Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Why Would Women Want to Lift Heavy?

I posted this super-dazzling record-setting deadlift to a CrossFit friend's Facebook timeline. The lady doing the lift in the video - Ms. Kimberly Walford - deadlifted 562 lb. at 152 lb. body weight - just an enormous, almost inconceivable strength to body weight ratio.

My CrossFit friend and I both LOVE to deadlift, so it was a shared moment of geekery. One of her friends asked, in all sincerity, "Why would women want to lift 500 lb.?" I think she was not asking about the figure specifically, but trying to get at the heart of why any woman would pursue or achieve superlative strength.


I have been thinking about her earnest question for a day now. I LOVE the chance to think over these things and for a moment appreciated how an outsider to CrossFit/lifting culture might ask, "Why?" I think it's a GREAT question. I know my parents are sometimes baffled listening to my (CrossFitting/lifting) brother and me as we wax nerdy on lifting personal records or skill achievements.

That said, lifting weights doesn't have to be an endeavor of crazy superlatives. You don't have to strive to hit some deadlift record to appreciate the health and functional benefits that a basic level of strength training provides. Modest resistance training benefits are a huge reason why some people aging into their 70s, 80s, 90s can still be spry and get around as well as they did in their 50s and 60s, while other aging peers lose the ability to bend over, squat, kneel, etc.

Once somebody learns their way around a barbell, though, it's not uncommon for them to get bitten by the bug to improve beyond the basic strength and functional fitness benefits. It's kind of like the difference between having learned how to pull together a basic meal that keeps you going (bologna sandwich on whole grain bread with carrot sticks) that will fill you up, and then wanting to learn how to prepare a meal with finesse (caramelizing onions to top stuffed pork chops next to a side of braised asparagus)'s a difference between achieving functionality (the end is met in the weightlifting making daily life easier) and mastery (in which the pursuit of mastery is often a joy, too).

Why would somebody want to lift 500 lb.? A lifting record that big goes way beyond making grocery shopping, toddler-wrangling, piano-moving, and other basics of life easier. It's a fire-in-the-belly passion thing -- the same fire that drives some people to paint unspeakably beautiful works of art, or to break records for high jumping, or to master playing a piano other words, such achievements are not required for life, but watching someone pull it off is something of a work of art and peak physicality, just one more way that humans can far exceed limits not because they need to, but because they willed themselves to dazzling lengths. It's not just achieving mastery, *but also* the pursuit of mastery that humans experience as a pleasure in and of itself.


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