Never in my entire life would I have thought that I would say, “I like going to the gym.” Guys, I do. I really do and it’s not because of the most obvious reason. If we’ve never met IRL, you would be surprised how vertically challenged I am. All 4 feet, 11 inches of me. At the gym, I feel even smaller around all the meat heads and testosterone. Imagine little me at the free weights station, attempting to deadlift. The bar is longer than I am tall and the weights on each end are wider than my torso. I truly don’t look like I belong there but I do it anyways.
At the beginning of my self care/self love journey, my therapist would tell me to workout at least three days a week to help with my mental health. I used to laugh at what she would say. Three years later and I am now consistently getting to the gym twice a week to at most four days a week. What has changed? Strength training.
Weight training – or strength training – is truly why I continue to go to the gym today. Strength training has allowed me to challenge my mind in what I ‘believe’ I am able to do. For example, the plate loaded barbell is forty five pounds on its own. ON ITS OWN. When I first started to attempt to bench press, I could barely – like shaking arms barely – push that sucker above my head. Today, I am able to bench press a full three sets without breaking a sweat. How? I kept at it every week until one day, I decide to put five pounds – 2.5 pound plates – on the bar. For me it was a momentous occasion because I did what seemed impossible. *insert happy dance here*
Once I started to see results in my increased weights on the machines and in the free weight station, I began to challenge my mind even more. I would purposefully add a little more weight each time I went to the gym. From there, I began to try a different strength training machine each time I went to the gym. I gained so much confidence that I would put my headphones on, play some 90’s hip hop, and move through each station as quickly as I could. At the end of my workout, I would do some yoga to 90’s R&B and wait for my husband to finish his workout.
Gym dates are the best dates
The main supporter at the gym is my husband. I expressed to him that I wanted to attempt to use the strength training machines and possibly the free weights but I was intimidated because everything looks complicated and honestly, I didn’t want guys to be staring at my butt while I worked out. It actually brought a lot of anxiety for me to attempt any machine or station. So my sweet husband would help walk me through each machine as well as how to use the free weights station properly.
Three months later, I am confident in my abilities enough to move through the machines without his help and only ask for him to spot me in the free weights station. This is huge for me! If you were to imagine little ol’ me in the free weights station deadlifting 95 pounds while surrounded by muscular men who deadlift 300+ pounds, it is a sight to see. My husband is usually close by – or at the station next to me deadlifting 200+ pounds – just in case I need a spotter.
These evenings spent together have become our favorite times together because we are able to get in some exercise, encourage each other during our workout and also talk through our day. We have dubbed them our “gym dates”. What we also love about “gym dates” is that they are free since we already pay for the membership monthly. So all we need to do is show up and be each others’ cheerleaders. We have been doing this since we’ve started at the gym and I can honestly say that it has helped us reconnect in a way that I could have never imagined. I am so thankful for this time because we are both so busy and carving out time for each other is so important.
How to start strength training
If this post has peaked your interest in attempting to strength train, here is what I suggest:
- Utilize the new member orientation
- There is a reason it is included in your membership. Take advantage of it!
- Orientation usually include some of the following:
- A health assessment
- Body fat analysis
- Instructions on how to use basic strength training machines
- Help in choosing exercises, reps, and sets
- How to use different cardio machines
- Heart rate and intensity information
- General workout guidance
- Go with a friend
- This is great for accountability and encouragement.
- Try the group classes and find the one that works for you
- When I first started at the gym, I used the treadmill and elliptical machine only. I became bored really quickly. I knew that I needed more in order to keep coming.
- Don’t be afraid to ask the gym staff for help
- I have seen many patrons ask a staff member to spot them.
- I have also seen staff members take the time to explain how to use a machine properly.
- Keep coming back
- In the beginning, it will seem really intimidating but over time you will become comfortable with the environment and “zone” everyone out.
Mind over matter
The biggest change with adding strength training to my self care routine and the encouragement of my husband was my mindset. I began to believe that I could do ‘impossible’ things. On rough days, going to the gym was an outlet to release my stress. It also challenged my negative self talk and inner critic because there was nothing for those statements to stand on if I could prove them wrong.
This mindset has overflowed into other parts of my life. I have more courage to try new things and take small steps to reach a goal. There is more evidence of success than failure. So I keep adding on weights, I keep challenging myself to do new things, and I keep moving forward.
What is your favorite workout at the gym? Comment below!
If I haven’t done it, I’d love to try.
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