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Fuel Your Strength 373 - The Problem with Tiny Pink Dumbbells w/ Nikki Naab-Levy

The Problem with Tiny Pink Dumbbells w/ Nikki Naab-Levy

When you see tiny pink dumbbells, what is your first thought? While these tiny pink dumbbells can have their utility in the world of post-rehab or muscular endurance, the marketing messages surrounding these hand weights are incredibly problematic. In today’s episode, my good friend Nikki Naab-Levy and I are breaking down the problem with the overall message surrounding tiny pink dumbbells in fitness marketing.

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Key Takeaways

If You Are Sick of Seeing Tiny Pink Dumbbells, You Should:

  1. Remember that just because you are a woman it does not mean you are not capable or are too fragile to be strong
  2. Stop worrying about getting bulky or comparing yourself to people on Instagram
  3. Find your weight sweet spot and focus on using an adequate amount of weight that is right for you

Calling Out Problematic Marketing with Nikki Naab-Levy

Nikki Naab-Levy is a strength and nutrition coach who has been involved in multiple arenas in the fitness industry for the last 17 years. She helps women move, build strength, improve mobility, move beyond injury, and find a sustainable approach to nutrition. She is passionate about having the unscripted and messy conversations necessary to help women get stronger and call attention to the problematic marketing in the world of fitness and beyond.

Pink Is Not the Problem

There is nothing wrong with expressing your femininity and working out in a way that suits you. However, you need to ask yourself if your tool fits the application. We all have the autonomy to decide how we want to lift weights or exercise; the problem comes when we allow marketers to lie to women about how they can achieve their goals using insufficient methods. Strength training, real strength training, is all about using smart programming and an appropriate amount of weight to get stronger over time, not ‘to get toned and flexible’ by using weights designed to keep women in a small mindset.

The Weaponization of Femininity

The marketing of tiny pink dumbbells says that women shouldn’t get too bulky and that they need to lift petite things because they are fragile. This is simply not true, and this brainwashing keeps women from experiencing their full abilities and capacities for getting stronger. 

The weaponization of femininity has a range of negative implications that we are honestly just sick of. If your goal is to get progressively stronger over time, you need to take a step back and analyze the messages that are being directed toward you as a woman who lifts.

How do you believe the marketing of fitness impacts your decisions regarding your routine? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below.

In This Episode

  • What is really behind the marketing of tiny pink dumbbells (9:12)
  • Why we need to stop lying to women about how they can achieve their fitness desires (15:14)
  • How to address a lack of lifting results and find your weight sweet spot (20:41)
  • The difference between something that makes you stronger and strength training (27:23)
  • Unpack the implication behind the messaging of tiny pink dumbbells (39:25)

Quotes

“It is amazing that we live in a day and age where tiny pink dumbbells need an entire podcast conversation, but they do! Because they are so prevalent in marketing and the marketing in what they can and cannot do for you in no way matches the reality of what you would actually want to use them for.” (7:21)

“Strength is a continuum. There is a lot of confusion about what you are trying to achieve and what is the best use of the thing that you are doing.” (21:05)

“Scratch below the surface of why you are buying something or why you are following someone or why you are doing something, because there is underlying science and utility in each of the modalities, and if you are going to choose something, choose something that actually has an application.” (38:32)

“When we make choices for ourselves, we need to step back and be logical and look beyond the marketing, I think that is my whole thing. The tiny pink dumbbell is fine, it can have its utility, just stop calling it strength training and stop saying it will make you toned because it freakin won’t.” (39:15)

“I still have capabilities that go far beyond what I thought I could do when I was in the box of the tiny pink dumbbell when I was in the world of the tiny pink dumbbell.” (44:36)

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Related Episodes

LTYB 358: Hypermobility, Pain and Strength Training with Nikki Naab-Levy

The Problem with Tiny Pink Dumbbells w/ Nikki Naab-Levy

Steph Gaudreau
When you see tiny pink dumbbells, what is your first thought? If you’re anything like me, it probably annoys you. And on this podcast, my very good friend and I are going to be diving into what is the problem with these tiny pink dumbbells? When can they be useful? And what is the overall message that we’re being sent when these types of images show up in fitness marketing, this is a very twisty turny conversation. And there are lots of different facets and nuances to it. So I hope that you’ll take it in stride and tune in to hear more about what we feel is the problem when women are told that we can only lift tiny pink dumbbells.

Steph Gaudreau
If you’re an athletic 40, something woman who loves lifting weights, challenging yourself, and doing hardship, the fuel your strength podcast is for you. You’ll learn how to eat, train, and recover smarter, so you build strength and muscle, have more energy, and perform better in and out of the gym. I’m strength nutrition strategist and weightlifting coach Steph Gaudreau. The fuel your strength podcast dives into evidence-based strategies for nutrition training and recovery, and why once you’re approaching your 40s and beyond, you need to do things a little differently than you did in your 20s. We’re here to challenge the limiting industry narratives about what women can and should do in training and beyond. If that sounds good, hit subscribe on your favorite podcast app. And let’s go!

Steph Gaudreau
Hello, dear listener, thank you so much for being here with me today. Oh my goodness, all I can say is buckle up because today is going to be a bit of a twisty turny roller coaster ride of a podcast, there are definitely going to be some chili pepper moments, so five chili pepper ratings on some of this. But overall, we’re going to be digging into what are the problems when it comes to marketing. And some of the other messaging that’s sent to women when we are faced with this idea of tiny pink dumbbells and I’m welcoming my very good friend back to the show, Nikki Naab Levy, she was on episode 358 talking about hypermobility and strength training. And Nikki and I quite oftentimes have discussions on our Instagram DM’s about some of the things in fitness marketing that are really kind of icky. So I couldn’t think of anyone better to bring back on the show to talk about this with me, it’s more of a friend-to-friend chat than it is me interviewing Nikki. But I really appreciated the perspective that she brings from her experiences. And I think you’re really going to appreciate how we got into this conversation about tiny pink dumbbells in a way that is not shaming.

Steph Gaudreau
It is not here to limit anyone but to really turn the tables and say, here’s why this is a problem. And what can we do instead? So before we dive into the show, would love to remind you about Strength Nutrition Unlocked. This is my program for 40-something women and beyond who want to get stronger build muscle, boost their energy, and perform better in and out of the gym. If you are someone who is athletic and multi-passionate that means you probably don’t just live love lifting weights. You also love your peloton or running or hiking on the weekend going to yoga, whatever it is, you’re really active and you’re starting to see diminishing returns from all of the things that you did when you were in your 20s 30s. Then this program is for you. Yes, we can be strong. Yes, we can be badass. Yes, we can do the hard shit. But we just have to fuel and train and recover a little bit differently than we did before.

Steph Gaudreau
It is not here to limit anyone but to really turn the tables and say, here’s why this is a problem. And what can we do instead? So before we dive into the show, would love to remind you about Strength Nutrition Unlocked. This is my program for 40-something women and beyond who want to get stronger build muscle, boost their energy, and perform better in and out of the gym. If you are someone who is athletic and multi-passionate that means you probably don’t just live love lifting weights. You also love your peloton or running or hiking on the weekend going to yoga, whatever it is, you’re really active and you’re starting to see diminishing returns from all of the things that you did when you were in your 20s 30s. Then this program is for you. Yes, we can be strong. Yes, we can be badass. Yes, we can do the hard shit. But we just have to fuel and train and recover a little bit differently than we did before.

And this program will walk you through exact step by step what to do with support. So go ahead and if this is interesting to you, head over to StephGaudreau.com/strong and click on the apply button. And here’s one example I want to shout out to one of my students who recently shared this in our group. She said I recently started training for Fall adventures see multi-passionate, I love it. I’ve done this program before and it usually obliterates me the first few weeks since starting Strength Nutrition Unlocked. I am not sore really at all and how to have more energy during the workouts. We love hearing that. And that’s just one example of what the multi-passionate athletic women in this program are experiencing. So again, go ahead and check it out at StephGaudreau.com/strong. Click on the apply button and we’ll see you there. Alright, let’s go ahead and jump into this episode about tiny pink dumbbells with my very good friend, Nikki Naab Levy. Hey, Nikki, welcome back to the podcast.

Nikki Naab-Levy
Hey, happy to be here again, looking forward to this conversation and whatever road it takes.

Steph Gaudreau
So, dear listener, just to give you some context, Nikki is back on the show. We were here on episode 358, talking about hypermobility and strength training. And a lot of people really loved that episode. It was very useful. And you so wonderfully displayed a lot of your expertise and things that people haven’t really heard before. And, you know, for those of you who don’t get to peek into my DMs, Mickey is one of my ride or die, like we’re gonna talk about all the things. And so quite often, we rant about stuff that really pisses us off. And so this episode is going to be kind of one of those episodes, but also, you know, one of those topics that really does deserve nuance. And every time we respectively talk about this, on our Instagrams, we get a lot of people who have a lot of feelings about it and get upset, or, on the other hand are like yes, I agree. So I wanted Nikki to come back and be my, especially co-host in this episode. And just chit-chat on some of the different nuances that goes into the topic of tiny pink dumbbells and small weights and those sorts of things. So welcome back.

Nikki Naab-Levy
Thanks for being here. It’s amazing that we live in a day and age where tiny pink dumbbells need an entire podcast conversation, but they do because they’re so prevalent in marketing, and the marketing and what they can and cannot do for you, in no way matches the reality of what you would actually want to use them for. And nor does it tell you when something else might be a better option, like a much larger dumbbell. Because I don’t really give a shit if the dumbbell is pink. I think the issue and the thing I find insulting is its kind of like the pink razors for women. It’s like, no, no, you belong in this corner on the ground with these tiny hand weights.

Steph Gaudreau
Mm-hmm. Yeah. And actually, you probably can’t see me, but I’m flashing the tiny pink dumbbells that I bought specifically for the purpose of reels and Instagram posts. And these fuckers were expensive also for their two pounds apiece. And I can’t remember exactly how much they were, but I think they were $14 Each or something like that, which is just disproportionate, by the way to how much other weights cost. Because usually, you can see dump get dumbbells, at least kind of pre pandemic when things are more available. The going rate was maybe $1 a pound. And then of course, if you had to pay for shipping like that’s just an extra cost, but disproportionate costs right there to this color of very small weights. So I think that you know, to your point, they’re just kind of flashing them around and talking with my hands now. But to your point, I think there is a huge disparity in like the marketing of what is the illusion? Like what is the thing that the marketing is saying, and you are so great at pulling apart marketing and explaining that. So I guess from your perspective, what do you what are you seeing out in the world, that’s the marketing around the tiny pink dumbbells because we know that marketing isn’t just like, here, this is this thing, and its features and benefits, but also the beliefs and the psychology and the feelings around that thing. So what do you see a lot with this?

Nikki Naab-Levy
Yeah, thanks. I think it’s an excellent question. You know, I think where we look at the marketing and this is the association of it. So I think we’re most likely to see tiny pink dumbbells in the Tracy Anderson style classes, the bar classes, maybe the yoga sculpts classes and the Pilates classes like a Pilates Mat classes, and I mean, I have there’s no love lost between me and the Tracy Anderson Method. But generally speaking, some exercise is better than no exercise. And like, there are specific benefits to yoga and there are specific benefits to Pilates. And, you know, I’ve never been a bar person but like, you know, I have friends who teach Are because I’ve been in the group fitness Mind Body world for a really long time. Right? Who, you know, they have a dance background. And they do, some of them do really interesting things, they are dancers there, they do more or less to do all these other things and like, to a point, like, yeah, there is probably transference to being able to kick your leg in the air and hold it really high, or having the endurance of holding your arm in the air or holding your hand holding a two-pound dumbbell for resistance. So then when you don’t have the two-pound dumbbell, and you’re dancing, maybe that would make sense, right, like, so I think we can make a case for where that would make sense. Or like in Pilates, when you’ve had a recent injury, and you’re in post rehab, right, trying to like feel and fire those muscle groups again, there can be a place for all of this.

Nikki Naab-Levy
So for anyone who’s listening who’s like, already ready, just like jumped down my throat in defense of their dumbbells, I just, I’m just gonna acknowledge that upfront. But here’s where the problem is, is that is not how the pink dumbbell is presented in its marketing, right? That is some actual utility of a pink dumbbell doesn’t have to be painful to say, of the tiny hand weight variety. But that’s not the marketing, the marketing that we get is don’t get bulky. This is for women, long, lean, and too long, lean and toned, right long, lean and flexible. And so there’s this idea that when you put a dumbbell in someone’s the tiny pink dumbbell in someone’s hand, and you have them, you know, do a split or kick their leg in the air, wave their arm up and down, like they’re flying and they’ve had one too many mushrooms or whatever is happening in some of these formats. They’re like this will get you toned without making you bulky. And that’s just not what’s happening, right? Like, physiologically, you’re not going to if that if you’re doing these formats to change how your body looks, or you know, build strength in a way that like you’re actually building muscle building legit seeing legitimate strength gains, building, you know, bone density, these things that a lot of people are talking about, or even trying to change how your body looks getting, quote unquote toned, where you do look more muscular, it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to get that from a tiny pink dumbbell. And so my issue is, that’s the marketing is let’s take someone who’s really thin, conventionally attractive, put them in a really cool looking pose, put a dumbbell to pink dumbbell in their hand, and then be like, this will make you stronger, long and lean. And it’s like, no, it’s not going to do any of those things. Its best utility is post rehab, or maybe muscular endurance. I don’t know, what do you say?

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, it’s, I agree. And this is the nuance that, you know, we, we talk all the time, behind the scenes about, you know, you can only say so much on one Instagram post. And you can only caveat so many things, you can only talk about so many applications and who this is for and who this is not for. And I think one of the things I see a lot, whenever I talk about this, and I’m using the again, the tiny pink dumbbell is kind of a metaphor. And actually, you know, something we literally do see, but as a metaphor for like, this is the only thing that you should be doing. And this is sort of where it ends. And I always get people who say things like, oh, but I’m coming back from an injury or I’m returning from postpartum or, you know, this is useful for me in this context. And I absolutely agree, right? We talk about tools all the time. And like the just the tool fit the application, not only in training but in nutrition as well, right. And so this comes up a lot when we talk about a lower carb approach, or fasting or whatnot, right? That those tools are not invalid, but they’re not always the right tool for the job. And they’re not the right tool for the context.

Steph Gaudreau
So I hear a lot of that, you know, hey, I need this for that. And I’m, we’re not disputing that at all. But what we are taking an issue with, I think, is that its sort of the limitation that’s put on women instead of going, hey, you know, what, there’s also a whole other world of weights out here and what would happen if we started lifting some of those in due time when we’re ready, and, you know, we talk a lot about what’s heavy and how we progressively overload we’re not just going to stick you in a gym on day one and tell you to squat 200 pounds. That’s ridiculous. But this, this metaphor of the tiny hand weight of being what women’s strength training is, and this is the definition of it, is the bullshit. It’s so limiting to some of the things that you said, you know, and this all this stuff goes hand in hand, being toned, being long and lean, you know, looking to staying in a nice, neat little box with looking a specific way and I think this is the challenging part is we can we all have that autonomy to decide like how we want to perhaps, you know, lift, lift weights or exercise or yeah, do we want more muscles or not like we do have that autonomy, but also Let’s not lie to women and say, This is how you’re going to get that.

Nikki Naab-Levy
Right. Yeah. And I mean, I think the other thing that we’ve talked about recently, that also comes up in this whole marketing myth, and I don’t even know if sometimes the people propagating it even realize that this is happening, because, generally speaking, there’s very low scientific fluency, I would say, of the general public, but even among fitness professionals, sometimes, right, like group fitness, people aren’t being paid a bunch, I get it, like, they’re just teaching their little classes, but they can still set up a tick tock or an Instagram account. So you see it out there. But there is this association that you’re going to have the body of the person who’s demonstrating the move, if they do exactly if, you know, you do exactly what they do. And I know this just happened for you recently, where you posted a photo of yourself, and you got a lot of requests about how to get your arms. And we were talking about that, because we were like, there’s this thing called genetics. And it really likes, it’s not that you can’t change your body. But like, genetics really do sort of predetermined to a certain degree, aesthetically, how your body is going to respond to the thing that you’re doing.

Nikki Naab-Levy
And some people, some people can just sort of looking like that, regardless of how much or how little weight they lift. And I don’t think a lot of people realize that either, like your genetics, plays a certain role in how long your limbs are, how much muscle relative fat you have visible, and how much fat you have in certain places. And none of that is happening in this ad, I guess, is my point. And so again, if you’re not someone where things line up for you the way that you want them to, then you’re really, you can’t just do some random workout, you’re gonna have to really figure out what you need to do. But it goes back to picking the right tool for the right job. And to the point of even if you are someone in post rehab if you’re post rehab, and you’re trying to get stronger, and you’re standing up and you’re moving on from squats, most people are going to move on from a bodyweight squat, I would argue to a weighted squat pretty quickly. And that weighted squat. Here’s the spoiler alert won’t require two-pound dumbbells. Because your legs are really big and strong. Yeah.

Steph Gaudreau
Well, yeah, I see that a lot as well. And oh, gosh, my brain is all over the place. And this is not the most organized in my brain episode. So you know, we’re just gonna go with but I think yeah, to your point, I did post this picture. And it’s odd because I post videos of myself lifting all the time, I’ve got a bit a billion reels on my site, or sorry, on my Instagram, where I look the same, perhaps there was not, and by the way, these photos I very specifically told the photographer who was amazing. I was like, you know, they send photos off to be kind of edited and things like that. I was like, you know, what, edit, like, whatever, like, you know, the, if I got some wild hair sticking out, I specifically said, I do not want my body photoshopped. And I’ve talked about this because I just for me, personally, I want to be transparent that like, nothing that you see, in terms of how I look in my body is fake. And there’s so much of that. And I also know that that’s a nuanced conversation, because some people feel like if they are not in that sort of like, influence or body type that they have to do it in order to like, seem legitimate as a professional or it’s messy.

Steph Gaudreau
But going back to this, this is, this is how I look. And it’s not anything different. And they gather tons of questions like how do I get arms like yours? And I was like, this is a complicated answer. Because even when I was mountain biking, and I wasn’t lifting, and I was not eating as much as I needed to, and I was losing muscle, like my arms were still kind of jacked, like not jacked, but in big but like, I’ll use air quotes here, toned. It’s just how my body is put together. Right? If you look at the bottom half of me, it’s, you know, like, I’ve got big legs, strong legs, whatever, but like, not I don’t have that kind of definition in my lower body. I just have it on my shoulders. Like I got lucky there, I guess. And so I feel like those posts, although Well, meaning, I’m going to say things like, you’re going to want to do things like presses and polls and you know, like all of the compound movements like, but I can’t guarantee that you’re going to look like this.

Steph Gaudreau
And I think that’s hard for people to hear because they want to have a specific aesthetic and I get it. But to your point, they’re not going to get there with these like little little little weights. And maybe you start lighter, but as you go, you’re going to have to challenge your body into your point of squats, right quads, the ham strains, the glutes, these muscles are large, these are the large muscle groups. And we need to appropriately load them. And I hear this is something that we both talk about a lot you need to appropriately load these muscles to get the adaptation, especially if you’ve been lifting now for a while, and you’re not necessarily seeing the results. So can you talk a little bit more about what you see, there’s like, you kind of mentioned we’re not, we’re not adequately loading. But what do you think is going on with that when people aren’t seeing? They’re like, oh, I’ve been lifting for a while and it’s not working? And this is pointless?

Nikki Naab-Levy
Yeah, I mean, I think I think this just goes back to there’s a lot of confusion about strength is a continuum, I guess that’s what I’m gonna say. It’s there’s a lot of confusion about what you are what you’re trying to achieve again, and what is the best use of the thing that you’re doing? So I think what happens is that we associate sensation, burning, sweating with like, something happening. And that’s going to create a result. And the truth is, is that we can have a lot of sensations that don’t correlate well with any type of actual physical adaptation. And so what happens, I think, why the reason why these classes are so popular? Well, there are a few things right group fitness feels a lot less intimidating than strength training, even if the group fitness classes are really quite advanced a lot of the time way too advanced for beginner exercise, I would argue having taught group fitness for years and years and years. But we didn’t go well. 10 squats were easy with bodyweight, or my little cute dumbbells. So I did 100.

Nikki Naab-Levy
And now my knee feels like shit and the mountain and be stronger, and I’m so sore. I can’t do anything for three weeks. And it’s like, yeah, because you basically burned out that muscle group in a way that you’ve done something a lot in a really novel way because you probably hadn’t done 100 squats before. And you’ve created central nervous system fatigue. And once you’ve done 100 of something, your attention to detail is kind of shot. So your four might not have been great. Your knee might have been doing something a little weird, but you probably didn’t injure your knee. But yeah, you probably irritated it and your nervous system was probably like, Hey, there, that’s a lot. And maybe you created some muscular endurance, but like, it’s not an efficient way to build strength, right. So I think that what people have to consider is that like if you can do more than, I don’t know, 10 or 12 of something without feeling like you can’t do anymore, you probably the more efficient way to go, especially if you’re concerned about your joints not hurting because high repetition tends to be highly irritating to the joints, I would say a more efficient, effective way to go about it would be like Wow, 10 or 12. If this felt really easy, I could have done five more. That’s actually a good time to grab a much heavier weight and be like, Oh, well, that was now I can only do six. I didn’t feel comfortable with that, because my knee felt weird.

Nikki Naab-Levy
So let me go a slightly lighter way, oh, hey, I was able to do eight or nine, great, you just found the sweet spot of your weight and in a way that is fairly efficient, where you could do a couple of sets of those and be done with it. And the thing that you have to keep in mind is is that that weight on you the beginner lifter is going to look very different on than on me as someone who has been lifting for like, what seven years but also has some weird conditions that stop me like has sort of slowed my progress to strength. And that’s going to look very different than someone like Steph who has a CrossFit background and lifts those great big giant barn impressive barbells on the videos and stuff. The other thing I just want to point out here about the photo right that I think is so interesting, because it’s happened to me too is I think a lot of people commenting have never had professional photoshoots where they don’t realize how lighting and camera angles and we’re not doctoring anything ourselves just makes your body look different. Yeah, right. We look different in photos. That’s just I don’t look like that in real life. And it’s not because I’ve had myself edit it it’s simply because really good lighting and a talented photographer is going to make your muscles look different with a curated outfit. Then when you show up in your normal gym clothes and your messy ponytail and you’re talking to someone on the street.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, absolutely. I mean it’s, we see it I guess the other like the opposite example of that would be why dressing room lighting is so hideous is because and as a photographer it used to be food photographer as part of my job like as a photographer like Light is everything and that that overhead light casts all sorts of weird contrasts the shadow and you know, it just it’s the worst so you’re right like lighting and also there’s this phenomenon now because we use selfies you know we take so many selfies as a society. Our forward-facing phone cameras are not The same as a professional camera, you know, or like a DSLR camera. And, there’s this phenomenon now where people are getting like plastic surgery or cosmetic procedures because they don’t like what they see in selfies, but that’s actually a distorted slightly distorted image because of the camera in your phone. It’s not actually how you look, it emphasizes certain parts of your face. So that’s just a little bit of an aside like we have this generation now people who want to fix the things on their bodies, not because it’s what they want, but because it’s what they see in an image that’s not actually accurate.

Steph Gaudreau
It’s their camera phone is distorting the image. So yes, to your point, when you do get professional pictures and stuff, like Yeah, it looks a little bit different than you would, you know, when I’m in the gym, and, you know, just doing my thing, but I always I don’t know, this is, uh, this is probably different story for a different day. But when people say goals, I get a little like, I want you to be strong, I want you to, like, feel like your best you and your best view or when you feel strong is not going to necessarily look like the way that my body looks. And I think that’s a conversation that we continue to have. But one of the things I see a lot is that, and you’ve come from the world of group fitness, you have experience in the world of yoga and pilates. One thing that I would love to address here is the idea of, strength training, and what strength training is because certain things can make us stronger. But are they really strength training, and there’s definitely a conversation being had where it’s like, well, I am strength training, because I’m, I’m lifting a weight, and even if it’s teeny tiny, and it’s way too easy for me, but like, I’m still doing something like this is going to give me XYZ benefit, muscle mass bone density, toning, like whatever it is we’re trying to achieve. And so as to marketing, this is part of the marketing, and it’s like, well, I am doing strength training, I am lifting something. So is this, you know, this is what I’m doing? And I think you have some pretty interesting thoughts on that. So do you want to talk about that?

Nikki Naab-Levy
Oh, sure. Again, it’s like, it’s, it’s hard. It’s hard to have this conversation through a phone in Instagram, because like, I can’t watch you the human. The human being move, right, I have no idea what your background is, I have no idea. If you have an underlying set of issues or injuries or conditions or if you’ve ever done it before, like I don’t know, I don’t know what you’re doing. I don’t know what weight you’re using. Right. So I mean, I think we need to head that off right there. This is really difficult to answer. But I think if you are asking yourself, am I if your goal is to get progressively stronger over time, in a way that reduces your instances of again, mitigates will say your risk of pain or injury or maybe buffers against pain or injury over time. Right? And you want to build bone and you want to build muscle that if that’s like your checklist of like why you’re doing what you’re doing, right? If that’s what you’re after, then a lot of the time the things that are being marketed, particularly to women as quote unquote, strength training with the word low impact, which is hilarious to me, because I’m like, it’s all low impact. No one’s jumping in most of the time, right? When are you jumping and what we’re doing in our workouts, I can’t the last time I jumped, but you know, right? This quote unquote, low impact strength work tends to look like something where we stand on one leg and we hold I mean, maybe a five-pound dumbbell and it’s usually like a $ 40 5-pound dumbbell, but it’s beautiful to look at. And it’s a pastel color, and it’s fine.

Nikki Naab-Levy
Enjoy your aesthetic, right? But and then we’re doing like these like little baby rows, right? We’re just pulling our arms up and down. And then we go yeah, now I’m building my muscles. It’s like if you’ve never lifted a weight in your life, and you have something going on, maybe in the first week, that five-pound row is going to be enough. But again, if you are an athlete, if you’re the typical individual, the average person, or even if you have some injuries like I’m someone who has had a list of injuries and all the things a five-pound dumbbell was never going to cut it for me for example in a row and it certainly wasn’t going to cut it in the squat. So the thing you need to be asking yourself is Am I doing the primary compound movements? Squat? deadlift, overhead press, pushing, pulling some sort of hanging rows, right? Am I doing this again? Not to you know, beat that dead horse but I’m gonna beat it. Am I doing Even with a weight that’s heavy enough that like once I get to 10, and not with a bunch of pulsing and all this extra stuff, just like 10, standard squats, or 10 standard rows, do I feel like I could have done 10 more?

Nikki Naab-Levy
Or do I really feel like, oh, I’ve maybe had one or two left before my form would have gone to, you know, would have just gone sideways or before, I wouldn’t have been able to do anymore, because that is, that’s kind of the level of weight that you need to be pushing progressively over time to get stronger? And a lot of the programs that are being built for women as strength, tend to be more choreography-based. So you’re doing a lot of stuff to the side, push your arm over your head, step back and curtsy and that’s all fine. There’s nothing wrong with that like that has some interesting coordination and balanced benefits to it and even vestibular, but they’re never selling vestibular again, they’re selling long and lean. They’re gonna get used to that, but it’s not strength training. And I think that’s my point here. I don’t know if that answered the question. But that’s where my brain went.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah. And I think, again, the thing that this podcast is going to keep circling back around to is like there are, there are other benefits to those modalities of training, they’re not invalid, they’re not useless. And I think that’s why people get defensive, is they’re like, Hey, I actually really liked this thing. And it brings me happiness, I get some enjoyment or satisfaction out of it. And we’re like, great, like, I’m happy for you to go do multiple kinds of movement that tick those boxes, whether it’s more relaxing or more low key, or it’s in an environment with other people, and you really enjoy that, or it does give you the sort of like balance and choreography elements or it gives you the, you know, just the like the relaxation of moving slowly or whatever it is like, that’s, that’s fine. And nobody is saying you have to give that stuff up. But I think the part where I get a little bit, I don’t know miffed is, is when marketers and other people who are out there in our industry are sorts of not being honest, I guess about the counterpoint of like, it’s great to love all that stuff, too. And it’s great to go ride on your peloton, and it’s great to go get go hiking, and it’s great to go and run if that’s your jam. And it’s great to go and do your classes if that’s your thing.

Steph Gaudreau
But also strength training is we can’t pretend it doesn’t matter. And I think that there’s a huge gap, right? There’s a gap in education, there’s a gap. And women often feel uncomfortable going into a gym situation. And so I’m absolutely acknowledging it’s not just as simple as going, we’ll just like get over yourself and go lifting. And we’re not I’m not saying that at all, like, you know, their tastes, their tastes, there’s different steps that people have to take. And the thing that I that really, I think we’re doing a disservice, I think, as an industry overall, is pretending like some of these other modalities that might involve smaller weights or some kind of other resistance is the same as strength training because we’re not getting the benefit to muscle mass. And we’re starting to see people are coming out and saying things like, hey, all I did was ride my peloton for two years, because I got at the beginning of the pandemic, and I stopped lifting weights because I had to, I couldn’t go to my gym anymore. Sometimes it’s a necessity. But they’re like, wow, I’m realizing I’m losing a lot of my muscle mass.

Steph Gaudreau
And I’m also in my 40s. And this is starting to have an impact on me, or what’s the impact on my bone density going to be. And to your point, I know always love eating all the vegetables. But sometimes we do things because we know that it’s important and it’s good for our bodies. And if we want the strength and the independence later in life, especially when it’s like can we put in a little bit of the work now. And we’re not saying you have to go be someone who competes in a lifting sport like Olympic lifting or powerlifting, or CrossFit or any of those things, but even twice a week strength training to a very moderate degree over time you increase the weights is going to have a big benefit. So I don’t know that’s just kind of my thoughts on that where

Steph Gaudreau
I’m not saying to not go do those other things. But I think you also have to be honest with yourself and say, living a life where I can be as independent as possible. I have a quality of life. I can move around well and do daily things. I can go do the other things that I enjoy as well. Having a strong body enables me to do that. And how do I strengthen my body because physiologically, this is science this is not us and our dumb, dumb opinions or us just being unreasonable. The science of it is, that we tend to, again, we tend to lose that muscle tissue, we tend to, to slide more toward type one fibers, we have a harder time moving quickly, we have a harder time, even doing simple things like catching ourselves if we stumble, or losing power, right, that’s sarcopenia, we’re losing the muscle mass that sarcopenia or losing the bone density was more, you know, because of also the loss of estrogen more at risk for bone breaks.

Steph Gaudreau
And I was talking recently to somebody about, you know, what, why, you know, strength training is like insurance. But thinking about it this way, breaking a hip, because you fall, and you’ve broken a bone is not only very expensive but is a significant impact to the quality of life and a high risk for mortality. And I don’t think that’s the stuff we want to talk about. We’re like, this is uncomfortable, or like I had a, you know, a family member who this happened to, and it was really sad. And I don’t think we want to think about those things. But it’s more than just us saying, you know, strength trading isn’t the most exciting thing, or it’s kind of boring, or it’s not entertaining me. And I think it doesn’t have to be those things. It doesn’t have to be punished either. But it can serve a utility if it’s something that is on your mind in terms of strength and all the other things we talked about.

Nikki Naab-Levy
Yeah. And I think that again, yeah, there’s something to be said for scratching below the surface of marketing. And, unfortunately, unfortunately, right, and sort of the day and age that we live in, like marketing. You kind of have to do it, right, as someone who is offering a product to survive, and I totally got that as someone who does, right like, and I think it’s interesting to sort of like tie this whole idea in a bow. It’s like a lot of the time, a lot of the women who undergo no judgment, because I’ve been one of them who are more attracted to sort of this like yoga Pilates bar group fitness side because it’s packaged in a way that looks really palatable and pretty tough. And then like, I know, for me, personally, I looked over at sort of the CrossFit strength training, branding that I was exposed to, and it always looked like someone who was like, I don’t know, eating off of a chicken bone, like, you know, doing something really crazy and aggressive. Like, I’m not crazy, you know what I mean?

Nikki Naab-Levy
Like, we’re just really intense that I knew my body couldn’t do. That’s not for me, right. And a lot of that was what turned me off. And I think the irony is that like, someone goes on my website, my branding is really girly, and sexy, and weird and pinup B, and like, part of that is because I’m a shit disturber and I like weird things. And I like pinups. But part of it too is because my audience Hi there, if you’re listening tends to also lean more towards the feminine side of things. And I mean, I guess you could criticize that for me. But also, frankly, if putting on leg warmers, and curling my hair makes someone more inclined to pick up a big set of dumbbells or something, I’m okay with that. So I think that that’s what’s so interesting. But I would say at the same time to like to flip this back against myself, which I’m fine with, I would say scratch below the surface of why you’re buying something or why you’re following someone or why you’re doing something because there is underlying science and utility in each of the modalities. And if you’re going to choose something, choose something that actually has an application or work with someone who understands the application that it gets you where you want to go.

Nikki Naab-Levy
And then once you explore that entry point to let’s say strength no that there’s more than one entry point you can do it with a dumbbell you can do it with a kettlebell, you can do it with a barbell right like there’s no such thing the end of the day strength is strength, assuming but you have smart programming and an appropriate amount of wheat. So right I think when we make choices for ourselves we need to sort of step back and be logical enough to look beyond the marketing I think that’s my whole thing is like the tiny pink dumbbell is fine it can have its utility just stop calling it strength training and stop saying it’ll make you toned cuz freakin wait.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, and I think to your point like what is the message and maybe this is kind of what we’ll wrap up on like, what is the implication? What is the connotation around that object? What are, you know, the whole pink it and shrink it movement? Or maybe I won’t call it a movement but like phenomenon, I guess in marketing is there’s nothing wrong with the color pink, yellow, like, if you like pink, like great. When I was a kid, Okay, quick, quick sidebar. My sister is 17 months younger than me. We are one grade apart. Right? So I was in third grade. She was in second grade. And my mom because she was a single mom working a lot, would just dress us in the same shoes, they would go shopping and get us the same outfits, but in different colors. Right. And I always got purple. And my sister always got pink, I was fucking furious because I just wanted pink. That’s all I wanted was pink color, like I just wanted. So I get it. If you love pink, that’s great. It’s the implication that we are fragile, we are dainty, we have to only like, we can express our femininity, however, we want, you can be girly, you can wear, you know the fishnets and all the things that you do, you can choose to show up however you want.

Steph Gaudreau
But it’s the implication that because these, I mean, I’ve seen pink barbells before, but I’ve never seen like pink 25-pound dumbbells. Maybe they exist, I don’t know. But as long as some of these objects are tiny, and the color pink is the implication that we can’t ever do more than this, that this is what we’re limited to that we are fragile. And I think that’s a big part of what you talk about. As well as like, I may have hypermobility, but I’m not, you know, I’m gonna get stronger. And that’s such a huge part of your, your message and your story. And people should go back and listen to that podcast episode because you break it down really beautifully. But that is like that fragility, as we can never want more as we can never do more. And we’re, we’re boxed in, we’re limited. And we were told that we have to do things that are tiny and small, and we can’t ever imagine something greater. And I think that that’s the problem. And I also see it in other places. You know, we’ve talked a little bit on the show about technology and fit tech and those sorts of things. And like there’s this burgeoning amount of data about women and our, our cycles and training, and we’ve been left out of the conversation.

Steph Gaudreau
For so long, we’ve been considered too complex to study, and there’s a big gender gap there. But also there are then people out in the world who take that stuff, and they’re like, well, we should never lift in the second half of our menstrual cycle, because we’re just gonna, like explode our bodies. And like, you know, so it’s on the other side of the coin, too. And I see that in the, in the, in the strength world is like, Oh, we shouldn’t, you know, shouldn’t ever lift in the second half of the cycle. And it’s like, like, we can’t handle it. Like we’re, we’re gonna fall apart like we’re fragile. And I think that that is the part about the pink it and shrink it and the pink dumbbells. Because there’s so little and that that’s we end up limiting our concept of what we can actually do. We’re like, this isn’t for me, I can’t do this thing. I need to just do this thing that’s really tiny. And we don’t ever think beyond it. And if you haven’t seen the exposure, you haven’t been exposed to other things. You’re not going to know what’s there.

Nikki Naab-Levy
Yeah, exactly. And not to take us down a new path. But I will just, I think, right. I think what that is, is it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. And it’s the weaponization of femininity, and the weapon, right, like AI, right? It’s weaponized against us. It’s your fragile and frail. And you need to be taken care of, and you just need like little tiny, just safe, tiny, gentle, soft things. And that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with safe, tiny, gentle, soft things. But to your point, the more time you spend in the box of you can only do this much and be careful. The more that you decline, you quite literally decline in your physicality in your abilities and your muscle mass in your bone with age, and the more that you truly do become frail. And the more that you become frail, the more that you believe that you are frail, and the less that you are able to do. And I think that that’s what’s so hard for me to witness. And I think that’s what just breaks my heart as I’m like.

Nikki Naab-Levy
But we’re not frail. And even if you have a bunch of weird things going on, and I’m one of those people who like I just I have I just have a box full of lemons for jeans, it feels like sometimes it’s just a big box, a lemon, all recessive. So many weird problems, but it doesn’t like but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. I still have capabilities that I can do that go far beyond what I thought I could do when I was in the box of the tiny pink dumbbell when I was in the world of the tiny pink dumbbell. And so I think my message for people is like yes, the capability is very individual genetics matter what we’re capable of. It depends. So don’t go compare yourself to like the person that you’re following or your friend in the gym or whatever. But at the same time also realize if you have not explored something that’s a little bit more robust than what you were doing or if you haven’t explored like if you’re doing a lot of like the faster more fun We’re in Edit kind of pop fitness group fitness peloton fitness stuff. It’ll feel weird, but maybe see what happens if you try a more standard program, quote unquote standard where you do lift a relatively heavier weight for fewer reps, because it looks it doesn’t look exciting. It’s not much to look at, I realized that but like, it has really big benefits. I think that’s what we’re both trying to say.

Steph Gaudreau
Yeah, I think we can ended on that. I think we’ve covered a lot in this podcast. And I, you know, I hope that this lens of context to some of the things that we do talk about on Instagram, on our social media is where we can’t cover it all. Like we’re, we’re actually frankly, just limited by character count. And not every post has to address every single bit of nuance. It’s, it’s impossible to do that. And it’s impossible that we’ve captured even all of it in this podcast episode. But I think that the more we sit down, the more we are curious, the more we ask questions, the more we think about what’s not what is just the object, but what does or the modality but like, what is implied by this? And then what have we learned to believe about that, and about ourselves in the process, we start to realize that a lot of it’s just made up.

Nikki Naab-Levy
Yeah, thanks for having me. One of my favorite things to complain about.

Steph Gaudreau
And we have more capacity and more capability than we’ve been given credit for, or we’ve been allowed to believe, based on some of these things that we’ve we’ve really been exposed to, or, or we thought this is the only way and so I’m all about how can you, you know, how is lifting weights and how is getting stronger a catalyst to expansion in your life. And I think you do that as well. And it’s so counter to the messages that we get both overt and subliminal and conscious and unconscious, that we just need to stay small, we just need to stay contained. We just need to be a little everything we use is just, it’s just tiny. We can’t handle it. We’re too fragile. And I think that that’s the stuff that we’re pushing back with on this episode. So thanks for being here and chatting about it with me.

Steph Gaudreau
Well, I’ll see you in the DMS undoubtedly very soon. And, and we’ll make sure that we get everything linked up in this episode. But hey, if you want to just toss it out there, what are you up to? What are the things that people can come and learn from you? And how can they do that?

Nikki Naab-Levy
Sure. So I have a podcast called results, not typical, you can just search for it on iTunes, Spotify, etc. My website for the spelling of all this just go to the show notes, please is Napoli v.com. You can find me on Instagram @NabbLevy. I do have an email list where I send out all sorts of things on strength, nutrition and post rehab pain stuff. And then more specifically, if you are interested in strength for hypermobility, I have a special offshoot of my list, we send out a monthly resource for that. You can join that one at strength for hypermobility.com. So those are all the places and all the things.

Steph Gaudreau
Awesome. Thanks so much for being here. And I can’t wait to talk with you soon.

Steph Gaudreau
Okay, right, I told you to buckle up. And that was a wild ride. We covered a lot of ground. This is a very unscripted and, frankly, messy conversation. And I hope that we brought up some points that really give you pause. Again, we are super supportive of you doing what you need to do at the level that you’re at, progressing slowly over time, and getting stronger in a really smart way. But we also don’t want you to limit yourself and we want to call attention to some of the problematic marketing that’s out there in the world and how it can really be seeping into your brain and affecting how you feel about strength training. For the show notes for this episode, including a full transcript head over to StephGaudreau.com Make sure you go and follow Nikki on Instagram @NabbLevy and that link is also in the show notes.

Steph Gaudreau
Go ahead and hit the subscribe button or tap it I guess on your favorite podcast app. Who’s saying click these days tap on your favorite podcast app the subscribe button that brings the new episodes automatically into your device and gives a signal to the app that you love the show and others like you may also enjoy it and share your thoughts with us over on Instagram. If you’d like this episode reshare it out on Instagram stories and tag both of us we would love to see it. Alright, that does it for this episode on tiny pink dumbbells. Stay tuned for our next episode and until then stay strong.

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Hi, I'm Steph!

Nutrition and fitness coach for women, Lord of the Rings nerd, and depending on who you ask, crazy cat lady. My mission is to help you fuel for more, not less: bigger muscles, strength, energy, and possibilities. We’ll do it with my signature blend of science, strategy…and a little bit of sass.

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