Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Grad student pursues healthy lifestyle

By Ted Bado

The Colvin Center is a haven for those who look to train their bodies.

The expansive OSU recreational facility is a second home to hundreds of students, whether they are there to enjoy a game of basketball, take a run on a treadmill or lift weights.

On the average day in the Colvin, there are patrons working the free weights, treadmills and machines and a host of students doing a variety of activities.

There is also a Latino woman bench pressing with the men and working as hard as any guy around.

Her name is Marilyn Lopez, and when she isn’t training at the Colvin Center, she’s working as a bouncer at Eskimo Joe’s.

“There have only been four women bouncers since Joe’s started using bouncers, and I’m one of the two that actually worked out,” Lopez said. “They treat me just like the guys and I can definitely hold my own.”

That is just who Marilyn Lopez is: a woman not afraid or intimidated in what seems like a male-dominated world.

Lopez, a graduate student studying international trade and development, said she has been training for six years.

“After I joined a fire department my freshman year in college, they were the ones who wanted me to hit the gym and to hit the weights, so I started doing that,” Lopez said. “I just really fell in love with it, so I took a few weightlifting courses for my undergrad.”

Running is also one of Lopez’s favorite activities.

“I’m running the 12k leg of the Route 66 marathon in Tulsa here in a bit, and I hope to compete in a triathlon this spring,” Lopez said. “I love to swim and cycle as well, so I hope to do that.”

Lopez also said she had a passion for boxing at a younger age.

“I’ve been boxing since I was 17, but I just hit the heavy bag now,” Lopez said. “I got hit pretty good when I was 19, and I decided that I like my face too much and I didn’t want to do that in that way.

“I think a lot of the boys there in the gym are scared of me.”

Brian Whitacre, an assistant professor in agricultural economics who currently employs Lopez as a research assistant, said he had a strong reaction when he first met her.

“I actually met her in the gym, and that’s how we came to know each other and talk about this grant dealing with Hispanics and economics,” Whitacre said. “You can just tell when she is training that she is different from other girls.”

Whitacre, who has been body building for four years, said Lopez’s intensity is what makes her stand out.

“Her intensity level is so high, she trains like a guy,” Whitacre said. “She’s not concerned with looking pretty, she just goes out and trains at a very high level.”

Lopez said men who work out tend to have strong reactions when seeing her work out in the Colvin.

“It’s usually just me and 40 guys, and I get stared at, I’m not going to lie,” Lopez said, laughing. “A lot of them now I see them so much we say ‘hi’ to each other and it’s a friendship/acquaintance type deal, but some of the other guys in there they see me lifting almost as much as they are, and then they see the muscle definition in my body, and they are taken aback. If I go to another gym that I am not familiar with, I get some good stares.”

Other women also have had strong reactions when seeing Lopez.

“They looked scared of me, mostly scared I would say — girls definitely get intimidated,” Lopez said. “Half the time, I want to go up to them and say something if their form isn’t right or they are working the wrong body parts and I can tell.

“I kind of want to say something, but I have this fear of them getting upset or angry, but if your form isn’t right, what is the point of coming to the gym?” she said.

Lopez said she believes a lot of the reactions to her are due to the culture of weightlifting.

“It’s not a culture for a woman to do that, especially sparring,” Lopez said. “A lot of the time it’s like ‘What are you doing?’ and I know what I am doing, so maybe that is what makes them not say anything to me.”

Lopez added that she is always friendly when people do come up to her and ask her questions.

“I’ve had girls and guys come up to me and ask me for advice and I always try to help them out,” Lopez said.

Lopez said her life has changed since she started training.

“It changed my lifestyle completely — about a year and a half ago I lost a tremendous amount of weight,” Lopez said. “I dropped about eight dress sizes or so, and once I realized how much more my body could do if I was eating healthier, I started seeing a tremendous difference.”

Lopez said her muscle mass increased because her body fat was diminishing.

She also said her love life has improved now that she trains her body.

“I have a lot more confidence I think, and I am now in a relationship with someone,” Lopez said. “And it’s not just dating, it’s a real relationship. Guys have definitely come up to me more.”

Lopez also had important advice for anyone looking to better their physical shape.

“I don’t think anyone wants to be out of shape, I just think people are intimidated by the work that goes into it,” Lopez said. “If anything, I’m an example that it’s doable and you can change.”


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