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Let’s get Naked

It’s summer time, and it is hot out there. Who needs clothes? Let’s get naked!!! And jump in the pool, drink an ice cold drink, and sit by a fan while wearing sunglasses and smothered in spf 70.

Many people are uncomfortable in their own skin, and there are many reasons for this. A major factor is social media telling us all what is ‘ideal’ and we grow up never meeting that. I find people who lift weights or work out to ‘get healthy and strong’ rather than for aesthetic reasons are a bit more comfortable in their own skin, simply because of confidence and knowing what their bodies are capable of, rather than how well their abs are on display or how little their skin folds when they sit down. (Oh PS working out to ‘get strong’ often results in a better physique, just FYI.) Ahhh body image. Vanity. Mirrors. I wonder if other animals worry about this stuff? They’re naked all the time!

Since I’m a girl, I know more about how girls are affected by all of this, and this post will reflect that.

So, I went to an all-girls’ college for undergrad. This college was great, but it recognized that women have some serious body image issues and this often results in eating disorders and other unhealthiness. in an effort to boost confidence and self-esteem, Scripps College has a “Love your Body week”. They come out with shirts for this week of self-love that read (in the mirror) “you’re beautiful” and “hey, gorgeous”. Not only is this good for facilitating the shift towards a healthier body image, but it gets girls interested more in overall health rather than “can I fit into a size 2?”. 

The lifting world is so much different: girls WANT bigger legs and a bulbous booty and traps and lats and all those things that will assist them in moving bigger loads on the bar. I’ve heard many an Elite female CrossFitter, even, say “I want to put on a few pounds so I’m trying to bulk up a bit by drinking more whole milk.” Girls — and boys — are proud of their posteriors that make it difficult to find the perfect pair of jeans. Celebrate the booty.

One of my biggest pet peeves is the following phrase: “if I could only lose 10#, then these pants would fit!” I used to be guilty of this utterance. Can you blame me? “Beauty” magazines left and right are trying to dole out secrets to losing that extra 5-10lbs while posting photo-shopped images of celebrities and models on their covers. Who WOULDN’T want to look like that?!?! So, naturally, those peevish words are uttered by females more often than not, and now I just shake my head. Whereas, yes, it is true. If you lost 10# you would be smaller and those pants might fit, there is another way: change your overall body composition (less body fat, and equal or more lean mass) and those pants could also fit. It’s how I lost 2 sizes and lots of body fat but very little overall weight. First tip: eat meat. Second tip: eat fat. Third tip: lift heavy. Girls: I PROMISE you that you will NOT ‘bulk up like a man’ if you start using free weights (unless you also take testosterone and HGH and stuff like that, because then you will look like a man). Don’t believe me? These girls all weigh under 120lbs and are cute as a button and are all ridiculously stronger than I can ever hope to be. They do NOT look like men: Maria de la Puente and Julia Rohde (battle of the 53s).

Let’s turn the discussion to the health industry and the doctor’s office. And when you go to the doctor’s office, you sit there waiting for the doctor to come in, and your eyes wander around the room, briefly noting the posters of anatomy, until they settle on the chart. You know what chart I’m talking about: the BMI (body mass index) chart. I have always loathed this chart. Now, I am someone who has struggled to maintain a ‘healthy’ weight. I have seen the scale fluctuate drastically over the past 10 years, somewhat like a rollercoaster. The past few years, however, I’ve eaten consistently (high protein, no grain/sugar, lots of veggies) and lifted weights and exercised intensely (2 years of CrossFit and now 7 months of pure weightlifting), and it’s paid off. The only time I step on the scale and ‘worry’ about weight is a couple weeks before a meet, when I have to make sure I can weigh in under 69kg for my weight class, and whenever I step on the scale I realize there’s nothing to worry about. I eat. A lot. and I lift. A lot. And I weigh a lot more than people think when they see me. And then I remember: muscle is more dense than fat, and I have quite a bit of it. Don’t believe me? How about an Olympian, Sarah Robles?

Now back to the BMI chart, which assumes I am your average sedentary person (it’s not gender specific), and that I do not have as much dense muscle hiding under my skin as I do. I weigh 150lbs and am 5’5″.

Shamelessly ready for summer

According to the BMI chart, I am just on the cusp between “normal” and “overweight”.

Yet I wear a size 6, my body fat is under 20%, my bloodwork is very good, I don’t take medications, never had a broken bone, and I can snatch my bodyweight, deadlift twice my bodyweight and almost squat that much to boot. I can do 5 strict pull-ups in a row (that’s right, no kipping allowed). I can do a whole bunch of real ‘boy’ push-ups in a row (chest to deck) — not sure how many, but it’s at least 35.  My fastest 5k run time ever was just over 23 minutes (just over a year ago). I’d say… I’d say I’m pretty healthy, no? Not overweight?

The average doctor’s office does not take into account the athletic person. This person is built differently. In fact, athletes are built differently given how each sport shapes us (literally) in significant ways. I’ll demonstrate with some Olympic figures.

Many sports go a step further and have weight class divisions: boxing, wrestling, weightlifting (not CrossFit, though, but, then again, most people don’t consider that a “real” sport). This is only realistic. You can’t expect Mike Tyson to go up against Manny Pacquiao and have it be a fair fight. Mike could just sit on Manny and be done with it (I actually lost a BJJ match this way once, when they let the girl who weighed about 180lb roll in our class so she could compete, and she just plopped her arse down on me and it was all I could do to just breathe after that).

Lately I’ve competed in Olympic lifting and powerlifting, so I’ll use those as examples. Last Saturday I competed in a 100% Raw Powerlifting Federation American Challenge. It was a pretty big meet (over 100 lifters), and I did quite well. Despite the way they calculate ‘best lifter’ based on your Total and coefficient of that Total and your weight, I still won “best female lifter”. I also won “best Total in my weight class and age group” (yeah they even take age into account!). My mom also won a medal (she earned it, too, by deadlifting a wicked 92.5kg [203#]).

Back to weight classes and how it’s awesome they take this into account. So the best two pulls of the day were by my fellow teammates: Renee and Jen. Renee is in the -75kg weight class, and Jen is in the -60kg weight class. Renee pulled an easy 150kg (330#) (seriously she made it look easy), and Jen pulled 142.5kg (314#. Given that Jen weighs so much less than Renee, Jen ended up winning “best deadlift”, even though Renee lifted more weight. See how that works? It’s a pretty nifty and realistic system they have going on there. Olympic Weightlifting does the same thing with the Wilkes ratio — the ‘best lifter’ of the meet is not s/he who puts up the best Total, but the one who has the best Total:body weight ratio.

So I’ve talked about body composition, lifting heavy, weight classes, my mom rocking the lifting, rocking the recent Powerlifting meet… what else is there? Boys, I guess. I’m going to go out on a limb here and speak for the boys, even though I am (obviously) not a boy. While you hear many girls who first enter a gym say “I want to lose some weight and get rid of this belly pudge”, you hear a lot of boys enter a gym and say “I’d like to put on a bit of muscle but don’t know how to gain weight” (and then the girls just shake their heads and think “I can teach you how to gain weight! Piece of cake!”).

Well, I’m going to direct you to 70sbig.com. Because ’nuff said. Boys, you are not alone. And I commend your desire to get big and strong.

I think I just touched on another subject here mentioning the differences between why some girls and boys first step foot in the gym: reasons to train. Why do you train? What are your goals? Not just “lean out” or “bulk up”, but GOALS. What “results” do you want to see? Whether it’s a number on the bar or a number on the scale, write it down, make a plan, and get after it. You gotta work for it no matter what it is. There are no easy paths to victory. Oh, and eat meat.

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Goals

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” ~Zig Ziglar

I’ve learned that unless you actually state realistic goals to achieve, you won’t work as hard. So, here I am setting some goals to achieve by June 2013.

Strength goals:

Deadlift 350#/159kg

Back Squat 300#/136.5kg

Bench Press 150#/68kg (with a pause)

Clean & Jerk 200#/90kg (or more)

Snatch 160#/73kg (or more)

Qualify for USAW National Championships as a -69kg (need a 153kg Total in a meet… best official Total to date is 140kg. The meet is early March, 2013. Let’s do this).

After all, Sean Connery picked up a weight or two 

AND he liked to pick up a book or two, as well.

and played a professor, as well as a father to a professor (and archaeologist… oh it’s all fitting together so nicely)

Which leads me to… Academic goals:

Finish dissertation, defend dissertation, get doctoral degree.

Keep up to date on “to-do” list for dissertation in order to accomplish above goal.

Present stellar papers at (at least) two conferences this year (Darmstadt, CAMWS).

Publish the AAR pottery article! (This is a group effort, but it WILL get done! And soon!)

Get stellar teacher reviews for my course on mythology and epic at the University of Richmond.

Personal goals:

Continue to be awesome every day.

Visit friends and family often.

Quality over quantity every time.

…unless you are Sean Connery, in which the two are mutually exclusive.

Better. Stronger. Smarter.

My name is Elizabeth, and I am a forever student.

Say it with me now.

“I am a forever student.”

Even though I have 2 degrees, working on a 3rd, and am technically now a professor, I will never stop learning (nor do I wish to).

I believe that it is a healthy endeavor to always strive to learn something new. Reading is a good way to do that. So is doing (experience — and mistakes — make the best teacher?). Combining both is even better.

Now I’m not suggesting that you read the dictionary or encyclopedia from A-Z, or read all non-fiction (though if you haven’t ever read a non-fiction book for fun, might I suggest you pick one up. I promise you they are not boring). In fact, using a well-written book of fiction as an instrument to replace reality with a fantastic place of wherever an author’s imagination took them is a learning tool in itself. Teach your dreams to become reality, and perhaps become a better writer in the process. Ideas of one person can only hope to manifest other ideas in another. Such visions then sprout and grow and produce masterpieces such as “Alice in Wonderland” and “The Once and Future King”. History (as in non-fiction) often influences the fiction and forces the reader to constantly be on their toes to distinguish one from the other. This is most prevalent, I think, in fictional autobiographies such as those by Margaret George. And then there is Umberto Eco, a writer and scholar who manages to produce novels of splendid prose, short witty anecdotes of travel, and also essays on linguistics and physics that he writes in such a way as to grasp your every intellectual sense.

Teaching, on the other hand, is one of the best methods of self-instruction I have ever come across. The more one teaches, the more one learns. I know from my own experiences that I learn from students, from their questions and insights; I learn from the material I read to make me a better teacher (and keep me ahead of the students). This applies to both academic instruction and coaching in the gym.

I’ve often heard that as you specialize you learn more and more about less and less. I can understand that — once I think I know all there is to know about a hero such as Ajax, I come across a new article or book that provides a whole new store of information. Yet as I’ve delved deep into the work of Greek hero cults and iconography I’ve neglected my studies of other aspects of ancient Greece — not to mention ancient Rome! So every now and then I make an effort to brush up on that material.

Now I find that I have to maintain and expand my knowledge of these subjects. I’ll be teaching a course on Greek and Roman mythology through epic literature (Iliad, Odyssey, Aeneid, Metamorphoses) to undergraduates at the University of Richmond in the fall. I’m pretty excited, to tell the truth. I get to write the syllabus and design the class in a way I see fit. Of course “Xena” will play a role, as will other modern pop culture tributes to ancient mythology and epics (“Troy,” “O Brother Where Art Thou” and “Percy Jackson and the Olympians”, to name a few). But what is really great is that it’s forced me to check off a few things on my forever “to-do” list, such as “re-read Virgil and Ovid”. I had forgotten how engrossing the stories are, even in translation.

My parents just started a summer course on Homer’s “Odyssey” taught by Norman Austin (a very distinguished professor). His approach to the epic literature is different than my own, and I’m always curious to hear what my folks have to say about what Prof. Austin’s lecture of the day focused on. Learning from other teachers, who have been teaching a long time, is an opportunity one should never pass up. Seek the brilliance of others to help your own mind shine a little brighter. Go out and take seminars on new and familiar subjects. If you’re good at a skill, or just interested, take a class in it to learn more. No matter how good you are at something, there is always someone out there who is better. No matter how much you know on a particular subject, there is always someone out there who knows more. These are friends you want to make.

So is networking. Some may claim that’s an ugly word, but it’s a necessary one if one wishes to be successful. Not only because the saying “it’s not what you know so much as who you know” is one of the truest sayings ever to leave man’s lips, but also because you can learn from  people who know things. This sounds like a simple concept, one that should be self-explanatory, yes? But too often do we neglect the best resources we have for information: each other.

Be humble, be modest, be eager to learn. From something as simple as drawing a picture to something as complicated as speaking Navajo to something acrobatic such as a back tuck… there’s always something new to pick up.

The Art of Getting Married.

Over Memorial Day weekend I got to travel to Bloomington, Indiana to spend blessed time with family and my folks as we celebrated a new addition to the Bartlett family: a new cousin and his son! My cousin Annie found a tall, caring, funny, smart, musical, wonderful man to call “husband” (but I’m pretty sure she’ll never address him as such, because that’d be a little out of character).

A wedding truly is an art. Or a piece of music. Some people go for a Mozart feel, some for a Rachmaninoff feel, and some a Gershwin. Some go for Paul Simon. The trick is figuring out the perfect match for the perfect couple. Annie and Jim definitely fit the bill at their barnyard wedding with a bluegrass band. The bride wore a vintage dress with a wreath in her hair, and the groom dressed smart in a white suit. They danced to “Pretty Flowers“, a banjo song (written by Steve Martin). Instead of a DJ playing the top hits and Rock’n’Roll classics, the guests were led in some square-dances.

The father of the groom sang impromptu with the band. The father of the bride gave one of the sweetest and funniest toasts I’ve ever heard. There were 15 cakes of various flavors (my favorite was Mexican Chocolate). Meatballs were on the menu. Children, friends, parents, …all had a fabulous time celebrating the love these two have for each other.

They danced late into the night, perfecting the craft of “having a good time”. 

To continue with the lovely “old-timey” feel of the weekend, some family and I spent Memorial Day in Nashville, IN, where we tasted slow-churned home-made ice cream, walked the streets of an adorable town, visited the local art museum, and ate fried rolls with home-made apple butter (well, they did, I didn’t).