really used by both men and women is the one with the treadmills (very, very, boring).
That last paragraph is one of your best ever!
Thanks. Each trip to the gym locker room could be a post because it is the place where I feel most out of place. It usually isn’t bad when the gym isn’t busy, but trying to change right before there is a dance or yoga class is a big mistake.
I’ve been to too many gyms where the weights are occupied by guys, exclusively, and the cardio machines are occupied by women, exclusively. I used to go with an ex-football player friend of mine to the weightroom so that I wouldn’t feel so awkward; except he was curling 60 lbs and I was curling 8.
Also if you were the first one to request a 6kg kettlebell, I imagine a lot of smaller people or kettlebell beginners are now empowered to use them in your gym; they just never had the guts to ask! You’ve done them a big favor.
It took me a while to not be intimidated to go into the area with the benches and racks. But I remind myself that no matter how much or little I lift (for a girl) they are not comparing themselves to me – I am just an inconvenience taking up a bench they may want or using a pair of dumbbells – they are comparing themselves to the other guys. I do watch my form, because everyone is impressed by proper form no matter how light the weights.
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