This week the gents at Iron Culture give us 50 minutes of wide-ranging conversation about muscular genetic potential, steroid use, and to whom we compare ourselves.
37:00ish Eric makes a great point that we compare ourselves and others based on who we watch online, who we follow on social media and who we lift around. I think this conversation is really important because it’s really natural for us to assume who we see is what is “normal.” Sometimes, I have to remind myself that the vast majority of folks who work out don’t lift. And most of the folks who do lift, don’t do it consistently. Just those two factors alone put me and the folks I’ve lifted around the last handful of years in the minority of our community. Compared to the majority of my community, I am strong. Compared to competitive powerlifters, I’ve got a long way to go.
And of course, all of this comparison isn’t very useful. Genetic differences are hard to view from the outside. So are other important factors like privilege, medical histories, injury histories, and so many other personal factors that impact our abilities to do the work and remain consistent with it. We’re opening ourselves up to potentially unhelpful or even harmful extrinsic motivations when we are constantly comparing ourselves to others. So what if my deadlift would be the weakest on the platform? I enjoy it. It feels good. I feel powerful when I have a good pull. Comparison doesn’t help me focus on these potent motivators. Progress, competing against myself, will keep me in the long game.
50:00ish This is where the really great conversation loses some points on the Hundtoft-Bechdel scale(1) moving from mostly gender neutral to masculine. Eric suggests that the best way for us to make comparisons is to look for studies that use people similar to our demographics and to look at where we fall in that research. Now, while research is getting better at being inclusive, I think it’s not fair to assume we all can find our demographics represented in research. I am a woman in my forties. Women are underrepresented in strength research. Middle-aged women are VERY underrepresented.
It is my understanding that there is research that suggests that women’s strength and endurance varies throughout their monthly cycles. Moreover, as women and other people with a uterus enter into perimenopause, hormone levels become even less predictable, and I have heard that many researchers choose to avoid this variability. I appreciate that good science needs to limit variation; however, the lack of research on middle-aged women is still at inexcusable levels. So, Eric’s suggestion ignores these inequities. I would love to have lots of scientific data to draw from to inform my lifting experience, but that simply isn’t the reality for me, and for lots of other folks, yet.
(1) The Hundtoft-Bechdel score is my admittedly hacky way of giving credit, or a bit of shade, to fitness content producers and their abilities, or lack thereof, to make content that is universally accessible to all athletes, regardless of gender.
Did you listen to the podcast? Have some deep thoughts? I’d love to hear them! Yes, we do have a comment policy.