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I Don’t Like Your Tone

Brittney Pereda (Photo by Easterday Creative)

“Girl, I just want a round, toned booty, without all this cellulite.”

I hear similar phrases to this one all the time, and they always include that one particular word — typically some form of “tone” or “toned.” It’s become a major buzzword in the fitness and health industry. From training ads on Facebook to supplement commercials, magazine articles, stay-at-home workout videos and more, people are being brainwashed into thinking this “toned” thing can happen just by eating less, taking a few vitamins and joining a running club.

Let’s start by breaking down the actual bio-mechanical definition of the word, beyond “something ladies want their arms to look like.” Muscular tone, by definition, is something exercise scientists and fitness professionals use to describe the consistent and continuous contraction of our muscles. Not many people know that our muscles are constantly tensed to a certain degree in order to keep our bodies balanced, warmed up and ready for any planned or unplanned activity that we take part in on a daily basis.

When people say something about their toned friend Sally, they mean they can see her muscles, probably because Sally is a regular weightlifter who has built solid muscle definition over time, which in turn stays contracted and looks more defined because of it.

The word “toned” is a marketing ploy in and of itself and sometimes I wish it would join phone books and testimonials in the marketing graveyard.

Why are ladies so against using the word “muscular” instead of “toned” to describe themselves or their goals? If you were to listen to society’s expectations for the female body, picking up more than a 10-pound dumbbell might turn a woman into the incredible, unbeddable Hulk. God forbid a woman shows a little bit of muscle definition or strength!

But what about those female bodybuilders that look all bulky and veiny, you ask? Don’t worry, you won’t look like that unless you really want to look like that (not that there’s anything wrong with it). Those women have years upon years of building and carving their physiques, eating down to the gram and using supplemental aids to assist them. They also don’t maintain that super pumped-up stage physique year-round.

Many female clients also ask why their husbands, boyfriends, dads or brothers tend to lean up and build muscle faster. That’s because we women don’t have near the testosterone levels that men do, and despite the miracles you might see an actor pull off while preparing for a superhero role, it takes men a long while to build quality muscle mass.

I want you to take a good look at the next Facebook ad you see marketing a barre, cycle or dance class. (Before I say what I am about to say, I want to make it clear that many of these gyms and studios are fabulous and if that barre class is what gets you active, please continue doing it.) The next time a boutique fitness company’s marketing text runs across your feed and promises anything along the lines of “all-over tone,” just know that they are playing off of the popular notion that women can’t do the same workouts that men can do.

You are being targeted because they know the vast majority of women are very uncomfortable lifting weights in a weight room. One of the biggest myths in the industry states that the only way to get lean is by doing massive amounts of cardio. Sitting on a stationary bike will not build that lean muscle you are looking for. Cardio is an extremely important aspect of your health, but if you are looking for a more “toned” look, then weight training is the most effective way to do that.

Having more muscle mass actually burns calories faster throughout each day because having muscle mass increases your metabolic activity, as it takes more energy to keep those muscles working correctly. Putting on muscle is not an easy task, but it has many benefits outside of the fact that it will give you the “toned” physique you are looking for.

So ladies, do not be afraid to pick up a challenging weight (with correct form, that is) and work some weightlifting into your routine. Drop the word “toned” from your vocabulary and empower yourself by picking up those weights, getting stronger and building the muscle definition you really want, societal expectations be damned.

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