Why I Train Like a Girl

Do you wonder why I train like I do, why I flex my muscles, and revel in their soreness and push them to break and grow and strain and find their way into the cleave of my body and mind? And my heart?

Do you wonder why I wake in the cold, dark of a winter morning and bundle myself in layers and stumble onto my bike so I can ride to the gymnasium to inflict pain on my tired, hungry, desperate self?

Do you wonder why I cry when my bones break and I can’t move the parts I want to move?

Do you wonder why I throw everything away when I am destroying my body to build it up? Why your message means nothing, why the world can wait, why I don’t care about the minutiae in that moment?

Do you wonder why none of that matters when I am holding a bar of steel in my hand, watching my bicep expand and contract in a rhythmically beautiful sequence?

Do you wonder why?

Let me tell you why. Let me tell you why I train like a girl. Why I train like only a girl can.

I train like a girl because when I ride my bike home from a gig, all alone, swift in the wind, buzzed by the music, exhilarated by the proximity to sound, shocked at the male space of an all-night takeaway joint with me there, defiantly ordering my cheeseburger, I feel alive. Not hidden by my female-ness.

I train like a girl because riding my bike through the silent, night-lit streets, with the Uber drivers trawling the roads as my only company — and me being alone on these streets — is foreign and exotic to me. Because I would never walk alone after dark and my bike gives me the illusion of safety, and the strength in my quads tells me I can ride as fast as the wind should danger approach. I train like a girl for this, my independence, the chance to roam free at night, like a man might.

I train like a girl because when your body grows with your child inside it you need a reserve of strength you had no idea existed. Because when a tiredness hits that floors you completely because you are about the business of growing a whole goddamn human, you know that when your vagina or stomach must open to bring life to that child, it must necessarily rupture and break and shatter beyond what you ever thought possible. But you know you must repair that breach in extra swift time because you have a brand-new human to care for. I train like a girl because I was honoured with a body that could do this.

I train like a girl because when you hold your dead child in your arms, and you look at her unbreathing, perfect mouth, at her tiny little head, at her long, long legs, and you imagine the future she never had, you realise part of what it means to be female.

I train like a girl because when that animal, guttural howl escapes from your lips as you look at her perfectly broken little body, as you look at her tiny divine vagina that will never live as you have lived, you know you have been given a gift like no other, because you drew breath.

I train like a girl to honour the new life she gave me.

I train like a girl because when a man raises his hand to you and breaks the teeth you were so proud of, your perfect smile that never needed braces, your smile, your joy… When he breaks you and you reach rock bottom… When he kicks you so hard your entire thigh is a black mess. When he breaks a tiny bone in your head, in the precious shell that encases your most treasured asset — your brain….

I train like a girl because when a man does this to you and you survive and escape and thrive, you declare: I will never let anyone hurt me again.

I train like a girl because I know that when I am strong I can carry the world on my shoulders, I can share your pain, I can hold your weight, I can say: come, let me hold you up, I am brave enough for the both of us.

I train like a girl because when a lover looks at me and says: in my eyes your body is perfect, I thrill like the burst of a fresh match. And my desire for him is kindled and stoked, so that when he comes to me and I walk to check on our dinner and feel his eyes searing into me I know he can see how my ass attaches to my hamstrings in a long sensuous sinew, and I know it’s a chain reaction that sets his desire in motion, a desire that echoes and shapes mine and starts our perfect dance until I abandon the food and come to straddle him on the stool as he ducks his head shyly so that I have to bring up his chin to kiss him and ask, rhetorically: do you like my body?

I train like a girl because pleasure matters. Because sex matters.

I train like a girl because when a man I love doesn’t say I love you I need all my strength to get out of bed, and go to work and mother my children, and not break and fall.

I train like a girl because in another world when a man I love asks: do you love me? I can lay in the safe space he has made for me — that he holds for me — and in my terror, say, to his perfect back curled into my tummy: yes. I love you. And for that I must muster every last reserve of my strength to counteract the depths of my vulnerability. This, too, is why I train like a girl.

I train like a girl for all these reasons. And more.

I train like a girl, because I am a woman.