Little lady, big biceps

Special to the Los Angeles Times

My fourth-grade teacher called me “the teeny weeny girl with the teeny weeny voice.” My dad delighted in telling about the time he came upon a group of kids playing house in our backyard. He overheard one of my playmates find out I was the mom and comment in disbelief, “That runt the mother?”

Now do you wonder why I’ve had lifelong issues of feeling like a shrimpy impostor cast in the role of adult? As a teacher, mom and runner, I’ve looked upon successes as happenstance gained more from luck than skill.

There is one place this 66-year-old retired elementary school teacher feels equal to anyone, on a par with the best and the biggest: in the gym, lifting weights. I don’t care if I weigh 111 pounds and bench press 30. I’m as good as the hulk who weighs 250 and lifts dumbbells bigger around than my waistline. He’d better not talk on his cell or read the paper on the machine I want, or I’ll kick him off!

I’ve stayed with lifting for about 10 years. I had to make myself enter those gym doors for the first five years. I’m lazy and resistant, so the fact that I always felt great when I left, took a long time to sink in. Didn’t matter that I got spontaneous healing of that stiff back, achy wrist, tense shoulder or gimpy knee. Too much trouble to change into gym clothes and the workout took so long. No matter that the time went by in a wink. I didn’t want to bother.

Then one day I reached up to comb my hair and noticed my bulging biceps. Muscles I never knew existed popped up on my back and shoulders. OK, I thought, so I’m a teeny weeny little grandma, but when I write on the chalkboard, there’s more bulk on top of the biceps than loose flesh shaking around underneath. And look out boys, it’s all me. No steroids, testosterone or protein drink.

So girls, especially my senior sisters, please join my team in the gym:

1. See a trainer and start with a half-hour routine. If you can’t afford continuous training, take notes so you can repeat the routine on your own. Learn to warm up, breathe and the correct lifting technique.

2. Go to the gym regularly, but if life causes you to miss a week or a month, get back to it. Be nice to yourself. Do what you can. That’s your psychological job — your physical job will take care of itself. And after it begins to, feeling better and feeling stronger will feed back on your psyche.

3. Wear workout clothes while running errands. You’ll be more likely to enter the gym if you’re already dressed for it.

4. Stronger bones, lower blood pressure, fewer arthritic joints will result from your lifting. You’ll gain muscle that uses more calories than fat while resting. And better-fitting clothes will be a final reward.

So move over, Muscleboys. Mighty Seniors Sisters, let’s lift!

Slayback writes on health and fitness. Read about her marathons at She is a retired teacher who lives in Newport Beach with her husband and Chihuahuas.

My Turn is a forum for readers to recount an experience related to health or fitness. Submissions should be no more than 500 words. They are subject to editing and condensation and become the property of The Times. Please e-mail We read every essay but can’t respond to every writer.