Get Fit & Have Fun in San Diego
From doggie bootcamps to intense bodybuilding programs, it’s an exciting time to get in shape. What are you waiting for?
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I Tried It: Bodybuilding
Hilary Achauer, 41, Pacific Beach
You Try It!
San Diego Athletics
5026 Cass Street, Pacific Beach
10 sessions for $230; memberships start at $149 per month
When my CrossFit gym, San Diego Athletics in P.B., began offering a bodybuilding program, my first reaction was “Oh, heck no.”
For four years I’d attended CrossFit classes four to five times a week. I learned about Olympic weightlifting, gymnastics, full-body functional movements, and the concept of intensity. I’d switched my focus from what my body looks like to what it can do. However, my progress had slowed down in the last year. I was battling chronic tendinosis in my knee, and I was looking to try something new.
But bodybuilding? Really?
If you’re a woman who’s been told most of her life that smaller is better, the idea of intentionally building up your body is slightly terrifying. There’s a reason the phrase “strong is the new skinny” became so popular. It’s the word “skinny.” While I don’t subscribe to celebrity trainer Tracy Anderson’s belief that women shouldn’t lift more than three pounds, I also don’t post aspirational photos of Arnold Schwarzenegger on Instagram. I want to be strong and cute.
Gym co-owner Bryan Boorstein wrote a convincing blog post about how a base of strength is important, and how building muscles spikes the metabolism, even when you’re not exercising. One line in particular hit home: “Your body is desperately hoping you stop breaking it down. It’s time to get strong.”
So, I committed to eight weeks of bodybuilding, exclusively. In the first few weeks, I was often the only woman in the class. Some of the exercises were familiar to me—like back squats, bench presses, pull-ups, and ring dips—but I was clueless about anything that involved a dumbbell.
The movements may be old-school, but the atmosphere in a San Diego Athletics bodybuilding class is completely novel. Instead of everyone following their own program and fighting over weights, the class works together, sharing benches and dumbbells. The music is loud—sometimes it’s Pearl Jam, sometimes it’s 2 Chainz, sometimes (sadly, for me) it’s country. The trainers lead everyone through the movements, offering guidance on form and technique and how much weight to use. Once a week we leave the gym and do hill sprints, followed by ab exercises.
The first week was rough. I felt like an addict, obsessing about what I was missing in the CrossFit workouts. What if I got too muscular? Or what if I got fat?
In the second week I started to figure out how to push myself and what weights to use for the seemingly endless variety of exercises.
After a few weeks I started seeing some interesting results.
My knee pain disappeared. Completely. Then, one day, I did three sets of eight strict pull-ups, something I had never managed to do in four years of CrossFit. And even though my weight stayed the same and I didn’t change my diet, I noticed more definition in my abs. For a 41-year-old mother of two, this was kind of a big deal.
As the weeks went on, more women showed up to class. I can now do dumbbell flies and hammer curls like a champ. And I’m happy to report, there is still no Schwarzenegger photo in my Instagram feed.
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Photography by Jay Reilly, Jacqueline Campbell & Luis Garcia