Unleash Your Inner Virago
Use bodyweight exercises to build your mental and physical muscle
You might be asking yourself, “why would I want to unleash my inner virago, and by the way, what does virago even mean?” You might think I made this word up just for the sake of a catchy title. I actually came across the term in an article entitled “13 Awesome Words for Woman You Need to Start Using Right Now,” by Laura Miller. I wanted to expand my vocabulary and stop using the overused strong which is coined so often in health and exercise articles. Strong doesn’t really capture the entire essence of a woman’s capabilities when it comes to managing their own health!
Virago immediately captured my attention because of the two very different meanings. Good ole Webster’s dictionary defines virago as a loud, overbearing woman, or (notice the or here as an afterthought) as a woman of great stature, strength, and courage.
A Woman of Great Stature and Courage
Now I like the or definition and I was curious as to when and why it became a negative term used to describe a female. The original Latin meaning was “female warrior,” but around the 14th century, the term began to take on a negative connotation. Women such as Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine and Kate in the Taming of the Shrew were described as viragos. If you were a man in the 14th century, I doubt you would believe any woman would be capable of having strength and courage. For instance, Joan of Arc might be considered a heroic maiden and courageous female warrior, or a mannish shrew. Women who act headstrong and physically capable would be on the receiving end of this term as a way to demean them and put them in their place in society.
I like to think that in this century, women who have the courage and strength to defy social norms and expectations set upon us are not considered as odd, overbearing shrews. We can be heroines of our own stories. We can lasso the scattered pieces of our mental and physical health and yank them back under control. It may seem like a herculean task, but start with a good foundation and realize that a virago’s journey often starts with a problem that seems too difficult to handle.
If you stuck with me so far, you might be asking yourself what any of this has to do with bodyweight exercises? If you are new to exercise or even if you have been lifting small dumbbells and using machines in the gym, bodyweight exercises can seem pretty tough. Years ago I couldn’t even do one single push-up and even squats were a challenge. Especially since all I did was run and run and run and my legs were so tight that squatting was actually pretty hard to do. It took a ton of courage for me to continue to try to lift weights and do bodyweight exercises. I sucked at it and felt weak and insecure. Don’t let that stop you. So, let us picture a warrior woman together. Now imagine you are that warrior. Now all you have to do to get there is to start. Just start. No matter how hard you think it might be, take hold of the virago spirit and start today. Start with these two bodyweight exercises and their variations and imagine they are your lasso and shield (my virago looks like wonder woman). They will be the first two tools in an arsenal of weaponry that will help you live long and prosper.
The Dreaded Push-up
I have a love-hate relationship with push-ups. They are so hard! You might even be thinking they are too simple to even be effective but learning how to do a push-up and to even accomplish one is extremely important for building total-body strength. The push-up isn’t just a one-dimensional exercise like so many exercises involving machines at the gym. When performed correctly, the push-up works your entire body from your shoulders down to your ankles. I challenge you to stop doing them on the knees and begin on an incline so you can develop core and hip strength. Lower the incline as you get stronger and stronger. Start with one. One isn’t so bad and you have to start somewhere. When you get done I want to hear you sweet-talk yourself. No negative self-talk after a push-up. Roar if you gotta.
Squats are the foundation of an exercise program and if you want to start building total strength, you got to start here. In fact, squatting was the first thing I got really good at, and I continue to try to perfect my form each week. Being able to squat with bands and weights built my confidence up and empowered me to continue to try new exercises like the deadlift. Lunges are a great variation to the squat and I practice them each week. Get bands to increase the resistance when squatting and practice proper form every time you squat!
The Virago Way
I don’t always feel like Wonder Woman or a Spartan warrior. In fact, there are days that I don’t feel like lifting weights or doing any sort of resistance training at all. There are days when there is so much outside pressure coming at me from all sides that I feel weak and utterly incapable of the smallest amount of effort. Yet, I still start. I start by putting on my workout clothes and my shoes and going for a walk. Then I continue by focusing on my breathing as the reasons why I hit the weights. I tell myself that all I have to do is start. If I want to quit 10 minutes in then fine, but I start nonetheless. That is the virago way. The way in which a woman has the courage to do it anyway.