Weights, Body Mass, and an Annoyed Alma

Just once in my life I’d like to fit what textbooks say is “normal.” I’d also like to lose 15 pounds, gain an inch and a half in height, and discover a workout that doesn’t require the physical effort. Winning the lottery would be nice, too.

I recently added, or I should say returned to, bent-over rows, more flyes, and other upper back and shoulder exercises. I do this with some trepidation, in part because of injuries in the past, and in part because I can’t afford to replace any more shirts.

No, I’m not quite as hard as the Incredible Hulk is on shirts (or Doc Savage for that matter.) My problem is that I bulk up like a guy, not gain strength but stay lean like a girl. If there is a continuum of metabolism and physical development, with pure no-bulk female on one end and pure male (think Eugene Sandow) on the other, I’m closer to the male pattern than the female. Back when I started doing serious resistance training, DadRed suggested adding creatine supplements. I’m glad I didn’t. He bulked up fast. I’d probably have ended up looking like Lee Priest’s little sister.

I’d love to have those abds, but scaled for my height.

My shoulders are, well, let me put it this way. My chest measurement says I should wear a women’s 6. My shoulders and upper arms require a 14. I flex my biceps and the guys boggle a little. The gals at the gym are mostly into fitness and don’t want those kinds of arms. I don’t blame them. Short and really, really sturdy is not what clothing designers have in mind as the ideal woman for their clothes, especially when it comes to sleeves.

About five years ago I injured my back, then re-injured it six months later. I suspect it is because I have the same genetic skeletal quirk as my mother and maternal grandmother. I have not gotten an MRI to confirm things because it can be managed through exercise and not being dumb. Being dumb was how I almost tore a shoulder ligament two years ago, and did set myself back for quite a while. I was using a weight machine that was not designed for people my size, and being careless. Bad idea.

Since then, I only use free weights for upper body stuff. The machines at my gym are designed for the average human. I am below average in height, and even the “stubby” setting on many of the machines puts me in very awkward positions as far as leverage and stress on my shoulders go. Women already are at a disadvantage because of our anatomy and relative lack of upper-body strength, and some of the machines compound that problem with the angles they force me to operate at. So I use free weights and strict form. I’m back up to shoulder presses of 40 pounds and benching 50 pounds. And 10 pounds per side on the bent over flyes and rows.

So weights twice a week, cardio 5-6 times a week. And I still want to be an inch and a half taller. And for the muscles on my triceps and biceps to move to my low back. And six-pack abds. Even when I was down below 110 pounds, I did not have a six-pack even though I wore a size four. Yes, I was weak, but I was skinny. Now I want to be strong and skinny. And to win the lottery. And to have a run-away best-selling novel. And to get paid six figures for teaching two classes per semester. And stand 5′ 2″ in my sock feet.

A gal can dream, can’t she?


9 thoughts on “Weights, Body Mass, and an Annoyed Alma

  1. Good luck with the body modifications. I hear that Athena is pretty good with them on her ship. 🙂
    When I showed up at college, I was still wearing shirts I had worn as a high school freshman. I was 5’8″ and 113 pounds, after bulking up with a summer job. But I was always very conscious of looking fat, because I’m swaybacked. No matter how scrawny I was (hungry poor), I always looked fat. And I was one of only two guys under 6′ tall in my grade (we graduated almost 400). Big, corn fed boys who grew up tossing hay bales up into the loft. I enjoyed joining the Army, because there I was almost average height. (Basic training was fun, because I finally got enough to eat of really good food, I got yelled at less, and I got clothes that hadn’t been worn by three or four people before me.)

    As far as strength training goes, I understand being non-standard. I have very little arm strength – I did a pull up. Once. When I was in the Army. But I have (or had, at least) tremendous core strength. In the weight room, the normal to big guys would smirk at my pitiful attempts on the arm machines; then their jaws would drop when I would max out the weight on the core machines and do reps until I got bored.

    So yeah, I feel for you. Finding flattering clothes for a non-standard body shape must be hell. Especially on a teacher/indy writer’s pay.

    • The promise of readily available, inexpensive custom clothes has yet to be realized. It’s annoying to have to have every pair of pants/trousers hemmed. There is some custom.. for an additional fee.. but just “order the right thing and have it made right right off, no additional charge”? Still waiting. Or if there is such, news has yet to reach me.

  2. Alma I share your pain about wide shoulders. When I stopped working I started wearing men’s t-shirts. If you buy something classic, an investment that you’ll wear for years have it altered. You could always ask for it as a birthday or Christmas present. Lots of people alter. Few will sew from scratch or pattern. If you sew there are books that purport to help you alter your garments yourself. You will need someone to help measure.

    • Until five years ago or so I had no problems, because jackets and blouses had wider shoulders and sleeves. I can still wear the size eight navy blazer I got in college back in the early 1990s, and it looks quite nice. Then along came the trim look and no seam allowances. Garments made in China seem to be the worst as far as using as little fabric as possible.

      I do have some nice things I invested in and had the sleeves shortened and the waist taken in a little. And of course the bottom hems on most slacks and skirts get adjusted. Thus the desire to grow another inch and a half. 🙂

      • And as a six foot tall man you should try the made in China shirts. The sleeves hit about halfway between my elbows and my wrists and the body is two squares of cloth sewed together.

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