Iris Kyle : The Best Bodybuilder Ever

Iris Kyle has been one of the most successful bodybuilders of the 21st century. Her impressive amount of victories demonstrate a true talent for the bodybuilding sport. She was able to break both Corey Everson’s  and Lenda Murray’s records. Since 1994 she has been competing and has been a force to be reckoned with. Iris Kyle will certainly be remembered in IFBB history has one of the most important athletes to grace the stage. Iris Kyle won the Ms.Olympia in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. Besides her Ms. Olympia titles, she holds seven win in the Ms. International competition. She did this in a span of ten years. Although a woman of many talents she had generated criticism from fellow competitors and detractors alike. Whatever one thinks of the physique she presents, one cannot say is not a great bodybuilder. Talent like this keeps the sport alive and interesting. Iris Kyle was born in 1974 in Benton, Michigan and participated in sports during her childhood. She ran cross country, played basketball, and,  softball. She would continue to play basketball on a sports scholarship, receiving a degree in business administration  with a minor accounting from Alcorn State University. Her contact with bodybuilding did not come until she moved to California.

When she was in Orange County Iris recalled being amazed by the gym she went to seeing fit looking people. There she became a devoted reader of Flex, Muscle and Fitness, as well as Iron Man Magazine. What took her by surprise was seeing Lenda Murray’s physique in a magazine. To Iris’s own admission, ” I wanted to develop a physique like hers.” Everyone gets inspiration from somewhere and Iris found her’s. She was also inspired by Bev Francis. Iris then at the age of 23 won her pro card at the 1998 NPC USA Championship. Before that she won her very first bodybuilding competition in the 1994 Long Beach Classic. It was clear that she was going to be major competition going into the 2000s. A new generation of female bodybuilder had emerged.

       Iris kyle would go against some of the longtime greats such as Juilette Bergmann and Lenda Murray. She lost the overall to Bergmann, but won the 2001 heavyweight title. Iris would come in second both in 2002 and 2003 to Lenda Murray who even out of retirement was formidable. The 2004 Ms.Olympia was different and Iris dethroned Lenda Murray. There was criticism from fans and even competitors alike.

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Lenda Murray said ” she destroyed her look as a woman.” This seems ludicrous, because their physiques are similar with only slight differences. Critics who never liked or wanted female bodybuilding in the first place claimed that Iris Kyle had gone “too far in her appearance.” These statements and claims seem baseless. Iris was presenting a larger and balanced physique which is why she won some many contests. At 5 ft 7in  and 165 pounds in competition she was able to sculpt her body into a new model for the female bodybuilding physique. Just like Bev Francis and Lenda Murray they ushered in a new look. when these new paradigms are introduced, they are not always accepted. The Lenda Murray comments can be seen as a form of jealousy. When you win so many times it natural to feel frustration when you lose.  It seems odd that someone Iris idolized would say such a thing.  The 2004 Olympia was the passing of the torch. Many observers of the sport claim this was the period female bodybuilding went on a sharp decline. The sport was not generating as much revenue or gaining as much attendance, but that does mean the quality of competitors went down.

Iris Kyle’s dedication and persistence shows that women can do this just as well as the men. She would continue to dominate the sport in the 2000s and 2010s. She would later retire ( temporarily) in 2014 after winning another Olympia. This was a low point, because 2014 was the last Ms.Olympia and Iris was no longer competing. When it was announced that there was to be the Rising Phoenix to replace the ms.Olympia Kyle then came out of retirement. She announced that she would appear in 2016 on stage, but something happened. For some reason she was not invited to the competition. This is a deliberate violation of IFBB rules. If you are professional then you are allowed to compete in contests. It seemed as if the sponsor the Rising Phoenix show did not want Iris to compete and complications occurred over contracts. This was a mistake to have a show that was a successor to the Olympia and not have Iris Kyle in the line-up. Decisions like these harm the sport and anger fans.  Tim Gardner the organizer of the show made this mistake. Hopefully, Iris Kyle will make a stage appearance in 2017.

         The ten time Ms.Olympia has gathered a following over the years. Iris Kyle also has engaged in business ventures opening Bodi Cafe which specializes in smoothies and supplements. Iris Kyle also has her own Youtube Channel in which she shows training techniques. The channel currently hold about 2,388 subscribers.

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Follow Iris Kyle : Iris Kyle YT and Iris Kyle Facebook

Her Facebook page has generated a following of 150, 778 people. Besides that Iris Kyle maintains a website IrisKyle.com  in which she also helps and consults in regards to weight training. Iris kyle  continues to have influence in the bodybuilding community and her name is readily recognizable in many fitness circles. Her constant victories and uniqueness have gained her nicknames such as ” the female Ronnie Coleman” and “iron maiden.” She also got exposure in mainstream entertainment on the show Wipeout . Being a vary religious individual she has stated “Christ has strengthened me.” She starts her days reading the Bible and with a prayer. Iris Kyle’s time is spent training clients, conducting seminars, and doing guest posing. The Olympia champion certainly has a busy schedule.  Iris Kyle has faced many competitors including greats like Yaxeni Garcia, Alina Popa, Lenda Murray,  Juliette Begmann, and Vicki Gates.

Iris Kyle had stated that her biggest challenge was competing against Lenda Murray and Yaxeni Garcia. These two competitors were difficult for her to beat, but she eventually did. There was a level of confusion in 2005 with the 20 percent rule. The IFBB stated that all competitors in women’s divisions must reduce their muscularity by a 20 percent margin. Iris wanted to follow the rules and come to competition smaller.  Iris went in at 155 pounds, but Garcia came in larger and won. The contradiction in judging has always been frustrating to athletes, At that moment Iris Kyle realized she had to change and it had to be guided by her own assessments. The irony was that Lenda Murray was announcing the winner that year. Iris Kyle then reverted back to the same training regimen. She trains from heavy lifting to supersets  and drop sets.

 After losing to Lenda Murray in both 2002 and 2003 she was determined to win. Iris has facetiously claimed ” if you are going for the champ you have to completely knock out the camp.” Iris Kyle then began a long reign in 2004 of dominating both the Ms. International competitions and Ms.Olympia. Kyle puts her success down to “training smart not hard.” During the off season she trains five days and has two days of rest. She trains one body part per day and allows herself to do three days of cardio training. Kyle although successful has faced criticism. Critics claim she took her physique “too far” and that it was harming the bodybuilding aesthetics. These claims are baseless, because she is no more extreme than any other physique that appears on stage. Iris Kyle simply to the physical paradigm to another logical step. Her physique combined the large size of Bev Francis and the balance of Lenda  Murray while maintaining the symmetry and definition of Corey Everson and Carla Dunlap. Iris Kyle perfected what these early pioneers had started. The idea that women who get “too big” lose their femininity is antiquated and sexist. This is about building a physique and although people may not find it suitable for women, no one can say women are terrible bodybuilders. There is a point when it becomes more than just pleasing judges or acclimating to a particular perspective. Iris Kyle revealed in an interview “never allow someone else’s opinion to dictate your future.” Surprisingly she admitted that someone once said to her she would never become Ms.Olympia. They were obviously wrong. There may not be a Ms.Olympia contest anymore, but Iris Kyle being the last one carries on that legacy. Iris Kyle will be considered in sports history as one of the most accomplished bodybuilders.

Iris Kyle : The Best Bodybuilder Ever

General Blogging Tips

Starting a blog is a laborious project. There are many considerations for those who wish to do so. These are some general guidelines to a person with an interest in writing and posting it for people to read. The process should be constantly evolving and making gradual improvements. This means experimenting with new ideas or techniques. Writing is essential and can be the key to your blog’s success. Layout and content are also critical elements. Do not expect immediate results from your efforts. It could take a number of years for visitation to increase to your blog. Planning before actually launching also make the process more organized. Starting is normally the most difficult part. Subject matter is essential and it is critical that it is a topic that sparks your interest. Do not be afraid to try creative experiments. Some attempts  may be successful others may not. These observations are a combination techniques and methods  that have been gathered over the years since this blog was started in 2014.

        When attempting to initiate a blog there should be an outline phase. This can either be done in a notebook or written on your computer. Before any writing is stated subject matter and topics should be selected. When making a choice, it should be a topic that you have an interest or fascination with. The more passionate you are about a topic or idea the easier it is to write about. If it is a subject that is either rare, unknown, or controversial it only enriches the substance of the blog. The subject of women with muscle and women in sports generates many opinions and reactions. This provides an immense amount of material for writing. Scope is also an element that must be considered. A narrow range many not provide as much content as a focused one. This can easily be solved by categorizing your blog posts into menu sections. The flaw with that is that readers could have potential information overload. Another pivotal part of the planning process is to articulate what is the mission or goal of the blog.

These women have some fascinating stories about why and how they got to where they are. 

It should be a lucid statement revealing what the blog is about. If it is not elucidated then visitors may leave and never return to the blog. There may be some occasions users will do a quick browse to understand what type of blog it is. Doing this may not be enough to get the visitor to stay. The general mission statement also helps summarize the whole blog.  It is a good practice to scribble ideas down so when you actually are ready to publish it is organized. Depending on what blogging platform or site you are organizing, make it so that it is simple to navigate for visitors. If possible make or either use an image as a site logo. This can be your signature, which visitors can remember.

Women have progress far in professional sports. Considering their entry into profession sports is recent that makes the progression even more amazing. This phenomenon has not been studied as much.  

Design choices depend on what is aesthetically pleasing to the producer of the blog. It does not have to be incredibly fancy or colorful. Sometimes the most simple design and still look nice to a viewer.  Outlining can help make creating a blog less stressful.

        Writing follows a structure. Essays function on a thesis, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. The best arguments revolve around facts and data. However, it is how information is presented to the reader, which makes it most effective. If the text is too didactic  it becomes dry and dull. If writing on a blog becomes overly sensational then it resembles a tabloid lacking substance or depth. There should be a level of enthusiasm projected in the writing with a combination of substantive information. The thesis is the opening statement and the position one is arguing. Thesis by definition is “a theory put forth as a premise that can be proven.” From this stage of developing a thesis, the body paragraphs will follow in the essay structure. When selecting sources it is best to use books, websites, or newspaper articles. These can be either primary or secondary source materials. The more sources the better quality of written work. The conclusion gives a synopsis and also makes the final point to the argument. Writing does not have to follow this exact structure. Some posts can be short others a little longer. This also depends on the topic. The writing for a blog can either be formal or informal. Do not be afraid to try something either humorous or controversial. However, one should be mindful of what they write and how it is presented. Free speech is an excellent concept which allows various forms of expression, but it does not give one the right to advance an agenda of hate or falsehoods.  Comments should be welcomed, but if they are just meant to be bullying or disparage a particular group then they should be deleted. It is unfortunate that civil conversation in many regards had become extinct, especially online.  Closed minded people normally react in a negative way to new ideas or people different from themselves. They constantly may write negative comments and it is best that their responses be deleted. If they want to share their opinions or convictions they should start one of their own. Do not let them use your blog as a platform to promote themselves.

While there may be less than pleasant responses, this does not mean all criticism should be silenced. Constructive criticism should be used as a form of guidance to future improvement. If a reader has a suggestion, take that into account.  The quality of writing is what will make the blog a success and constant adjustment is necessary. Besides expression of ideas, audio and visual content is helpful.

       Photography and pictures can add to the quality of a blog. Writing can be enhanced more so with visuals. Selection of photos is also important if one is trying to make prove an axiom. Sometimes a photo is more powerful than  words. A great photographer captures the emotion and passion of the moment through a lens. The wonderful aspect about the internet is that there are millions of photographs at a user’s finger tips. These photographs can either be professional, personal,  or candid shots. They encompass all elements of life from work, daily life, and general pastimes. There has to be some thought in which photos will be selected for a post. It also helps to find photographs that are rare, which can be a special treat to readers.

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Photography can capture a wide range of human emotion. Here you can see Sally Pearson overcome with it after realizing she won a gold medal.
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This is an example of a professional photograph. It is not capturing the action in the moment, but forming a controlled environment. Asha Hadley  shown above is seen posing in a light pink and white colored room.
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Capturing movement in an action photo is not about controlling the setting. It is about documenting a specific moment.

The rare photographs are historical documentations. They provide evidence of past occurrences they people would not easily believe. Besides written documents, artifacts,  and oral traditions, photography also is a pivotal primary source material.  The discovery of new information allows for historical revision of the narrative. The idea of women being involved in sports or some form of physical activity is nothing new. There were cases in which they did participate, but were restricted due to the cultural mores depending on the time period. Photographs also become one more piece of evidence of the past and what it was like. Preservation is important for future generations.

Another element for selection of photos relates to demographics. There is problem with lack of representation of non-white people in media. If you are going to have a blog and want it viewed by global audiences there needs to be diversity. This should not be mere tokenism that is commonly seen in popular media. Doing this allows for expansion of audience. When choosing photographs do not just select pictures of people of the same ethnic, religious, or cultural group. This is a global society; it is time to start representing it as one. When you write understand there are billions of people across the globe with internet access. They are of numerous ethnic, religious, cultural, and national backgrounds. Speaking to their experience will gain their attention. Photo selections should not be done at random, rather a contemplative decision should be made whether it enhances the blog.

       Adding videos can also increase readership. This is more a challenge than selecting photos. There are enough public domain photos that avoid copyright restrictions. Videos if embedded from another channel on a streaming site and either be deleted or disappear. The best option would be to have your own account on Youtube, Vimeo, or Dailymotion. As long as the video is being used for educational purposes and the user is not making a profit of or taking credit for the material, it falls under fair use. Be sure to check the terms of services requirements for posting videos. The great part about videos is that they can be stand alone posts. Interviews and segments of  certain events can entertain readers. It is optional if a writer wants to put text with it. Some videos may need further explanation in a wider context. This is done to demonstrate relevance to the subject matter and prevent confusion. Rare archival footage would require further elucidation to the reader. If it has no audio, then it will leave the reader perplexed to what is its purpose relative to the site. Videos can be stand alone posts, although they can be used to enhance mostly text based posts. An interview, audio file, or news clip can add so much to a written post. Some may actually be more responsive to audio-visual material.

       Try something different with your blog. Posts do not always have to be serious. There can be a level of humor. This can be a relief in a world that is filled with nothing but violence and despair. A little break from bad news can be refreshing. Adding jokes or popular memes can draw some attention. Producing a blog is just not providing information; it is providing entertainment. Thinking from this perspective, the writer becomes a type of entertainer. Experiments in writing and production can either be a success or a failure. This does not mean there should be no attempts at different approaches.

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The memes and motivational posters above are examples of adding some comedy to your blog. The content should be multifaceted. Informative, comedic, and entertainment can make it a more enriching site.

      The other consideration is deadlines. This is difficult due to producing high quality works in a certain amount of time. Start off keeping realistic deadlines. If posting material once a month works, start off with that. Doing something rushed will often result in low quality work. This does not mean writing produced in a fast manner cannot be high quality. Once a writer is satisfied with their work they should publish it. There should be a dedicated effort not to keep going back and editing posts. This should only be done if a part of information is incorrect or there is a grammatical error. There should be an editing process that is done before posting. Avoid overwhelming yourself with trying to meet deadlines. Quantity does not equal quality and it creates another issue. New readers may have trouble keeping up with posts and may not visit as frequently. Information overload can discourage people from exploring certain sites. It may be best to wait a few days between posts. Sometimes there are materials and news that you want to share immediately. There is nothing wrong with multiple posts,but more is not always better. Eventually, you will realize when is the right time to add a new post. Keeping these general guidelines in mind anyone can produce a blog.

General Blogging Tips

Kristy Hawkins Interview (2017)

Kristy Hawkins speaks about her experiences in bodybuilding and her ventures into powerlifting. Kristy also discusses chemistry and her work in the chemical engineering industry. She also discusses how she balances her professional career and he powerlifting. Kristy said that she has learn much discipline. Kristy Hawkins also broke records in deadlift and squat. Kristy now trains with Dan Green and the results have been very effective. Kristy may have retired from the bodybuilding stage, but now is making a big impression in powerlifting. Fans will never forget her gracing the bodybuilding stage.

Kristy Hawkins Interview (2017)

Can Women Meet the Physical Demands of the Navy SEALs?

When the ban on women in combat was lifted, many were asking if this was to include elite special forces. Eventually, the ban was lifted on the Navy SEALs. This fighting force of the United States military is known for its tough demeanor and aggressiveness. The training is considered extremely difficult both physically and mentally. When it comes to women in physically demanding occupations, there are physiological and biological considerations. The standards cannot be lowered, for this would cause reduced combat effectiveness.Navy SEALS must be proficient in scuba diving, parachuting, close quarters combat, and demolition. The question remains does a woman have the  strength and endurance to meet the physical demands of the Navy SEALs?To answer this question one must look at the problem from the context of the standards and peak physical fitness. That approach will reveal if this can be possible.

        Before examining the physical demands, one should understand exactly what the Navy SEALS are. The US Navy Sea Land and Air teams are a special operations force created in 1962.  The special operations force was created under the John F. Kennedy administration. Its intent was to combat guerrilla warfare being used in Vietnam. Although US troops were not there yet, there were military advisers in South Vietnam. The Navy SEALS saw combat in 1966 in Vietnam mostly focusing on riverine operations. The Navy SEALS were then attached to other American special forces under US Special Operations Command in 1987. The changing nature of warfare has made Navy SEAL roles indistinguishable from other special forces. The ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have contributed to this shift. The land and air element was more prevalent in these conflicts, rather than water based operations. There were also cases in which the conventional US army was called in to support the Navy SEALS during the 2003 Iraq invasion. The tasks assigned to Navy SEALS involve finding downed pilots, reconnaissance, sabotage, hostage extraction, counter-terrorism operations and counter-drug operations. The Navy SEALS have more rigorous responsibilities compared to other branches.

             The Navy SEALs physical fitness test contains certain measures that a candidate must meet to get selected for combat. There are minimum standards, but it is recommended an applicant strive for the highest scores. This involves a 500 yard swim, push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and a 1.5 mile run. All recruits go through basic training and from there select a military occupational specialty (MOS).

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500 yard swim – minimum score :12:30 minutes  maximum score : 8 minutes
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Pull-ups- minimum score :10 maximum score: 15-20
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Push ups- minimum score :50 maximum score: 80-100
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Sit-ups- minimum score : 50 maximum score : 80-100
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1.5 mile run – minimum score: 10:30 minutes maximum score : 9-10 minutes

These are examples of the physical screening tests. The target should to get the highest scores to increase the likelihood of successful completion. Competitive scores give an applicant a better  chance also of being noticed for career advancement. There is also an EOD physical and  a fleet diver physical. Some of the exercises are timed. Sit-ups must be done in two minutes ( with two minute rests in between)  in the EOD physical. Looking at these standards, there may be some areas women would have challenges with. If there is a woman applicant who wants to join there are considerations that must be taken into account. Women should seek to go above the minimum standards.

      There are anatomical differences that could make this more difficult for women. The difference in muscular strength and specifically for the upper body could pose problems. Women have less upper body strength compared   to there male counterparts. The difference in strength is in part due to men’s higher testosterone levels allowing for more pronounced mass in the arms and chest. Estimates show that women have 50% less upper body strength in total. It should be noted that with training women still can gain strength. There is also a genetic factor with some women having a mesomorphic body type, which can be an advantage. However, if a woman and a man are given the same training regimen it is likely the man will be stronger. Women still experience muscular hypertrophy, but not to the same extent as a man. Muscle is not the only contributor to physical strength, it is the skeleton and tendons. Women have lower bone density. Their shoulders are more narrow which means a smaller area to house muscle mass on the upper body. This means even upper body development is hard for female athletes.

  The cells of men and women’s muscles do not differ. There is a difference in the amount of type II fast twitch muscle fibers. These are essential for explosive physical force and recruitment. Men have more of these muscle fibers, while women contain more of the endurance based type I muscle fibers.The approach here should be to know the standards before hand and have a high physical fitness level before entry. The only way for women to be successful is to do weight training. This can build bone and muscular strength. Gains however depend on several factors. These factors include age, sex, diet, body type, and fitness program utilized. Women can through weight training can gain at least 40% muscular strength according to the American Council on Exercise. If women have lower upper body strength, they should focus on exercises that increase the muscles of that area. Bicep curls, dumbbell kickbacks,and overhead  triceps extensions are effective at increasing upper body strength. There can be an alternation between weights and machines, because it has not been fully determined which is the most effective. Deltoid  strength is critical to shoulder enforcement. Peck deck machines and help with targeting the muscles of the chest.

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An official chart of standards

 The skeleton strength is also essential. Lower bone mass means women would be more susceptible to muscolskeletal injuries. This has been the case with women in other branches in the military. Injury rates are higher for women compared to men. Soldiers of all sexes are suffering higher injury rates due to heavier armor. Stress fractures can happen while marching under load.Not only does overloaded armor cause health problems, but it decreases mobility. Lower bone mass in women explains why they are more vulnerable to diseases such as osteoporosis. Bone mass can be built and strengthened through weight training. The difference in the male and female skeleton also effects other areas of physical fitness. The shape of the pelvis and angle of the legs mean women’s running speed will be effected. This also makes the possibility of anterior cruciate  ligament tears higher. ACL tears are prevalent in high performing female athletes. Training safely and understanding the musculoskeletal differences can prevent such injuries.

   Women’s skeletons have an increased  Q angle  along with greater spinal curvature. The frontal and temporal bones are smaller in size. Women also have shorter long bones which include the arms and legs as well as the clavicle. The strength factor includes the skeleton, muscular system,tendons, and ligaments. While it is clear that the physical fitness level of these organ systems can be increased, strengthening tendons could be more difficult.

      Men and women may differ in response to loading on tendons. Women can sustain higher connective tissue injuries. This could have roots in estradiol, which does hinder collagen formation. Oestrogen receptor activity is regulated by estradiol. Exercise for a period time should induced tendons to strengthen. Women when they exercise may not see increased hypertrophy in terms of tendon growth. Connective tissue formation could be lower in women on average. Oestrogen could be an inhibitor to collagen synthesis in tendons during exercise. This would mean that total mechanical strength would be lower. This could mean that tendon strength is also related to hormones. Knowing this sex specific difference a solution can be formulated.

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The differences in tendon hypertrophy :The adaptability of tendon to loading differs in men and women

 There are still exercises that are effective and if done correctly can strengthen tendons. Exercise must be done to increase circulation of blood. This also requires some stretching for the health of the tendon. Aerobic exercise should also be incorporated to allow for more circulation of blood. The tendons are not as vascular as the muscles, which can lead to injury during intense exercise regimens. Working all muscle groups ensures tendons will be safe. A small warm-up before stretching will help the muscles and tendons. This also contributes to flexibility . Ten minutes of running in place or using a treadmill will help with preparing for stretching. After work out regimens, there should be time for recovery. Tendons can still grow in women if they follow a consistent regimen.

         Aerobic capacity also should be taken into consideration. Women have smaller hearts and lungs compared to their male counterparts. This means their total running speed would be slower. Besides that physiological consideration, there is an anatomical one. The pelvis is much wider, which reduces speed. This essential if one needs to be in a certain area at a particular time. There could arise a situation that battlefield victory is not in reach and retreat is the only option. When considering hemoglobin concentration, it is critical the transport of oxygen to tissues. Hemoglobin is a protein that resides in red blood cells responsible for getting oxygen to the lungs, then the muscles. Women have 10% lower hemoglobin levels This results in about 10% less lower oxygen transport. The heart’s size also plays a role in cardiovascular fitness. The ratio of heart volume to body mass ratio  in women is 15 % lower. This means maximum cardiac out put and maximal stroke volume are lower in comparison to men. The maximal stroke volume describes the largest volume of blood pumped per beat, while cardiac output reveals the total amount of blood pumped from the heart per minute.

 That means a woman who is a Navy SEAL would have to push beyond their regular physical capacity. The aerobic fitness element may be the more challenging than building muscular strength. Women can experience muscular hypertrophy, but cardiovascular fitness training with not later the size of the heart or hemoglobin levels of women. This means women would have to do overload to the cardiovascular system to see results improve. Jogging, swimming, and cycling are activities that can be done in relation to circuit training.

        Considering this group of elite soldiers involves the Navy, swimming abilities should be examined. It is obvious that women have the ability to swim. Women do seem to perform well in open water swimming. Marathon swims show that women are capable of skilled performance. However, men still are faster in terms of times. Yet, if you look at the women’s records they could easily meet the demands of the swimming standards of the Navy SEALs. Women could have an advantage in distance swimming due to higher fat levels. This may enhance buoyancy and drag in the water. Fat could also insulate a woman’s body better during ultra-long distance swims. Women during swims may be more efficient at the crawl stroke. Their pull was deeper an narrower in comparison with their male counterparts. Arm power was beneficial to males, but longer arm length was not as helpful.

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Looking at these averages women are still behind. The margins are not so astronomically large as one would assume given the biological differences.

Women have shown they can be capable swimmers. Alison Streeter had swam the English Channel 43 times in 2005. Clearly, being female does not limit physical capability. The challenge is it will be harder to reach a higher peak physical fitness level, given certain differences in physiology. There are women swimmers who would be over qualified for certain naval positions.

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These pieces of data only demonstrate averages. Individuals can vary in terms of physical fitness level across the spectrum. Taking into account muscular strength, aerobic capacity, and swimming ability are essential in relation to standards. The criteria should not be lowered. There are women who can meet the physical demands. Lower standards means the quality of the fighting force would be reduced. This would create hostility towards women thinking that the job was just given to them. The women who do make it through will still face physically demanding challenges.

         When a person is in a physically demanding position, overtime there will be physical strain. This comes in the the form of repetitive motion injuries and stress fractures. One argument of keeping women out of combat has been the potential medical costs. Men have injuries being combat soldiers and the effects on women could be higher in special operations. Muscle and bone mass can protect from such problems. This means women who are built are going to have an easier time handling physical demands. The question emerges is what is the attrition rate for a female combat soldier? The attrition rate describes a point in which a soldier can no longer endure the physically demanding tasks. There has not been a specific study in regards to women so the answer is unknown. Although people make conclusions without data as support.

Jessie Jane Duff made a conclusion on CNN in 2015. She appeared on Brooke Baldwin’s program discussing the decision to lift the ban on women being Navy SEALs. Duff is a retired Marine gunnery sergeant and senior fellow for the London Center of Policy Research. While she does state facts about physiological differences, its clear what her position is. She uses the fact that not a single woman has passed the infantry officer course and asks a somewhat rhetorical question of “are we setting them up for failure?” Just because a woman has not passed the infantry officer course yet, does not mean it will not happen in the future. If the standards are lucid and women know how to train their bodies for it, this  should not be an issue. Baldwin’s rebuttal is that not all women are the same. Some will just be naturally stronger than others. Watching the news segment longer one can see that it may not be women’s fault. US soldiers are being overloaded with gear so much that it is causing an increase in musculoskeletal injuries. This does not only harm health, but reduces mobility on the battlefield. So far, there has been improvements to women’s armor and the process is still on going. Her closing statement was “it is not about equality its about biology.” Women have been thrown into combat seeing as there is no longer frontlines  in the wars America currently fights.

Women of a high physical fitness level would have slower attrition rates. Women less prepared for physical demands would have more health issues. 

The Army Ranger school cadets demonstrated there do exist women who can meet certain standards. The unusual aspect of this news segment was that Duff only sighted cases in  the marines and regular army. These branches are not the same as the Navy SEALs. The problem is these are based off of averages. The point is not to get average candidates, but women who are qualified for these positions. This means women who can get competitive scores on the physical fitness examination. The fact of the matter banning women from combat jobs has limited justification if there are women who meet such standards. Jessie Duff makes it seem as if every man is qualified for combat positions. What sense would it make to ban a qualified woman in favor of a less qualified man? The only logical reason is sex discrimination and dated attitudes in regards to gender. The right-wing has a poor record on women’s rights and is known to divide the population against one another on the basis of class and race to win elections. Women in combat will soon become a long standing wedge issue like abortion, gun control, and the tax code. Intense opposition mobilizes the Republican base, even though the party tries to present itself as pro-military. Not afraid of being hypocritical, it shows such low character directing hatred at women who volunteer to do such work. If integration is to work women will have to have a sizable fitness level before entry.

This should be done even before basic training to prevent possible injuries. One should be mindful that men who attempt Navy SEALs training have a high drop out rate. There is talk of “hells week” in which the training becomes the most intense. This is vary dangerous at times if training is not done properly. James Derreck Lovelace died during training and this has been now ruled a homicide reported by CNN. There is not only physical stress; there is also mental strain as well. There is little emphasis on mental health in the military. This must be made a priority with suicide rates and cases of post-traumatic stress disorder increasing. This is why the Department of Veterans Affairs has to be reformed to fix long doctor wait times and a general decline in healthcare for US soldiers. Attrition rates can be reduced by more ergonomic armor, mental health services, and keeping a high physical fitness level.

      The Navy SEALs are an elite fighting force. Many men have tried and the drop out rate is high. Women have the opportunity to become Navy SEALs, but none have attempted the program thus so far. There are women who can meet these demands. The numbers would be small. An Olympic woman athlete is not the average woman. They would seem to have a better chance of passing the physical fitness requirements. This means women would still be a minority in special operations units. A female trainee would have to face unpleasant realities of media publicity, hostility from her male peers, and expectations of failure. There seems to be more negativity generating in the US military against women as new positions open to them. The first harbingers will certainly face challenging obstacles both in environment and instruction. Women becoming Navy SEALs seems to be more difficult. It will take longer for women to have a presence in the  Navy SEALs. This does not seem like an impossibility that a woman can successful join one day. Currently it seems women are gaining more access to combat jobs in the army, air force, and  general navy. The reality is women are now part of combat and it is time to efficiently integrate them into combat occupations. For the women who successfully become Navy SEALs, they are an elite and capable group of soldiers.

References

Spencer, Sharon. Weapon a Visual History of Arms and Armor. New York: Covent Garden

     Books, 2006.

Guthrie, Sharon and Costa Margaret. Women and Sport Interdisciplinary Perspectives .

        Champaign: Human Kinetics, 1994.

Mcdonagh, Eileen and Pappano Laura.  Playing With the Boys Why Separate Is Not 

      Equal in Sports. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Steele, Jeanette. “Navy SEALs: Can Women Cut It?” Sandiegouniontribune.com. San Diego Union Tribune, 22 June 2013. Web. 12 Apr. 2017. <http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/military/sdut-navy-seals-women-physical-standards-2013jun22-htmlstory.html&gt;.

Frumentarius. “10 Realities the First Female Navy SEAL Trainee Will Face.” Business Insider. Business Insider, 08 Feb. 2016. Web. 12 Apr. 2017. <http://www.businessinsider.com/10-realities-the-first-female-navy-seal-trainee-will-face-2016-2&gt;.

Can Women Meet the Physical Demands of the Navy SEALs?

Colette Nelson Interview from The Beheld : Beauty and What It Means

Beauty and What It Means

This is a blog written by Autumn Whitefield Madrano that seeks to understand the concept of beauty and what it means in a cultural context. She seeks to in her own words engage with these questions of beauty and how to an extent it dictates the lives of women. She seems to be influenced by  The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf. That book has some analytical flaws and half truths. It would be too simple to dismiss this site as another third wave feminist promotion, but there is a difference. She interviews women from all walks of life and various professions. Comedians, sex workers, and in this case female bodybuilders. Colette Nelson was interviewed for the blog in 2011. What is special about this is that blog’s that tend to be third wave feminist ignore the muscular woman or athlete. Compared to other issues and struggles, it may be low priority. However, it does offer a radical paradigm shift in how women see their bodies and what the female body is capable of.  The interview exposes readers who may not familiar to the bodybuilding world to another image of beauty. Many claim that this type of body on a woman is not beautiful. This leads to the question what is beauty? Who defines it? If an alternative is found to current standards will that be just as oppressive as the current ones? The Colette Nelson interview explores these questions.

            The definition of beauty can be stated as ” the quality aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts mind or spirit.” This becomes ambiguous when questioned. The beauty concept and be highly subjective. It should be understood beauty had become a subject of philosophy notably in aesthetics. The modern world merely associates it with physical attractiveness of a person. These concepts date back to classical Greece and the Age of Reason. Physical attractiveness is a different  concept, but closely related. This varies from culture and time period. At one time in the West a fuller figure was more accepted. Around the 20th century a thinner look was made an ideal. Now it seems there is a small, yet growing fitness fad that wants present a stronger looking form for the female body. These models and paradigms change. Colette explains her sport as follows : “bodybuilding-at least women’s bodybuilding is another way of judging beauty.” She explains further that ” for those who attend and judge women’s bodybuilding contests, the muscular woman is beautiful.” Here were getting more of an idea of the definition. Beauty can be defined in multiple forms and in this case it is a muscular one. The reason this becomes an amazing paradigm shift is that it redefines the beauty model. The muscular body was thought to be something solely of the male domain. It was contrasted with either the soft or frail body of woman.

The strong woman breaks the mold of the rigid dichotomy. It is commonly believed that the pursuit of beauty to such a degree is either based in arrogance or vanity. Colette then states: “do you consider a woman who does make up hours in front of the mirror arrogant ?” Colette’s response was no in her argument. She then says “why should we give this label to a woman who works out hard in the gym and shows results on stage?” Colette then says both are seeking their version of perfection. The reason is based in sexism. Women are held to a different standard and it is normally designed to be restrictive. When examining these definitions and connotations of beauty it becomes more complicated when femininity becomes connected. Femininity’s definition has nothing to do with beauty or physical attractiveness. It can mean simply the qualities of womanhood. Colette explains that people see contradictions between muscles, femininity, and beauty. Beauty and femininity can have multiple meanings, so there would be limited contradiction based on subjective ideas. Muscles are part of the human body. These strong women have decided to develop it to the highest level attainable.

      Femininity does not equal beauty. The definition is “the qualities of being a woman.” yet what makes a woman a woman? Gender defines it in a cultural context that could vary. These attitudes change overtime. This however should not be confused with biological sex, which is the product of human evolution and sexual dimorphism. Societies that are extremely patriarchal or male dominated dictate femininity in rigid gender lines. This is designed to be restrictive and controlling of women. When examined from the context of sports it has been said that women active in them are not feminine. Such attitudes demonstrate sexism, but have been challenged. It is no long abnormal for a woman to display strength or athletic skills. There are still limits of acceptance in the cultural atmosphere. A woman can show some strength,but not too much that it challenges the notion men have sole monopoly on physical strength. Colette says in the interview “that she wants to prove that muscle can be feminine and beautiful.” It certainly can be one form of beauty; the problem is that people have a narrow perspective of other paradigms or alternatives. Some women who do not fit the majority model of beauty may even internalize negativity. Women who alter their bodies to further extremes through drug use receive ostracism from the public and even their  their own circles.  It seems that the concern over drug use is more about a woman’s appearance rather than their health. Virilization can occur depending on how long steroids were taken and specific dosage. Colette said she was never willing to go that route, because she did not want to sacrifice her femininity. That term is  ambiguous and can mean many things depending on which culture and community you reside in. To say women who have been effected by drug use are no longer women represents the narrow space in which they can navigate in society. Colette has fought back in a sense providing make-up and hairdressing services to competitors. Colette has helped with women who have had baldness or facial hair growth. Colette articulated “it was not her place to judge or criticize these women, but should they ask for it offer my help.” If only the public and bodybuilding community could have the same conviction, women would have an easier time. A woman who does not take the drug use route still has criticism directed at them for their appearance. Colette reveals that most women would rather have the body shape of Jillian Michaels.

It appears at times that Colette even struggles with the idea of a muscular woman. Colette expresses “as a female bodybuilder you walk a fine line.” She expounds further saying ” you love muscle, yet you love being a woman at the same time.” This is not a contradiction yet many in the fitness circles still think in this manner. What bothers more traditional thinkers is that it alters their views of femininity. Women who participate in this sport have formed a new definition of femininity. This new thought not only frightens some, but its the idea that women’s bodies can be powerful. Some men do not like the like the concept of a woman being physically stronger. This intrudes on the unwritten mores of gender norms in which masculine identity has a huge emphasis on strength and dominance. The more tolerant men may find women in shape appealing . This also has a limit among supporters. A woman can be strong just not “too” strong. One coded language phrase is that a woman who is too muscular “crossed the line.” This means that the woman is no longer acceptable in terms of body type and physical attractiveness. This subtle sexist attitude does not realize these athletes are doing this for themselves not the approval of others.  There has been at least a shift were society at least accepts a woman that is in shape or has some visible muscle. However, female bodybuilders are the most muscular which in the eyes of some men are threatening.

 The threat is that it makes them realize that strength is not their sole property. One reason women have been subjugated in particular societies is due to the fact they do not have control of their own bodies. This extends to the restriction on reproductive rights and how women should look. The deviation from conformity also is threatening, mainly on the basis it could depose the status quo. Whether women choose to build their bodies by natural or pharmaceutical means it is a radical statement about what a woman is. It seems to be so controversial some feminists even reject the muscular woman or ignore them in the discourse on gender relations. There should not be a contradiction between femininity and athletics. The only reason it would be is in a society that has a limited view of what women and be and accomplish.

     How Colette Nelson acquired her respect for the muscular form is interesting. She was 12 years old when she saw pictures of  Rachel Mclish and Cory Everson and loved how they looked. When Colette was growing up female bodybuilding was in its infancy. Never before had women developed their bodies to this level in human history. There were of course muscular women prior to the sport, but this was the first time they had a platform.

Colette admits she loved bigger and muscular bodies. Oddly she also reveals that she had dissatisfaction with her own figure. As ludicrous as this sounds she claims “she never considered herself looking good” in her youth. It is clear now she is a more confident person, yet it is still prevalent that young women age taught to have a level of insecurity about their appearance. Extreme cases may result in developing eating disorders, constant dieting, and psychological issues. Colette was able to avoid these problems through exercise. This had to be done for the sake of her health considering she has type 1 diabetes. The discovery she had this disease in her own words made her feel “weak, damaged and broken.”  Colette the took the suggestion of working out and found it was an empowering experience. She became more accepting of her body and loved being strong. Women who do this do say they develop a new sense of self and greater level security in their abilities in other areas of life. There are not only physical benefits from weightlifting;there are important psychological developments that contribute to well being.

    Being diagnosed with such an illness diet and exercise are pivotal for health. Colette was expose to an alternative of beauty and decided for herself that it should be replicated. This demonstrates that images and beliefs that children are exposed to can influence their attitudes later in life. It is possible if more people were exposed to women like this early in life it would not be such a shock to them in adulthood.

         Colette did not go into bodybuilding to get attention, but people are not used to seeing a muscular woman. Living in New York, there seems to be a more open atmosphere. She does get stares and Colette even admits she likes the attention. There were times in which men would say “I want to armwrestle you.” The majority of the comments Colette Nelson receives are positive. Though its still is not unheard of to get some form of vituperation or insult from the more closed minded. There are many reasons why people would respond to the muscular or athletic woman in a certain way. Curiosity and the desire to discover something new may cause stares or questions. Their may be an attraction to such a physique and seeing it up close causes excitement.

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Colette Nelson recognizes that we are not brought up how to respond to women with muscle. Seeing as women like this are rare, it does induce some form of wonder. There now is more exposure thanks to the internet and social media. This is another challenge women have to deal with. Either it is an in between off hash criticism or sexualization. The problem with the latter is that it reduces the women to sex objects, rather than focusing on their accomplishments. It is understandable why female bodybuilders who get frustrated being seen as fetish objects for schmoes. Like it or not a woman with a muscular frame will attract  attention both negative and positive.

       Another issue arises from the development of another beauty model. Does it just remove another one and then becomes standard? Some feminists argue that bodybuilding would not be empowering on the grounds it has women obsessively pursue a particular image. The flaw with this assertion is that these women are going against mainstream convention. The most empowering act is to make your own decisions as a free individual. Here, women decide to become as physically powerful as possible doubtless of what men think. Colette Nelson describes her bodybuilding pursuit as the struggle for perfection in terms of muscular aesthetics. Colette stated “she was always  classed a pretty, but wanted more.” This is not hubris.This is competitive drive and what some bodybuilders refer to as living sculpture. Flesh is the clay and the weights become your tools of molding art. The point is not to say all women should appear a certain way, but realize they are all different. There should be room for all forms of beauty.

         While it is true there is a level of societal pressure placed on women to look and behave a certain way, there are instances in which personal decisions add to the problem. The biggest problem with the the beauty myth theory is that women do certain things to themselves in others which perpetuate a vicious cycle. Third wave feminists fail to admit this unfortunate reality. Women continue to spend large amounts of money of make -up, hair care, and anti-aging products. There is no one forcing them to do such things, but the power of advertisement and capitalist free market enterprise is powerful . When examined from this point of view, the argument that women are being oppressed by a beauty myth seems to lack credibility. Then it is no secret that other women criticize women who look different. Many female bodybuilders have said they have gotten negative comments surprisingly from other women.

Naomi Wolf.
If Naomi Wolf is convinced that the beauty myth harms women so, why does she still wear make up and engage in other behaviors that perpetuate it ?

 At some point being pressured is not a legitimate excuse.  To a feminist looks should not be of importance, because liberation is the goal. There are many contradictions of what remains of a feminist movement. Another problem is that the feminist movement refuses in its mainstream discourse to be intersectional. White women middle class feminists ignore or either do not care about the struggle against racism, homophobia,  or class conflict.  The beauty myth concept often ignores that racist element in models of beauty which  dehumanize African and Asian people. Light skin is considered” beautiful “and African American women are told to straighten their hair. Asian women are pressured into getting eye lid surgery. These changes in appearance are done to mimic the appearance of whiteness. They are designed to instill self hate, while simultaneously presenting the oppressor as a “superior being.” The fact white middle class feminists do not challenge this is because the benefit from white supremacy and white privilege.  They just do not benefit from to the maximum extent due to their sex. Besides these complicated issues of racism, there is the issue of blaming every man for women’s condition. Radical feminists claim that all men contribute to women’s oppression. This is a false assertion, considering there are men who are members of oppressed groups. African American, Native American, South American, and Asian American men have suffered under the violence of white supremacy. To say every man oppresses every woman has not factual support. Hopefully, women can learn to reject societal pressure and think for themselves what beauty means to them.

          Since this blog post was written there has been some shift. It is a small one that emerged in fitness circles with the slogan “strong is the new skinny.” While women are not attempt to reach Colette’s level, the idea that some muscle does not seem like an anathema. The rise of crossfit did contribute with women presenting not only impressive physiques, but excellent performances. The responses are positive, with the occasional detractor.

 Again, there is another conundrum. This slogan and zeitgiest seems to be mostly confined to a small circle. Although it has gotten some mainstream exposure. the concept of a woman being “too much” still lingers. There are still backward and dated notions about what women should be and do. What also is frustrating is that the mainstream treats  the sudden acceptance ( to a limited degree) of the muscular woman as a recent phenomenon. There have been male fans who have been following female bodybuilding since its inception during the 1970s. The emergence of the internet expanded the audience and led to the growth of a subculture. Now there are millions of websites, blogs , and social media venues specifically targeting female muscle fans. While it seems unlikely at this point that the muscular body will be a model of beauty for the mainstream, women have decided to make it their own. When Colette Nelson was born Title IX was only two years old and female bodybuilding did not exist. These two events radically changed how women viewed themselves and their physical capabilities. The best action women can take is to define beauty on their own terms, rather than having it dictated to them.

Colette Nelson Interview from The Beheld : Beauty and What It Means

Don Rickles, Janice Ragain, and Tina Plakinger

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These are photos taken in the late 1980s with comedic legend Don Rickles. The comedian was known for his insult humor which attacked politicians, celebrities, and just about everyone. He was a frequent guest on late night talk shows with Johnny Carson, David Letterman, and know for being on the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts. Rickles passed away at the age of 90 this year from kidney failure. Don Rickles had a career that lasted decades and left a major impact on comedy. These photos show Rickles meeting Janice Ragain and Tina Plakinger. They were top competitors in bodybuilding in the 1980s to early 1990s. These photos were taken at Gold’s Gym and the expression on Rickles face is priceless in the first photo. Who knows may be he was a fan of athletic women as well. Rest in peace Mr. Warmth you brought laughs and joy to a world that has grown too serious.

Don Rickles, Janice Ragain, and Tina Plakinger