I spent most of my day working off island with some women I’ve worked with for years. When not in work meetings, the conversation centered on campaigns, politics, balls, and benefits. I tried to stay connected to the conversation, but they lost me at the parade of gowns and my mind went off a wandering. They tried to bring me back into the conversation and I had to explain that I was boring, I’m not into politics and don’t get out much. One of them responded with “But you do weightlifting!” Whoa….that’s what they associate with me now. And here’s where my mind went a wondering while waiting in the airport and the flight home.
I am 41 years old which I can only hope is at least middle age. I am 5’7″ and have been overweight my entire adult life and a good chunk of that time I was morbidly obese. I am a life-long nerd with a dual degree in chemistry and environmental engineering. My family has joked about my middle name being Grace and I have face planted onto more than one sidewalk while walking. I can’t catch a ball and the thought of group sports sends a cold chill down my spine and reminds me of the horrors of gym class growing up. In a nutshell- I am middle age-ish, I suck at sports, and there is no earthly reason that I should be carrying athletic tape in my purse, wrapping my wrists, shaving off the calluses on my hands, and sweating on a weekend morning when I could easily be reading the paper, drinking coffee, eating baked yumminess, and enjoying the Sunshine down at the beach. I would have never placed bets on the odds of me being associated with weightlifting three years ago.
But…..I love weightlifting.
I love everything about it. Everything. Well maybe not getting the clips on and off, but everything else. I loved it from the very moment that my physical therapist taught me how the clips went on the trainer bar. I had no explanation for it. Lift up something heavy, put it down, pick it back up again -what sparked the excitement there? And heavy is relative – at the time it was all of 35 pounds and it took everything I had to back squat it with 9 pins and a plate in my gimp leg. Despite my lack of understanding, I decided to just love the heck out of it and see where the journey would take me. It’s now two and a half years later and I still just love weightlifting but now I’m starting to understand why.
I love the feel of the metal bar in my hand, the weight of the bar pushing down on me and the distinctive thump of a heavy bar crashing on the ground. I loved discovering these muscles on my body that I had never had cause to notice before. Every day tasks become easier. But that’s just the physical stuff and hardly anything about weightlifting is about the physical stuff.
Weightlifting is a mental, physical, and emotional puzzle you are solving. Sure you are training the physical but every physical gain comes with training your mind and heart. And weightlifting is mostly mental.
I joke about heading to the gym after work being my happy hour. I love getting a personal record (PR) with more weight on the bar every now and then, but the reality of it is I am PRing my happiness ALL THE TIME. I get to hang out with the most awesome people. Yes, they are truly the most awesome and it’s a privilege to get to spend time with them. I don’t know if my core muscles are sore from that extra set of ab work Coach Brian had us do or whether it’s from laughing the whole time. It’s a joy and good for my heart in more ways than one.
It’s been an incredibly challenging couple of years and quieting the mind through the storm helped me through it. Meditation has always helped me with that. Sitting in the moment – relax your jaw, straighten your back, relax your shoulders, take a deep breath, and be present. And part of weightlifting is exactly the same – a form of moving meditation – straighten your back, relax your arms, center your breath, and be present.
You can’t think about work, you can’t think about what you are making for dinner, you can’t think about the medical decisions you just made for your family, and you can’t even think about what your body is doing as it’s finding that neural network groove that was created from the thousands of repetitions that came before. You simply can’t. Because your brain has better things to worry about, like getting under the bar or getting out of the way of the bar. You have to be present when you lift. Weightlifting has you go towards your fear and teaches you about your strength when feeling uncomfortable and scared.
My goal is to get up and down stairs when I am 80. If I can pick up a light bar then – more the better. But someday I’ll have to quit and it won’t be my choice. This is a gift. Here’s hoping for a long association.