I Never Thought I’d Say This

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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.

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I will literally make time for anything else, even bronchitis.

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.”

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Not at all relevant to the preceding paragraph, but I can’t stop laughing

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.

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Maybe I should lift in an elf costume?

LEAVE A COMMENT: What’s your favorite strength training exercise? What workout are you best at?

6 thoughts on “I Never Thought I’d Say This

  1. I used to love strength training. I loved the feeling of accomplishment. But in the past year and a half, I have fallen right out of love with it. I used to love my body split days. I have done 2 of them in the past 4 months. Back day and triceps day were my favorite, btw. I don’t really care for speed work (ie no) and I don’t like the exertion. Where there once was challenge there is now just this need to be. I don’t know if that is because I’ve been dealing with challenges elsewhere in my life and so I need something to not be so GD hard, but maybe that is the reason. Right now, I know that every run is going to be hard enough, and that is just going 5 miles.
    It also probably has to do with the fact that I used to be really strong and now am not.
    Ok, there is your essay for today. I better get an A+

    1. A+ for sure! I totally understand. Like you always say, there are seasons of life. And right now, your body is going through plenty without adding the stress of speed work and strength training!

  2. I’m really glad you’re enjoying strength training especially if you don’t enjoy running in the heat! Glad that you found a gym that’s good and personal trainers who are willing to meet you where you are and work with you too. I feel like the smaller, family-owned gyms are the best kinds of places to learn how to strength train rather than somewhere that I’m basically just a number (like my current gym, but it’s a Planet fitness I just use for treadmilling anyway). Strength training is one of those things that can get you really hurt or injured if you’re not careful so glad there are good trainers there!

    1. Exactly! That’s one of the reasons I didn’t like strength training in the first place and I’ve never gotten in to it – I was really afraid of hurting myself. It’s so helpful to have someone who knows your limits and how to safely train. It makes it a lot more fun and takes the anxiety out of it for me!

  3. Thanks for sharing Danielle. I found your site a few weeks ago and have really enjoyed catching up and hearing about all your experiences. This strength training piece struck a cord. I love what you said about running – you run because you love it, not because you are good at it. Love that!! My times have slowed of late as I struggle with my own weight issues and getting older, but I still enjoy getting out there. What I found personally is that while I felt decent when I ran a lot, I didn’t feel *really* good overall until I added in some significant weight training. My trainer asked me what my goals were, and after a lot of hemming and hawing on my part, she dug further and asked me what type of athlete I wanted to look like. (At first she asked me what movie star I wanted to look like, but I told here I was too old for that game :-)) You want to look like a boxer? Do what they do. You want to look like a marathoner? Run long distances all the time. She was exaggerating for effect of course, but the thought is a good one. If you are training for the 10k in the Olympics, cool, go for it, run and nothing else. Otherwise, throwing in some weights to get you closer to what you *really* want is a smart thing. My body didn’t look all that good when I just ran, even though I was in really good shape (for running). Adding weight training made me look much better (so says my wife) and I just felt better overall – stronger, more solid, more confident. I still run half marathons and will not stop doing that (much to my trainer’s dismay!), but weights will be a key part of the program going forward not matter what.

    I’m blathering on. My point is, great job, and stick with it. You’ll continue to feel better as you go.

    1. Thank you so much for commenting, David! And welcome to my blog! I really love this comment and I appreciate you sharing some of your story with me. It has really taken me a long time to get on the strength training bandwagon since I spent so much time hating it. After my back surgery, I realized it was necessary…but I only applied that lesson to my core. Now, I realize it is getting me a lot closer to my goals, which have definitely changed as my relationship with running has changed! I’m glad you’re finding success in your training!

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