I spent my last post talking about the very beginning stages of my weight lifting journey — back when I was a cardio bunny who wanted to lift weights but was just too scared to try.
These muscles didn’t come from riding the elliptical all day!
We pick up at around age 27, which was about a year into my relationship with Will. He was (and continues to be) very passionate about weight lifting, and I had finally come around to the idea that lifting heavy and trying out the “big three” (bench, squat, dead lift) was not going to turn me into a giant muscled up she-hulk. Around this time, although I really wanted to get more into weight lifting, I didn’t really know how to go about transitioning from dumbbell workouts to barbell workouts.
And let’s not forget the the weight room scared me silly at that time.
So what did I do? I started reading. Will introduced me to Tony Gentilcore’s blog, which I loved instantly. He was ridiculously funny and also let me know that weight lifting was not just awesome, it’s what all the cool kids were doing. From there, I started reading Eric Cressey, and also found some amazing female role models such as Molly Galbraith, Nia Shanks, and Neghar Fonooni. (All of these are wonderful resources if you’re interested in weight training, and I still read all of them regularly). I already had a very basic knowledge of weight lifting from my work as an athletic trainer, but that was just about mechanics and proper form. I had never actually been in a squat rack myself or dead lifted a barbell from the floor.
The first thing I had to over come at this time was my fear of the weight room. It was a difficult thing to walk into the weight room at Work Out World (where I was working out at the time, yuck), and see groups of huge muscle heads gathered around the benches. But I did it. I knew that the weight room was where I needed to be to reach my new goals, as the cardio room with weight machines wasn’t really going to work for me. For a while, I stuck with dumbbells, but I increased my weights and worked out in the weight room consistently, eventually moving onto the small, weighted bars when I was ready.
Squatting began with goblet squats, eventually moving on to barbell squats when I felt confident with my form and moving more weight. I can’t even explain the way that it felt the first time I had that bar across my back. I wasn’t lifting a lot of weight at that point, but to know that I was moving in the direction of some of my fitness idols was encouraging. Back squatting soon became a regular part of my routine, although it would take a little more time and a little more courage to add in bench press and dead lifting.
The wonderful thing was that once I “mastered” the squat (i.e., knew I could do it without killing myself or making a complete fool or myself) my confidence skyrocketed in the gym which helped me to start trying other big lifts. As with the squat, I started very small with bench and dead lifting. I started with RDLs instead of traditional dead lifts, just to get the hip hinge pattern working. Once I was ready to pull from the rack, and then eventually from the floor, I had built up a good enough strength base in my posterior chain that I knew I shouldn’t hurt myself if I was smart. This was still scary, however, and the first time I pulled from the floor it was awkward. I’m sure I didn’t have perfect form, and I wasn’t lifting a lot of weight, but I was dead lifting! And that made me feel powerful.
My weight lifting story is full of bench marks and mile stones. I don’t remember every gym session of course, but there are certain times that stick in my mind and remind me where I started and how far I’ve come.
I remember the first time I back squatted over 100 pounds.
I remember the first time I squatted 135 (plates!!).
I remember the first time I tackled the bench press, and how awkward I felt.
I remember the first time I dead lifted my body weight.
I remember the first time I back squatted my body weight.
I remember the first time I maxed out my bench, and 125 lbs, and felt so proud of that number.
My goals now are pretty simple:
- Back squat 1.5x body weight
- Dead lift 2x body weight
- Bench body weight
I’m so close on the squat and dead lift, but know that the progress on my bench will take a little bit longer. And once I hit those milestones, I’ll make some new, even more exciting goals. The most exciting thing to me about weight lifting is the sense of power it gives me, as well as the opportunity to do things that seem impossible at first glance. If you had told my 25 year old self that I would be dead lifting 235 pounds at age 32, I probably would have laughed and then asked you how big my legs were. If you had told me back then that my favorite workout would be a heavy day in the weight room, I would probably call you a liar and then hop back on the elliptical. And then I probably would have gone home and binged on some baked Cheetos. (yup)
Weight lifting has changed my life over the past 7 years. It has changed me from a mildly chubby, weak, supremely unconfident girl into a powerful, confident, muscular woman. It has changed me into someone who feels like she can do anything that she puts her mind to, even when something feels a little difficult the first time. It has helped me to focus on strength instead of “skinny”, and to value the process of gaining that strength. It has helped me to find body peace, in a body and mind that were at turmoil for quite some time. And no, my legs haven’t grown to the size of tree trunks.
For all of you weight lifters out there: At what age did you start lifting? Do you feel it’s changed your life and how?