The past five weeks have been truly transformative in more ways than one. Both mentally and physically, I’ve seen a big shift in myself. What has changed in the past five weeks? Well, I started strength training. And I never thought I’d say this, but I actually really love it. Like, I’m obsessed with it.
It’s not like I’ve never done strength training before. Little known fact: that’s how I met my ex-husband. He was my assigned personal trainer at a gym I joined many years ago that offered 30 days of free personal training when you bought a membership. But even though I liked hanging out at the gym with him, I still hated strength training.
I think I hate strength training because I’ve never liked the feeling of pushing my muscles to the point of failure. Doing that made me feel like a failure, and I feel like that often enough without inviting it into my life unnecessarily. Over the years, I’ve made a few attempts to join gyms and start strength training, but it never sticks. Barre was a really great strength training option that I loved doing for a few years, but it’s undeniably different than weight training in a gym. Not better or worse, just totally different.
After the Prague Marathon, Bobbi and I talked about using this summer to do some speed work. Long runs in the summer are really hard for me because of how much I sweat, and I just don’t run well in the heat and humidity. It doesn’t make sense to train for a marathon (or anything, really) when I’m totally miserable, so shorter workouts seemed like a good idea. The problem? It’s really hilly, hot and humid where I live. Not ideal speed work conditions. So, Bobbi suggested I join a gym and get access to a treadmill. Because I am cheap and because I know how much I hate gyms, I decided to go on Groupon and join whatever one was closest to my house, just to see if I would stick with it. When I saw they offered personal training, I thought “Maybe this would be a good time to focus on strength, too.”
See, the truth is, I’ve been feeling really down about my physical appearance for the past few months. I’m about 10 pounds heavier than where I prefer to be, but more than that, I just felt flabby and bloated. I feel like I don’t look like myself in pictures, and I was starting to get really down about it. At the same time, I have to face reality – I’m getting older, I don’t run as much as I used to, and uh, I don’t have an eating disorder anymore. I might just be this weight now. But that doesn’t mean I have to settle for feeling out of shape, so I decided personal training might be a good idea.
I met my trainer – the owner of the gym – and immediately was hooked. The gym is small and family-owned, 5 minutes from my house…and full of hardcore power lifters. There are national body building champions there – including the owner himself, many years ago. At first, I felt intimidated – I mean, I am clearly not a hardcore power lifter or body building champion – but I quickly realized that the gym is a family. And my trainer, huge and intimidating though he may be at first, is excellent. He 100% understands my back problems because he has them, too. His attention to detail and focus on form is incredible, as is his memory for every single client that he has.
We started out just focusing on improving my range of motion at first, and have slowly added on more weight. There are some movements I physically cannot do safely because of my back, so we don’t do them. But guys? Here’s the thing. It turns out, I’m pretty strong. Like, oddly strong for my size. And people are noticing and commenting on it, because they find out that I am a marathon runner who hasn’t lifted weights in years and they can’t believe it. At first, I thought my trainer was just blowing smoke up my ass to make me want to keep coming to the gym, and who could blame him? But I got curious, so I decided to look up different weight standards for different exercises – basically, what amount of weight you should be able to lift at your body weight if you are a beginner, novice, intermediate, advanced, elite etc. When I saw those tables, I thought they were BS, because they said I was intermediate-advanced in nearly every category – and I’ve been lifting weights for a month. So I took them back to my trainer and said, “Can you believe this crap?” And he said “Uh, yeah. That’s what I’ve been telling you this whole time. You have something here. You have serious potential.”
I’m not telling you this to brag, I’m saying it because I can’t believe it myself. It’s so weird to be decent, or even good, at something athletically. While I know some people would say that being able to run a marathon makes you a “good” runner, the truth is, it has never come easily to me and it never will. I have not seen nearly as much improvement as I should have for the many years I’ve been running. My body isn’t built for the sport, and I’m ok with that! I run because I love it, not because I’m good at it. That won’t change. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a little surprising to finally be actually good at something, and to enjoy the fact that finally, some athletic pursuit is coming easily to me.
LEAVE A COMMENT: What’s your favorite strength training exercise? What workout are you best at?