And I'll throw in Martin's take from LeanGains.
Train Like A Man, Look Like A Goddess | Intermittent fasting diet for fat loss, muscle gain and health
for me, it's mostly about bone, neurological, and circulatory health.
I know this seems a little nutty, but the reality is that healthy, strong muscles that function well maintain good circulation throughout the body, increase/maintain bone density, and maintains (and improves) neurological function throughout the body (because to maintain lean mass, we need to move/workout, and doing that, we create better neurological connections throughout the body).
I hear you and understand where you're coming from. I was a soccer player in college, and still play recreationally. I had huge thighs and huge calves. While pregnant with DD though, I was put on bedrest for 4 weeks. Certainly changes your muscles! As the weight came off after the pregnancy, I found my body shape very different. My calves are still pretty big, but I can fit into clothes now. Even as I lift now my body is just leaning out in general.
I think you should skip the heavy lifting for your low body for a while. Stick to upper body weight training and maybe even do a little less hiking. Your calves are likely bigger to help you hike around the woods and climb hills.
CW-125, part calorie counting, part transition to primal
GW- Goals are no longer weight-related
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Carrying a little extra muscle will make you more resilient to life stresses. One of the bigger indicators of health is having plenty of muscle. The less you have the greater the likelihood of death from all causes. Sickness to traumatic causes. Don't intentionally lose muscle mass. Real men find it sexy anyhow.
Other people have mentioned these things, but to summarize:
Muscle mass is positively correlated with decreased morbidity- you might live just as long, but you'll be healthier and more independent
Muscle mass provides the "tone" that most people are looking for when they say they want to look "toned".
And to quote Rippetoe, "Strong people are harder to kill, and more useful in general."
Especially for women, the activities that you go through to develop muscle mass will also help to keep bone density high.
All of this combined means you stay fitter, get injured less often, and injured less severely than someone with less muscle mass.
i think the amount of muscle you have on your calves is genetic. i was actually discussing this with the personal trainer at my gym. i cant post a pic of my calves but they are about 14.75" at the widest and from my knee to the floor is about 19". I am 5ft 51/4 and have about a 32-33" inside leg. i dont ever train my calves. they arent huge but they have mean muscle definition. long and lean without being weedy. the male personal trainer at my gym is 6ft and trains hard. i can smoke him on the seated calf raise by literally double the weight. there was a woman at the gym today doing hack squats. she could smoke me totally on the hack squat and pretty much everything else i would imagine. her thighs were huge and her calfs were tinsy compared to mine. however i would have said we had the same amount of fat on our legs. we are all just different shapes. from the pics on your avatar you look good and your legs look in proportion. be happy. not many women our age can say that. usually too when you lose muscle mass, doesnt your fat go up?You know how you sometimes see these really big guys who have massive calves? That's me. Wouldn't people like us not need to care very much about losing muscle mass? You hear so much about preserving it, making sure you don't lose one bit of it, but don't some of us have too much lower body muscle from carrying around big huge bodies?
Along the line of what Teach2183 said, but on an estimate, how many miles have you hiked? That has to have something to do with big calves. My wife has freakishly large calves too, she can't wear all the nice boots that she likes...
I Kettlebell therefore I am.