Working Out, Body Image, and Aching Muscles, Oh My!

After a couple weeks of trying to take it easy on myself (and potentially against my best interests since I’ve at least got a cold if not mild COVID), I’ve gone back to doing my full workout every morning. It’s not an intense routine, focused as it is on daily rides on my exercise bike, a bunch of bodyweight exercises meant to work out all my muscles just a bit, and a plethora of stretches mean to loosen all the muscles I used and help counteract some of the effects of getting older or spending all day sitting or standing at my desk. It’s more of a “be healthy” workout than a “get ripped” workout. I don’t particularly want to be ripped since none of my work these days calls for a high degree of strength and I don’t particularly like feeling big and bulky. If anything, these workouts are hopefully going to make me feel less bulky as I lose weight. Once my muscle mass has stabilized, anyway.

Probably the best shape I was ever in was my senior year of college and the next seven months after that, when I was working full-time in a theater, regularly lifting heavy things, and could easily pick up and carry around any of my college friends (a thing I was known for doing and was willing to be called upon to do at any time so long as I got at least a shouted warning with enough time to put down whatever I was holding before someone leapt into my arms). It felt nice, to have all that muscle and strength, even if it was still fairly hidden at the time. I’ve always been predisposed toward wanting muscle like competitors in one of those strongman competitions rather than stuff that looks like it belongs in a bodybuilding competition. It’s not that bodybuilding isn’t impressive (it totally is), I just prefer more functional muscle than showy muscle.

As I’ve been figuring out my identity, working through feelings about myself and my body along the way, I’ve realized that one of the reasons I’ve never wanted that sort of built muscle is because of the association between it and masculinity. There’s been a growing acceptance of feminine bodybuilders and that’s great, but as someone who was born and raised under the masculine “default,” I find myself preferring to stick to lean muscle building rather than adding to my bulk. Especially considering how self-conscious I am about my size as a result of my weight and predisposition toward bulkier muscles. I don’t feel any particular need to appear more masculine than I already do.

Being the owner of a body can be a frustrating burden at times. I need to work it out and feed it, but if I do the former it hurts. If I don’t do the latter, it hurts. If I work it out consistently, it stops hurting until I work it out a little bit more than usual at which point it hurts all over again, probably worse than last time. If I feed it too much, it hurts worse than if I don’t feed it all and really I need to carefully measure how much and want kinds of food I give it because there’s a mystery amount that is the “Right Amount” that feels good, but it keeps changing depending on how much working out I do or don’t do. Not to mention all of the other factors that impact this stuff like the general humidity, how much I’ve slept, what I ate and how much I worked out in the last seventy-two hours, my emotional state, the various chemicals in my brain, how well hydrated I am, and so much more. It’s annoying!

There’s no good solution, though. At least not yet. You gotta have a body and though we’re making pretty rapid strides towards figuring out how to work around the bits that fail or get lost, we are nowhere near replacing the need to have a body in the first place. It’ll be a while yet before we can just have robot bodies and even then who knows how much longer after that it’ll be before we have robot bodies that have the same senses and abilities that Human bodies do. I mean, have you looked at how hard robots have to work just to walk on two legs like we do? There’s a reason most of the robots being built are quadrupeds and the reason is that robotics is nowhere nears as efficient or effective as the human body at basic bipedal locomotion.

Anyway, all of this rambling has been brought to you by the fact that I can’t tell if my abdomen hurts because of something I ate or because I’ve putting my entire core through the wringer this week and now using any one of those muscles makes all of the others hurt. Which means I’m in constant pain because you’re using your core muscles constantly. I’m looking forward to being able to just lay down and let gravity claim me. It’ll only be a couple more hours.

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