Going It Alone

Today was my first day of week two of my new, intense workout plan. The no-holds-barred stuff. The “I’m going into the gym to destroy myself, but in a good way” stuff.

It’s really something because there are several things I never realized about working out. I mean, really working out.

1) Cheap workout clothes basically suck. I think they are mostly for decoration or for people like the person I was just 10 or so days ago. Trust me people, if you’re working out the way you should be, these clothes are crap. They don’t absorb sweat, they get uncomfortable, they ride up, the material sucks, the bras don’t give decent support. You get what you pay for. Apparently this means that I now have to invest in quality workout clothes. Meaning brand-name clothes with the proper technology—yes, you heard me, I said technology and clothes in the same thought—to allow me to have optimal workouts. I’m not kidding. My cheap clothes were so NOT up to the task during my first kick-boxing class two days ago that I actually developed a sweat rash, also known as prickly heat rash. That’s when your sweat glands get blocked in a particular spot from sweaty or humid conditions. At first I had no idea why it would be exactly where it was: basically two stripes around my neck and a round spot on the top of my chest. Then when I was back in the gym today after my one day (Sunday) off, I realized that it directly corresponded to where the straps of my shirt and bra came into contact with my neck and chest. As with so many things in life, and as my Coach is always saying, “Quality over quantity.” If I can only afford one decent set of clothes now, that’s what I’ll have to start out with.

2) I hate to sound esoteric, but I’m not kidding you: so much of my experience in the gym is a metaphor for theories and experiences in my life in general. For example: I’m the kind of person who gets what they want and gets where they want by doing more, working harder, being smarter, doing better, going faster.

Do you think this works in the gym?

The working harder part? Check. Being smarter? Ok, you can focus on form, performance nutrition, etc. Doing better? Practice makes perfect. But what about doing more and going faster, the two elements that I have always relied upon to get me ahead in everything in life?

Doing more? In the gym that could actually be counter-productive.
Going faster? Could mean actually cheating yourself out of results.

Just like when I had to learn Italian. I wanted to rush it. I wanted to speak perfectly, from day one. I was afraid to even try because I didn’t want to make mistakes. My Italian wasn’t getting better, and I was getting stressed and frustrated. I was beating up on myself, because no matter what I did, using my normal techniques for success, I wasn’t able to get that Italian fast, like I wanted.

I had to work at it, day by stinking day, hour by hour, minute by minute, flub by embarrassing flub.

It’s the totally same thing in the gym. It’s cumulative effort. It’s day by day butt-kicking effort. It’s not about overnight results, quick fads, miracle cures. It’s about getting up in the morning, putting on the clothes, the shoes, getting the protein powder ready, packing the gym bag, and going in. Step by step by step.

Nothing I can do is going to get me results besides just slow and steady progress, patience and persistence.

That’s how the gym is transforming me physically and mentally. You can’t rush good results. You just have to develop a certain kind of mental resolve and toughness. And that’s precisely how it becomes a LIFESTYLE change. Learning Italian wasn’t going to be something I did, and then once I learned it, I stopped practicing or forgot about it, or didn’t use it anymore. Even to this day, 11 years later, I still get corrected on certain words and I still am learning new things, new rules, new ways to pronounce things.

I fully expect that’s how my experience with fitness is going to be. For the rest of my life, it’s going to be a process. 10 reps this week? 12 reps next. Burn-out on a particular exercise? Back to the drawing board to find a new one.

3) And now, for going it alone. In life, I’ve always been raised and taught to do everything myself, because you’re “not supposed to burden people with your problems” and because if you don’t do things yourself, that’s just lazy. You know, all this conditioning all my life, so I would just take everything on my shoulders until I would quite literally just collapse, mentally and physically, from the strain.

Here’s me today in the gym. I’d never done bench presses before last week. So day 1, I started out with just the bar. I looked up how much a bench press bar weighs: 45 lbs. The first day I practiced my form without any weight, but the next day I added 5 kilo weights. I kept increasing until today I was at 7.5 kilos and everything was going fine, until I thought about the name of the exercise. Chest press. Meaning, the bar should be coming down to your chest? I started doing it that way, and at a certain point, I kid you not, the bar just got STUCK. It wasn’t going to move. I felt so embarrassed, one because I wasn’t expecting it to happen, and two because my Coach had told me not to be afraid to ask the trainer on duty to spot me, being there in case the weight got too hard, to help me out.

I had a minute of mini-panic. Holy shit. Here I am, with a barbell on my chest, and I can’t move it. It’s not even that heavy! I mean, I’m the only woman in the weight room, and to do my chest presses, I had to remove the 20 kilo weights that the previous user had left on the bar. How freaking embarrassing. What am I going to do now? I felt like everyone was going to look at me. And I swear that damn bar wasn’t going ANYWHERE. I was literally stuck. I can’t explain it.

So I just awkwardly tried to sit up. The damn bar started to slide. The gym doesn’t have any clips to hold the weights on (maybe you’re supposed to bring your own?) so the little 2.5 kilo weight slid off the side and started rolling.

This is a situation for which I believe the word MORTIFIED was invented.

I had my earphones in, but some of the men turned to look. Luckily it was early morning when the old retired guys work out, not the hot, muscular guys that come in later in the evening. Sigh.

And that, folks, is the precise moment that I realized, in the gym, like in life itself, you can’t really always go it alone. You have to learn to ASK FOR HELP. It’s humbling but it’s true. Nothing good ever comes from going it alone. In order to be successful, the people around you have to support you. Whether that means your family respecting that your time in the gym is sacred, and therefore your partner helps you with the kids, or makes dinner, or whatever, while you’re there. Whether that means you need a specialized training plan from a Coach, like I have, to whip you into shape and get you into the mental and physical zone you want. Whether that means you need to ask the really hot muscular guy to help spot you for a “measly” 7.5 kilo on each end bench press.

Everyone starts from somewhere, and nothing good ever comes from thinking you can do it alone, completely alone. Everything is connected: mind, body, and those around you. It’s a learning journey. Each day something new. Embarrassment doesn’t mean giving up. It means: I tried, and now I’ll try it differently next time.

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One thought on “Going It Alone

  1. […] the average person until I mastered it. That’s always been my M.O. for everything, because I have a really, really hard time asking for help. I’m like the typical man who never asks for directions. That is so me. I’ll wander for […]

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