Before last May, I associated free-weights and barbells with men and dumbbells and ab circuits with women. I thought that the only women who lifted heavy were the ones in bodybuilding competitions doused in bronzer. I was so wrong.
When I started learning how to lift, I was oblivious to the weakness in my legs. I thought that since I played tennis and rode horses all my life, I could pride myself in having strong legs. Only a few days after learning how to squat with a barbell did I strut into the gym and slap 15k plates on each end of the bar thinking 50 kilos would be cake. (That's 110 pounds.)
I HAD NO EFFIN' CLUE WHAT I WAS DOING
because a) I was at a squat stand but didn't know how to use it (it catches the bar if you fail) so I backed out of it to give myself more room and b) before this day I was squatting with a 20k kettlebell.
With this massive weight on my back, I went down to squat and—do you think I stood back up? No, of course not. As I struggled in between squatting and standing, a zone of complete helplessness, I imagined the near-future as me in the back of an ambulance with a broken spine.
This was one of my biggest fears coming true. I don't mean breaking my back—I mean fucking up in front of people. The university gym was a maze of exercise rooms and I was in the vaults (which looks exactly as it sounds). There were no easy escapes at this gym, which was all that ran through my head before I stepped inside it. Where's the nearest exit? How can I leave as quickly as I would need to? If you're wondering why I would need to ever leave the answer is—to avoid embarrassment.
Here I was with 50k on my back and I was completely helpless but still too embarrassed to shout for help. I was willing to break my back before I brought any more attention to myself. Which was dumb because the noise the barbell made when it flew off my back and collided into the squat stand was like ringing a giant church bell over a town.
Aside from some pain in my right hip, I was left untouched, but the ten people around me were all looking with their mouth's wide open. Someone asked if I was okay. I turned to them said, "Well, that wasn't good," which was my attempt at lightening the situation. I put the weights away and ran upstairs and out the door, shaking with embarrassment.
I'M SO GLAD THAT FALL HAPPENED.
The best thing I could've done was brush it off and continue lifting, and that's what I did. I was nervous every time I stepped inside the gym but with each workout, I got stronger and picked up rhythm. It took me awhile for my confidence to return with the squat but it finally did. Today, I can squat 3 sets of 55 kilos and I'm progressing more every week.
MIRRORS FOR DAYS.
Gyms walls are lined with mirrors so that people can watch their form and, let's be honest, check themselves out. They don't go to the gym to watch you lift and you don't go to watch them lift. I understand how intimidating it is to walk into the room that's 70% full of grunting men lifting a mass I can't even comprehend. In reality, if you are a woman and you are using the weight room, men are probably going to not only think you're cute in your gym-wear but be impressed by you too.
I would walk into that area and think "I'm the only girl here. Please let another girl walk into the room. They're all laughing at me struggle to put this plate on the bar, I know it."
Today I walk into that area and think "Where's a free spot? Ah. I need the yellow plates... Got 'em! Okay, now I need music. Scroll scroll scroll, this is a good track. Let's do this."
Last week I was in the vaults and looked up at the five men around me and thought to myself, "Oh yeah, I'm the only girl here. I used to pay attention to that. Who cares?"
Everything takes time to get comfortable with. There are only so many excuses we can give ourselves before we realize that there is never going to be the perfect scenario for us to feel 100% ready to begin. The only way we're going to feel 100% to begin is when we push ourselves when we're between 0 and 99%. Nike is right, just do it.