By Martha Fit at 55
My sneakers died last month. I loved them, my bright turquoise and green shoes that always perked me up, but they gave up the ghost after a rather epic hike.
Luckily I have another pair, as a result of acquiring some proper lifting footwear.
My beloved walking shoes, fabulous as they were for walking through miles of bog and barren as well as unevenly paved urban streets, simply weren’t suitable, even when brand new, for the heavy work I was now undertaking in the gym environment.
After a winter spent rebuilding my fitness foundation due to a misbehaving knee, I started working on gaining more depth with my squat, and also establishing more stability for my deadlifts. Fortunately, my trainer realized I needed proper squat shoes as well as deadlift shoes, so I could get closer to the floor, literally and figuratively.
I am the first to admit they are the oddest things I have put on my feet. The squat shoes are inflexible, while the deadlift shoes are a souped up version of ballet shoes. Both involve complicated laces, and they are rather dull in colour (one is black and the other is a dark grey) and as an added bonus, the squat shoes come with Velcro.
But they do the job they are meant to do. And I love them. Plus they were way easier to acquire than any of my other workout gear. Take my search for a swimsuit last month. It was, admittedly, not an ideal time to be looking. Nonetheless, I had hope. At the very least, I thought I could pick up a cute pair of gym shorts and a tank, and call it a day. After all, spandex is spandex.
No such luck.
After trekking through multiple stores, I had to ask: where are the cute prints, the funky suits, and the sassy, saucy tops I see all over Instagram and Facebook?
They’re not in my hometown, that’s for sure.
Nor are they to be found all that easily online. If you are lucky enough to find something in your size, there’s little variety, it’s often uninspiring in design, and if it is actually pretty, it’s totes expensive.
So why do I embrace the solid, frankly unsleek, squat shoe and its equally uninspiring-looking companion the deadlift shoe, all while chafing at and whining about the miserable selection of available pants and tops? Why do I love my unpretty lifting shoes that have changed how I work in the gym? Is it because no one cares what’s on my feet? That it doesn’t matter if you are a size 8 or a size 18 when it comes to shoes?
I’ve been thinking about the contradictions my desire for new workout gear poses for me, and I don’t yet have a lot of concrete conclusions. As I get more assertive with my lifts, more committed to my training, and more confident in my results, I want a bolder exterior to match the inner changes I’ve made these past three years. After all, outside the gym, I’m not one to shy away from advocating, arguing, and persuading, so why skulk around the corners, metaphorically speaking, in the gym?
Because it’s not always that simple or easy to walk into a gym when you are so often surrounded by norms for attractiveness and appropriate size that do not reflect your own experience. Nor is it comfortable to always be told “I’m sorry; we only carry clothes that go up to size 12.”
However, lifting has taught me something worth remembering: when you commit to picking up heavy things and putting them down, you take up space, and there’s no running away from that. Quite simply the strength you bring is visible, unavoidable, and yes, audacious. And just like my much-loved sneakers, there comes a time when you have to say goodbye to old ways of thinking/seeing, and say hello to something so new, it will take you further than you have ever imagined.
— Martha is a writer living in St. John’s who finally caught her reindeer last week, and is now looking for a new target to aim for in her deadlift.