A gym should be like a toy store, not a museum

Plus: a study on caffeine and periods AND strength training; a powerbuilding guide; takedowns of the new weight loss drugs. This is the big 5-0 for Link Letters!

A gym should be like a toy store, not a museum
The author deadlifting in her comfort zone (a gym that that has had the fur loved off of it)

The other day I dropped in to a Gold's Gym. What I really did was "sidle quietly into the Gold's Gym" and whisper, "Do you have day passes?" Even though the weights were on the main floor (rare! usually it's a sea of cardio machines, with the weights squirreled away in the basement in one bedroom-size room), even the upbeat music playing could not conceal that it had the unmistakable affect of a library. It did not even particularly matter that it was quiet, because most of the patrons were wearing headphones, as you do. But any big sounds clanged alone off the many hard surfaces like an echo in an empty valley.

I crept between the flawless, polished equipment. The gym bros, silent as body snatchers, milled about, scattered from one spotless corner of the room to another. I picked a squat rack and removed a plate from the perfect, symmetrical stack on one side and slid it onto one end of the barbell, the metal grating on metal virtually screaming to the rest of the gym what I was doing. I picked the barbell up out of the j-hooks, but not perfectly, and I winced as the two surfaces banged into each other; to hear but not see it would give the impression that I was constructing a railroad in the American West circa 1850. But the virtual museum of the Gold's Gym hadn't seen anything yet, because I was about to start my deadlift reps.

BANG went the barbell hitting the inside of plates hitting the platform as I dropped the full weight of 185 pounds to the floor. CLANK went the barbell hitting the inside of the plates again as I pulled the slack out of the bar to start the next rep. BANG. CLANK. BANG. CLANK. I could sense the brims of backward dad caps under Beats headphones rotating slightly as heads turned in my direction just enough to watch out of the corners of their eyes; no doubt the bangs and clanks were drowning out the Dave Matthews Band's "Ants Marching." BANG. CLANK. BANG. CLANK. BANG. On the last rep I'm always more emphatic than, I'll admit, what's fully necessary.

The trance of the deadlift set broken, I looked up just in time to see the dad caps turn, almost in unison, back to what they were doing. I nudged at the barbell and plates with my feet, rolling them back into position so they were square with all the right angles of the platform. I picked out a couple ten-pound plates, perfectly slotted between the 25s and 5s. Like the 45s and 25s before them, they announced with an Alien scream as they glided onto the barbell that the next set of deadlifts were about to be even louder.

As I did so, I felt a dad cap's eyes on me, and I turned to look at him. "Do you want to work in?" I said. He solemnly shook his head no; as I turned away, I imagined him pinching the bridge of his nose between his fingers in one hand and cranking up the volume on Rush in his headphones with the other.

I settled back into position and folded myself down, tightening my lats and really yanking on the barbell for the full CLANK effect. There was about to be a BANG like this dad cap had never heard before.

Now---my intent is not to actually annoy the hell out of people trying to work out in peace. However, gyms went down a very bad path about 20 or so years ago in making people believe the standard of working out with free weights was that they should be silent as the grave. Planet Fitness and its "lunk alarm" are largely to blame for this. The fact is that lifting actually, theoretically could probably be totally silent, or at least a lot quieter; the problem is that no one has invested in developing gym equipment that is not all metal on metal[1]. Making people feel rude and uncouth for making noise by simply using plates and barbells that are designed that way was always unfair, and I believe had a long chilling effect on people using free weights. I'm here to say: those noises are not your fault. You can try to be as silent as possible and it somehow makes everything worse.

Therefore: A gym should not be like a museum. A gym should be like a toy store. It should not be quiet and pristine, full of stuff you are scared to touch, lest any sound alert the museum minders; it should be loud and full of objects inviting you to pick them up and find out what they are by using them, like Albany Strength, Fisher Strength and Health, Untamed Strength, or my beloved and lost Richie's Gym.

This goes too, I believe, for the overall state of the equipment. I'm afraid to touch equipment that is too new and too beautiful. Give me dumbbells with a light coating of rust or cracked and split rubber over a pristine epoxy coating just waiting to be scratched. The design should not say "set me down gently"; it should say "throw me across the room." Some people are put off by nicked and cracked mirrors, or benches that have been used so much the vinyl is split and the stuffing is coming out. Some people have never read The Velveteen Rabbit, I guess.

The other day at such a gym, I decided to do some tire flips for fun. The tire was still apparently so coated in resilient road dirt that my shorts were still black after I washed them, and I had to soak them in dish soap to get it all out. Do I perhaps have the black lung from sending up clouds of atomized diesel into my own face every time the tire hit the ground again? Maybe. But are my lungs probably more protected from the negative effects of the black lung from the cardiovascular challenge of flipping the tire? Also maybe.

In the vein of discouraging women from ever sweating or showing effort, how cliché it is to steer the people who would most benefit from lifting from making noise and getting dirty. When I'm not in a gym that encourages loudly getting covered in dust and oxidized iron, I miss it. So even when circumstance leads me to a gym doing its best to give Notre Dame, instead of trying to tiptoe around, I will bang the weights just a little harder than usual, to remember that part of the point is to make some noise.


~Discord Pick of the Week: Breaking Muscle updated its Powerbuilding guide this week! (For those who don't know: Powerbuilding programs are a hybrid of powerlifting and bodybuilding. I imagine some people think powerbuilding is a waste of time and you should pick one or the other. But I've enjoyed these kinds of programs and tend to do them more than other stuff, and research shows that muscle size and strength are generally correlated, so being visibly jacked and strong are not as disparate of goals as some would have you believe. GZCL and some other intermediate programs fall into this general category. ~

WhoaaaaAaAaAa--an actual study on periods x strength-training!! She's A Beast readers know this is a rare event on the level of alien contact, and notoriously difficult to get anyone to do. The study found that caffeine greatly helped offset the low energy that (some!) people experience during the follicular phase. Note that the dose was very, very high; for me, a 170 pound woman, it was the equivalent of 2.4 cans of Monster Energy. Usually, half of one can gives me the shakes. But if you struggle with this, maybe worth a try!

I'd barely drawn the next breath after articulating the problem with "it worked for me" as an argument for health and wellness products before a little worker bee for Infowars's Alex Jones came along and:

When Owen Shroyer, an anchor and reporter for Infowars, took the stand late last month in the defamation trial of his boss, the far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, he was asked about the many health products for sale on Jones's site. Among them: diet pills, fluoride-free toothpaste that Jones once claimed "kills the whole SARS-corona family at point-blank range" and InstaHard, a supplement whose purpose I probably don't have to spell out.

"Do you know if any of it's been tested to see if it's effective or any good at all?" asked an attorney for Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, whose son Jesse was killed in the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

"Well, we test the products for ourselves," Shroyer said.

"You mean you take them?"


"And you're still here, so it must be OK?"

"Yeah. It works for me."

: - )

Oh you know I'm going to read about "the most commonly neglected muscles" on Stronger by Science.

Surprising no one, people who work out more live longer. But that's not as important as!: resistance training (read: weight lifting) "is associated with reduced risk of all-cause, cardiovascular disease, and cancer-specific mortality," according to a study published this week in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Back-of-the-envelope math indicates I'm going to live until I'm approximately 200 years old and my deadlift is just going to keep! going! up!

Slow living: sounds great! We should all have it.

A former dancer tries lifting weights.


This week, I stumbled upon a suspiciously positive article in Barron's: "At Last, Weight-Loss Drugs That Actually Work. They Could Be the Blockbusters of the Decade." It felt... fishy. So I felt extremely validated when Ragen Chastain's most recent Weight and Healthcare newsletter dove deeper into the studies that Barron's glowingly reported on, finding that:

  • the weight-loss drugs do have significant side effects

  • their intended effects go away when people stop taking them

  • the intended effects seem to taper off while subjects are still taking them, but it seems to happen conveniently at the precise moment that the researchers cut the length of the study off

Chastain points to Marquisele Mercedes's piece on these drugs, which is equally thorough in laying waste to them.

Given that no industry pumps itself up with questionable scientific research like the diet and weight-loss industry, these medications just seem like a stupid idea, yet another attempt at a half-assed Band-Aid "quick fix" to take advantage of people who have been driven to become preoccupied with a dubious problem. Given that we already know of significant problems with these drugs, and people are already trying to treat the drugs like the second coming of Jesus, I have a feeling we are queuing up a very protracted timeline of finding out, oh no, this isn't the magic bullet, either.

But lots of people will make lots of money in the process of going through the motions of massaging the insecurities they've manufactured, and isn't that always the goal?

Failure to Cope "Under Capitalism. While many basic human tasks are currently more challenging than they should be for political reasons (just for instance, it is factually way harder to feed ourselves a healthy diet than it should be, thanks to subsidies, advertising, food deserts, etc., etc.); this is

(a) obviously not the case for everyone, and

(b) I have seen some extend this kind of argument to shaming people out of taking care of themselves.

We simply need to be able to separate the personal from the political, in this case; forcing individual people to rigidly live every principle can ultimately be a way of kneecapping political movements.

Somewhat related: All girlbosses are bastards. Quote:

The belief that hard work will deliver financial stability and happiness to women is the most pervasive aspect of girlboss ideology; instead of building a society where women are given what they need to survive, we have been forced to provide those resources for ourselves.


Occasionally I feel like blogging about something that isn't lifting. I started a new section of this website called Battleaxe for those (probably very rare) moments. If you'd like to receive these posts as newsletters, you have to opt into them; click the Account button in the top right on any of the pages of this website, click "Manage" on the emails section, and flip the Battleaxe switch on. The first post was about Being John Malkovich and me being, as usual, confused.

She-Hulk is out this week  This Tatiana Maslany profile in Elle is a good reminder that even if She-Hulk doesn't work out, Orphan Black is an absolute all-timer of a show that cemented Tatiana forever in my heart. Maybe I will hold out on watching, though, until Disney recognizes the VFX unions. Also lol: the She-Hulk bench has anti-homeless architecture.

"I've learned I don't actually want to keep tabs on every person I've ever met, nor supply them myself. That was just a boring sales pitch wrapped in novelty with the convenient effect of keeping me roped into viewing Facebook ads for the rest of my life... It's become abundantly clear that we won't find an answer in the infinitely accelerating rollout of flashy new products." Read Maybe Baby.

A burgeoning content format I'm enjoying is reviewing the MasterClasses etc. of famous people. Here's a good one on Kris Jenner's MasterClass, and the instant-classic Drew Gooden review of Ninja's MasterClass.

I love octopuses :)

An oral history of Superbad.

That's all for this week! I love you for reading, thank you, let's go---

  1. other materials would probably affect the longevity, and lord knows a chain gym is not about to buy sets of equipment it will have to replace when it can buy one set that should last forever! ↩︎