Adaptive Beauty

Adaptive Beauty

Jan 28, 2017

*Note: ‘The Beauty in My Strength’ is partly sponsored by IronAuthority*

I feel like there’s two different people who travel; those who follow an itinerary and those who follow opportunities. Either works for whatever it is you want to achieve. I have gotten bitten by the wanderlust bug since I was little and my family took week long road trips piled in an Astro van and headed for the Wild West. Quality family time that also tested your endurance for how long you can hold it till dad decides to make a stop.

My adventures nowadays have been for the most part more solo endeavors and I admit to loving the thrill of uncertainty. So as for my trip to New York, it was partially planned as are most of my adventures. I knew my flight, where I was staying and most importantly why I was going. The rest was a matter of how much ground I could cover in a few days. Turns out, a lot. What I didn’t know about this trip was I would meet women who, though completely different backgrounds, were on a similar mission. One that is about overcoming adversity, self-conflict and a desire to leave something behind other than a name.

Marlene, Sherine, Tracy and myself

We all came together because we were individually invited to take part in the making of a video that will encompass the movement that is women’s powerlifting. It’s something women in strength sports will be proud of as we all have fallen off the charts of society’s standard of beauty and really it’s not by our choice. We are shaped by our experiences right? So in a sport dominated by max effort lifting and smorgasbord eating, our bodies are far from likely to look like a Victoria’s Secret Model.

At Black Tap eating all the food

Instead our beauty looks like sturdy thick thighs and broad shoulders mixed with makeup and gym clothes on a daily. None of us are the same size or height or weight but we all connect first and foremost on one thing… we love lifting heavy and we aren’t going to stop.

385 deadlift at the filming of “The Beauty in My Strength”

If our looks and physiques are already being judged imagine that compounded on what most women and girls struggle with self-love. We came into the sport of powerlifting for several reasons but mainly because we found a sense of independence in the pursuit of getting stronger. It’s empowering and gives us a sense of accomplishment.

While getting to know the lovely ladies that were part of the film project I found that we were all facing our own struggles. We were all coming back from an injury, being sick, issues at home, finances, business, etc. What was also collectively felt, was that the pressure of our performance in the gym and especially meet day was something that weighed heavier than our squat goals. We all pitched in to a pep talk of how we need to practice what we preach on focusing more on ourselves.

I love quoting a post I saw by another respected strong woman Molly Mullikin. She said how she was wasn’t going to focus on records this year and that they will come in time, instead more so focus on technique and getting better. I was thankful I read her post, it let me know I wasn’t the only one feeling the indirect pressure of setting records every time I stepped onto a platform. It’s a standard it seems, once you set one people ask if you’re going to clear the slate each time. Not likely but I sure wish. I’m juggling a fresh new massage therapy business of my own, I’m traveling a lot more than I had expected to plan for, I’d like to wish I have my nutrition and prep plan down like I used to, I’ve been injured and rehabbed and then hit a wall with a flu like virus that knocked me on my ass and training definitely took a back seat. So when I see videos of my idols whom I’ll be sharing the platform with in April still kicking some serious ass, I feel like I’m falling behind and failing. I know that’s because of my own expectations.

335 squat attempt at the filming of “The Beauty in My Strength”

It’s a competitive sport and we expect more out of ourselves. We would be lying if we said that we didn’t care how we performed. That would be straight bullshit and we would likely not be in the sport of powerlifting. We want to hit those magical numbers haunting our thoughts as much as we would love to accept ourselves. Weird to think that we are likely to be more proud of the numbers we hit on the platform than of who we are outside of the sport. Women, it seems, let these numbers, social media following, outside pressure dictate their identity so much that if it happens to come to a point that we are subjected to not being able to lift- i.e. Injury, sickness, life- we lose our minds.

I know I have. Though I always say that you have to be a little crazy to powerlift. Maybe that’s why I’m thankful for the life I have outside of the gym and lifting because being grounded has reminded me that there is more to life than the priority I put in being successful at something that isn’t going to pay the bills.

Back to the beauty discussion… it’s a long time coming but I can confidently say that I’m proud of what powerlifting has done to my physique. Training 4 years in the sport has allowed me to build a pretty muscular frame on my short self.

Training at Bev’s Powerhouse Gym

The ladies that were part of this project I know can come to a level of appreciation as I have of their journey of building strength. Physically and metaphorically. But why isn’t physical strength praised as beautiful as maybe how “on fleek” our eyebrows are? Whatever the hell that means. Some of us women have overcome different forms of abuse, maybe survived something tragic, stood up for ourselves and that’s all commended and beautiful. Even more so if it’s layered with fitted clothes, a size 2 waist and a contoured face. All of that is physical, but strength as defined in the ability to lift something that resembles a bar and 45 lbs plates is still shunned. “You’ll get big”, “You’ll look manly”, “You’ll…” I don’t know, roll my eyes, eat another donut and still squat numbers that will make you wonder how my knees aren’t bad.

I donut care

In the pursuit of chasing numbers that may require larger frames, bigger quads and possibly smaller boobs (possibly) we also are required to meet a criteria of beauty that just won’t ever line up to the adaptation of our bodies which will be functional to achieve those desired goals. Am I wrong? They don’t make a jacked Barbie squatting 315! But they’ll show a very happy Ken doll when she makes him a sammich. Why can’t we have it all and still be a feminine woman? Independent, some mascara here and there AND physically strong?

No need to march on this ladies. Eventually it will be recognized that strong is beautiful.

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