Black or white. Dogs or cats. Oatmeal or banana ice cream. A lot of "either/or" categories exist in the world (and most of the ones involving food have crossed my mind once or twice). The choice that hit me this week, though, was strong or small.
A choice that I quickly corrected: strong and small. Cause I'm living proof that the two aren't mutually exclusive.
When talking to a friend earlier this week, she chuckled after I mentioned my plans of joining my college's recreational soccer team next year.
Looking at my frame, she said, "Don't you, you know, need to put on a few first?"
I didn't need a mirror to know what she was referring to. I've always been a small girl. (I do brag on a daily basis, though, that I was the tallest kid in class until 3rd grade growth spurts spiked up everyone besides yours truly). Even after gaining back most of the twenty pounds I lost from celiac complications, I'm not breaking the scale anytime soon. (Unless it's a baby one, I suppose!)
While my fun-sized stature appears so obviously to others, though, it always escapes my notice. In my senior year of high school, my recreational soccer team moved into the 18+ bracket. But until I reviewed the game pictures, I never recognized that my opponents often gave me dwarf status - even with my 4" hair bun. If invincibility syndrome is a thing, I definitely have it.
Contrary to popular opinion, though, it's not just girls that comment on others' weight. A few weeks ago, I was hanging out in my boyfriend's room and mentioned being sore from lifting weights that afternoon.
"You weightlifting?" A few boys laughed. "I'd like to see that."
Honestly, I'd like them to see it too. I'd like them to see how I walked into the weight lifting room last Sunday. Five boys whose biceps probably boasted a higher diameter than my calf. One girl - me - in a thin t-shirt and shorts. Five boys whose machines were set at 80-100 lbs. Me, my arms aching from a combined twenty pounds.
Freshman year of college, I never went into the weight room. And, in the rare occasion when I did, I always struck right when it opened and with a few girlfriends by my side. Safely in numbers, people say.
Now, the only numbers I worry about are the weights stamped on my dumbbells. Yeah, I'm puny. Yeah, the guys in the room would probably lift my weights and me for a warm up. But, everyone's strength is different. Mines 8 lb hand weights, his are 80. My size (or lack of it) doesn't make me any less strong.
Because, to me, strength isn't a roller coaster "you have to be this tall to ride." Rather than being distinctly quantifiable, it's relative. A person isn't officially "strong" once they can lift half their body weight - though if you can, high five to you! It's lifting a heavier weight than a few weeks before, or the same weight more times, or even picking up your first 2 pounder!
Last Sunday, I was scared at being laughed at yet again for trying to be strong and small. I almost walked out when I saw the crowd of testosterone in the room - though, on the plus side, I was surrounded by more guys than I had been in weeks (insert a sarcastic thank you note to my college's 4:1 female to male ratio).
But, I didn't. I just adjusted (i.e. lightened the heck up!) the weights on my own machines, and did my own thing. Not only did no one care, but I watched in amazement as all five guys slowly trickled out of the weight room a few minutes after my arrival! (Sorry, guys, that these huge guns of mine are so intimidating).
And, when I told my boyfriend that story, he laughed again. Not at the idea of me lifting - though he still finds that slightly hilarious - but at the "sassy" way I did. A sassy, I'm-lifting-so-boys-watch-out attitude that, in my opinion, more strong and small girls should rock.
My daily routine already overflows with commonplace either/or decisions. Do I wear workout clothes all day or actually get dressed? Should I join in on that late-night donut run or not? Do I bake granola or don't I? (Spoiler: the first part of all those questions always wins).
One thing I don't worry about, though? Whether other people believe I can be strong and small. Because I know the feeling of my knees shaking as I finish that last weighted squat. I know the satisfied layer of sweat that covers my body after ten minutes of various weighted planks. And I know I'll kick butt at soccer next year, dwarf or not.
I'm small and I'm strong. Are you?
*Also found at Runningwithspoon's link party!*
What's one of the exercise stereotypes that annoys you? Is your strength or exercising ability ever doubted because of your size? Comment below!