Hey there! I’m feeling much better finally. The headache is now really just a steady part of my day, but the computer screen no longer makes it much worse, and I’ve been able to increase the intensity of my training a little bit. I’m finally getting back into the weight room this week, which will be nice after a two week hiatus! I don’t think I’ll be doing any max lifts right off, but just to be back in there, training in a way that I love will be enough for now.
Anyway, today I want to take a look back at my fitness life, more importantly when I started lifting weights and how it has changed me. I wasn’t always so hung up on the weight room, in fact I used to be terrified of it, thinking it was only for big, ‘roid-raging meat heads. So how did I get my start in the world of weight training, and how did this evolve from my early days of fitness?
I first started dabbling in “lifting weights” back in college. I put that in quotes, because at that time, the heaviest thing that I lifted were the 10 lb dumbbells, and I spent far more time on the elliptical than I ever did with the free weights. Not to mention, I was terrified of the weight room back then, so I spent any weight training time at the small set of dumbbells that were basically relegated to the lady/cardio section of the gym. Needless to say, I had no muscle tone, no definition, was pretty darn weak, and had very little body confidence. Yawn. I had been a mediocre athlete in high school, never really being pushed to take up weight training and never taking the initiative to do it on my own. Because of this, college was really the first time that I had the opportunity to experiment with different fitness styles, and it definitely took me a while to figure out what worked for me.
I also spent much of this time obsessing over the weight that I inevitably gained in college, experimenting with ephedra (which left me once feeling like I was floating over my physics lecture hall — never again). This was my attempt at health at this time; I clearly had a lot to learn.
Once I got out of college and joined a gym, I was still running a good amount, but I started adding in a little bit more weight training. At this point, I was still afraid of the weight room, I thought that was for the gym bros and their testosterone filled grunting. Most of my weight training at this time was done on machines, with some dumbbell exercises thrown in there too. I started getting a little heavier with the dumbbells at this point, but unfortunately still thought that I might get bulky if I lifted too much, so I never progressed past a certain point. Once again, my body didn’t change much besides the fact that I lost a few pounds now that I had to provide for myself and couldn’t sit in the dining hall for hours on end eating whatever I wanted. Like I said, I was never really challenging myself by truly lifting heavy — I think 15 lbs was a lot for me back then. I did clean up my diet a little bit around this time, but I still wasn’t what I could call healthy. That, and my workouts did not at all support the types of foods I was eating (very high carb, low fat, bullshit bullshit bullshit).
Eventually I moved out of the city, closer to the job I was working at at the time. I was working at a prep school out in the sticks, so my gym options were limited. When I wasn’t running or rollerblading (yes, I did that, quite often), I did find a gym that was about a 30 minute drive away, so time there was limited. It was there that I continued on my running/elliptical/cardio train, but I also continued with dumbbells and started to increase my weights even more.
This was when I first began to take training more seriously, although I’m not sure what spurred it. I remember being there doing incline DB press one day, when a woman (who was absolutely jacked) came over to me and told me I should be lifting more, that I wasn’t challenging myself enough. I kind of gave her the side eye, but did end up taking her advice. I was still cautious, not wanting to become “bulky”, but what she said stuck with me. I started to realize that she was right, that I wasn’t challenging myself nearly enough. I began lifting a little bit heavier, but really just for upper body. At this time, I was still terrified of my legs getting any bigger (a chronic fear for a girl who grew up with a bubble butt and thunder thighs).
A few years later, I was still stuck on this light-medium weight schtick with a lot of circuit training and cardio. Lifting weights usually was part of a circuit, so it was not really strength based at this time. I also started really thinking about what I was eating, and did lose about 20 pounds from the time I was about 24-26. I don’t know if it was the increased confidence from the weight loss, or the fact that around that time I started dating Will, who was (and still is) into weight lifting. I can’t tell you how many times he tried to get me into heavier weight lifting, but I was still really stuck on my fear of increasing the size of my legs. “But these quads!” I’d say. “I’ll have legs like tree trunks!”. Of course, he knew better, and slowly convinced me over time that getting hugely bulky would not be an issue. I’m not full of testosterone after all, and although I would build muscle, I would also lose body fat — or so he said.
As stated before, I had already increased weight that I was lifting with my upper body, and had built up an okay amount of upper body strength (nothing too impressive, but I wasn’t a weakling anymore!). It was the elusive lower body, and making myself comfortable in the big boys weight room that was the biggest barrier to me. I was perfectly happy with my dumbbells and pull up bar, but I also knew the key to really getting stronger would be to start incorporating some of the larger lifts into my routine.
This was scary to me. This was terrifying. I hardly knew what a squat rack was at this time — let alone how to use one. And dead lifts? Forget about it. The weight room was a foreign place with lots of large, heavy equipment, equipment that I felt like I wasn’t supposed to use. Getting over that fear was the first step in really transforming my fitness experience, and I can honestly say that it improved my life immensely. How is that? Well, that’s what I’ll get into in Part 2 of this series.
Readers: Have you always been fitness minded, or did you develop your fitness routine later in life? Were there any instances (like my stranger-lady-lifter comment) that changed your fitness outlook?