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Musings on Weight Training

Whenever I went to the gym before this semester, I tended to go straight for the elliptical or the treadmill. I stayed far away from the weights because I didn’t know what to do with them. I was afraid of looking silly and (maybe most of all) was intimidated by the people, mostly guys, who did know how to use them. I’m very aware when I’m doing something that I’m uncomfortable with, and I get even more self-conscious when there are other people around. For a long time, I never really tried to learn about weights because of these reasons, and because I never thought I needed to.Growing up I was never especially proactive about taking exercise into my own hands. Encouraged by my parents, and eventually required by my high school, I participated in team sports as my main source of movement. For a long time, this was enough to keep me reasonably fit. I ran around having fun on a field in the afternoon for a few hours—I sweat, sure, and was exhausted by the end of the day, but I always went, and I always moved.

When I got to college, however, my habits changed. I was no longer on a sports team, and though I went to a few days of ultimate frisbee, I drifted toward other activities. Ballroom dancing was wonderful for a while, as were occasional runs on the observatory trail and visits to the athletic center, but I’ve never been good at making myself exercise if I don’t have to or if it’s not part of another activity. When schoolwork and other activities pile up, I tend to think that I don’t have time to do anything except what I need to for class and for other people. So, last semester, when I realized I needed to make up some extra credits, I jumped at the chance to take Beginning Weight Training. I’d not only have to go to the KAC for class, but I’d actually learn what to do with weights!

I’m pleased to report that over the past six weeks my awe of weights has indeed lessened, and I feel reasonably certain I know at least a few things I can do with them.

When I first signed up for Beginning Weight Training, I had a fantasy of becoming this awesome, buff, strong woman with arms and legs that would feel like rocks when you touched them. Alas, this dream was not realized, which makes sense given that I wasn’t training for hours every day. I think I’ve had this dream from my childhood when I’d read series like “The Song of the Lioness,” wherein scrawny young girls become fierce warriors over the course of a few chapters. Unfortunately, those chapters in a book would translate to years in real life.

As it was, after the first few sessions my arms felt like spaghetti and my legs like sandbags. I can confidently say I was one of the weakest people in the class. But, hey! It was okay because it was clear everyone was doing what would challenge them the most. For some people that meant fifty pound (and up) dumbbells, for others (me) that meant five pounders at the beginning. I had to let go of a lot of pride very quickly, and that in itself was a good lesson.I learned to appreciate the things I could do and be grateful for the fact I was able to lift, and squat, and move at all. My legs are strong, and it was a thrill to find I could actually add weight to a barbell when we did squats. There’s a certain sense of satisfaction that comes from finishing a set of reps, especially when the exercise was something like the assisted body lift (essentially a slightly easier pull up) where I felt like a total badass.

I now have a variety of exercises that I know how to do, and though the self-consciousness isn’t entirely gone, I feel much more comfortable with the idea of going to the KAC and using weights instead of staying on the elliptical. I’m very grateful I was able to take the class because having a dedicated time when I was meant to be working with weights was ideal for someone, like me, who was shy of using them on her own. Having an instructor patiently go over everything was great as well.

All in all, I’d say that weight training, though it didn’t turn me into a buff superhero, was something I enjoyed doing and hope to continue making part of my life.

 

Image Credit: Feature, 1, 2