In This Chapter

V Becoming strong, not big

Understanding that time of the workout Lifting for two Ironing out your diet

In many parts of the world, at many points in history, women have performed as much physical labor as men. During the nineteenth century, on the family farms that dominated much of this country, women often hauled water, plowed fields, and cut hay alongside their husbands. And women's work—scrubbing clothes on a washboard, churning butter, baking bread in cast-iron stoves—was probably as physically demanding as men's.

After the turn of the century, increasing urbanization, mechanization, and prosperity led to more general acceptance of the feminine ideal, a woman too delicate and too refined for physical work. Of course, the feminine ideal was also too delicate for all but the tamest sports—badminton, anyone? Now the pendulum is swinging back. In the past 25 years, women have fought for their right to become firefighters, construction workers, or soldiers. They have fought for the right to play sports in school with equipment and facilities on a par with men. (Several women are even on the rosters of NCAA Division I football programs, albeit as place kickers.) At the time of this writing, the Women's National Basketball Association is in its third season, and women's World Cup soccer played in 1999 to sell-out crowds—in the largest stadiums in the United States.

While we should be proud of reaching these milestones, it's important to remember the female sports pioneers of times past. For example, at the very first modern Olympic games held in Athens in 1896, a woman named Melpomene petitioned to compete in the marathon. Of course her petition was denied. However, this did not stop her from running the 40 kilometers from Marathon to Athens. Her finishing time? Four hours, 30 minutes. Sound like archaic discrimination? Katherine Switzer, who disguised herself as a man to run the 1968 Boston Marathon, was attacked by the race director, who tried to pull her off the course. It took nearly 100 years before women had their own Olympic Marathon to run. (The winner? Joan Benoit at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.)

Now, while Melpomene's story has nothing to do with weight training, it does have to do with toughness, both mental and physical—characteristics found in women as often as in men. So why do some women just assume that weight lifting is beyond them, or that strength is a guy thing? The old feminine ideal, though publicly discredited, is not quite dead. She lives on in the form of the Barbie doll, society's vision of the perfect woman. And, more damaging, she lives on in women's own subconscious minds.

But the good news is that women have learned to question what society thinks. They've learned they can change the rules, and set and achieve their own goals. Badminton and croquet may be fun, but there's a whole lot more out there to do— judo or downhill mountain biking—and women can do it all.

This chapter is not meant to describe a different set of lifting rules for women. There are no different rules. Just as there is only one way to run a marathon, there is only one way to lift weights—with all you've got. What we want to do here is clear up misconceptions about women and weights and take into account situations that are clearly unique to women—menstruation, pregnancy, and osteoporosis. Let's get started.

5 Ways To Get Rid Of The Baby Fat

5 Ways To Get Rid Of The Baby Fat

Many women who have recently given birth are always interested in attempting to lose some of that extra weight that traditionally accompanies having a baby. What many of these women do not entirely realize is the fact that breast-feeding can not only help provide the baby with essential vitamins and nutrients, but can also help in the weight-loss process.

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