“Good girls don't lift”. The term 'Good', in this phrase, hints of morality. Morality itself is geographic and time bound and what is moral or 'good' in one part of the globe is very different from what is good in yet others and perhaps completely different from what is 'good' in India. What was considered ‘immoral/taboo’ and frowned upon 50 years ago, perhaps isn't so today. Cultures and social taboos change and evolve.
The morality smells different when gender ka tadka is added. Good + Girls.
Good girls don't show skin. Good girls don't run fast. Good girls don't revolt. Good girls don't <fill in the blanks to suit your needs>. Each sentence is subjective and is open to interpretations that can range from 'say wha?' to 'WTF'.
'Good Girls don't lift' but 'Good Girls do ...
a. Carry 10-liter matka (earthen pot) filled with water from 10-kilometer distance
b. Carry a 10 kg child all the way to the farm on her back and work alongside hookah smoking lazy bum husband.
c. Cut the wood so that the fire can be stoked
d. Knead the dough
e. etc, etc...
all this while she is pregnant till the 9th month.
Something is not right. Somebody is using all these 'Good Girls' to their advantage.
Let's look at 'Good Girls don't lift' from a pure health perspective. If girls don't lift, then their bodies won't become stronger. The bones will start weakening and ailments like arthritis, osteoporosis will start knocking at the doors. Many diseases such as Alzheimer’s, CVD, back pain, diabetes are time bombs that are about to explode if a regular dose of 'heavy lifts' are not provided.
Indian doctors mean well when they say ‘Don’t put stress on yourself by lifting heavy weights’ for many reasons.
- They may not be lifting weights and hence may only know the benefits of lifting heavy ‘theoretically’.
- They don’t want the patient to lift without supervision and make things work.
- They don’t want to go against the Indian norm of ‘Good Girls Don’t Lift’ and raise 100 more questions from the patient and the family.
So here are some common myths about women lifting:
‘Isn’t cardio the best way to lose fat?’
Cardio may not be the best way to lose fat as sooner or later, the body adapts to the cardio load and becomes efficient, i.e burns little fat to do the same amount of work. Instead, lifting weights increases lean muscle mass and muscle mass consume energy throughout the day just to maintain itself. The more muscles a person has; the more calories will be consumed in everyday tasks (even brushing your teeth). Hence, lifting weights is a better strategy to lose fat.
‘But lifting weights will make me/her bulky and ugly’
No, it will not. Women don’t have so much testosterone that they will grow so bulky. The media pictures of bulky women are that of those who use steroids and other substances to support growth of muscles. Moreover, one has to literally live in a gym and workout 24/7 to grow muscles even half way closer to what is shown by professional female bodybuilders.
‘Lifting weights will make me/her tired and dull throughout the day’
No. On the contrary, weight training enhances cognitive functions as more connections are formed in the brain to adapt to the load on the body. With new movements, the connections are enhanced and the person would feel mentally stronger. Plus who won’t feel mentally stronger when the body grows stronger? It is all related and proven.
‘But these weight lifters don’t look flexible. Girls should be supple and flexible’
‘Full-range’ loaded exercises improve flexibility rather than decreasing it. It means one has to go all the way up and all the way down with the weight.
‘If girls lift heavy weight, they may hurt themselves. Their bones might break if they start lifting’
Lifting weights puts load on the bones. The bones adapt to the new load by creating new bone cells. This in turn causes the bones to become stronger with new load being added. Hence, lifting makes the bones stronger and not weaker. For those starting out, supervision is recommended to ensure appropriate form and technique.
‘But won’t the joints start aching?’
Proper technique and full range of motion helps joint related issues. Stronger muscles will stabilize and mobilize the joints better. Weight training is an anti-dote for joint issue.
‘But isn’t cardio the best exercise for cardio-vascular diseases?’
Although cardio-vascular diseases have the word ‘cardio’, studies have conclusively proven that weight training (without cardio) alleviates cardio-vascular diseases and diseases such as type-2 diabetes. Talk about benefits over benefits.
‘If we/they stop weight lifting, then we/they will put on weight’
This could be true of any exercise regimen. Regular exercise is a lifestyle. Its not different from brushing your teeth or bathing. Yes it should be considered at that level with basic hygiene. So the association should be with health benefits rather than weight.
There are many resistance/weighted training programs to choose from. Take the help of a personal trainer and design a program specifically for your needs. A simple and yet program should get the BADASS six lifts/movements:
- Shoulder Press
- Farmer’s Carry
- Push Ups
- Pull Ups
If you are a good girl or a badass or if you have one in your house, and want to ensure that she needs to get healthier, then let her join a gym or get a personal trainer who can help her with strength training. Let yourself and your loved one be physically and mentally STRONG. SUPER STRONG.
Founder, MyInsight Nutrition