I’m Not a Professional Athletic Trainer, I’m Just a Woman

This from The New Yorker by By Kimberly Harrington

Hey, everyone. Thanks for joining me for a workout today. I’ll be taking you through a mishmash of basic, intermediate, and advanced moves cobbled together from the thirty-seven different workouts I’ve done since I was an adolescent girl and I unwittingly embarked on a journey of shape-shifting insecurity grounded in unrealistic patriarchal beauty standards, even though I thought it was just about looking better in jeans!

O.K., let’s get started.

A great way to begin a workout is by stretching. Let’s wake up those muscles with a random array of arm and leg stretches that I picked up from circuit training in the late nineteen-eighties, a brief yet passionate foray into step class in the early nineties, and that one 5K I walked-ran ten years ago. You can also warm up with some straddle stretches on the floor, the way you probably learned in middle-school dance class from a teacher who either just graduated from high school or was your classmate’s mom. Although they were not professionally trained at any level, they were regular women like you and me, and therefore experts.

You could also not stretch. Studies I was told about, by men I don’t know who chimed in while I was stretching, indicate that stretching once your body is warmed up is safer and results in less muscle tearing.

But other studies I was told about, by men I don’t know who chimed in while I was not stretching, indicate that the whole point of stretching is to warm up the muscles, which results in less muscle tearing. Or you could spread it all around and stretch before, during, and after. Or, you know what you could do? Just get up and walk out of the gym entirely.

When you’re walking out of the gym entirely and making your way to your car, try to fit in some cardio by wondering whether the lone man walking behind you is following you or is just completely oblivious to the fact that his presence—just walking outside somewhere, feeling free—is accidentally threatening.

Play a little mind game with yourself to really get that heart rate up! Do you walk to your car clutching your keys between your fingers, ready to gouge out this clueless idiot’s eyes even though you get woozy just nicking your ankle while shaving? Or do you cross the street to ascertain whether this guy is actually following you? Or do you desperately try to remember literally anything from that self-defense class you took with your fourteen-year-old daughter—because, yup, she’s already on her way to becoming an expert, too? Of course, by “little mind game” I mean “real and exhausting mental process you must navigate every waking moment, before and after trying to go to the gym or, really, almost anywhere.” To the left—two, three, four! And again!

Next let’s talk about goals. Is your goal to fit into a little black dress or simply to burn it all down to the ground? Whatever your goals are, just know that I, a regular woman, understand and also I am honestly so sorry. Please let me know if you would like a nonsexual hug.

Hey, how about we tackle alignment! Have you ever tried pretending there’s a string attached to the top of your head that’s pulling your spine up and aligning your vertebrae like a string of pearls? Perfect. What about gluing your elbows to your sides to isolate the motions of your biceps? I mean, sure, give it a whirl. Now relax your neck. Relax your shoulders. If you’re a woman who can relax at all on any level at any point in your day, good for you. Remember: where your eyes go, your body will follow. And where your body goes should be right out of this endless hellscape and into some sort of utopian paradise where you can just not do any of this shit.

On your way out, a man might express surprise that you know the proper technique for dead lifting. It’s a perfect time to remind him that you’re not a professional athletic trainer. You’re just a regular woman. This is what we do.

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