For more than 35 years I’ve moved heavy, iron things around just for fun. Well, sometimes it was work, but mostly it was for fun. Does that make me crazy? Maybe a little. But it’s also given me a good perspective on how to get the most out of the time I spend in a gym. And how I can help others when they are working out, too.
My life as a gym rat began as a love affair with weight lifting. It made me what I am today, and helped me grow me grow into the proud owner of the Bodysmith. And though I made some mistakes along the way, and can no longer compete like I once did, I have no regrets about my roots as a “muscle head.”.
It’s My Father’s Fault
My infatuation with strength training began when my father started a health kick. He and my mother played tennis regularly when I was young, and I clearly remember the stretching routine he would do each time they got ready to leave for a match.
My Dad was what you could call a “competitive” type. So after a while, his time spent on leisurely tennis became something more. He had a room in the basement outfitted with a hot tub and a universal weight machine. My old man loved a hot soak every day, and I remember him using the old single stack weight machine on a regular basis.
As a kid I had lots of free time…this was before cell phones and social media of course. So I started messing around with the equipment and a couple of dumbbells he had lying around. It wasn’t too long before I noticed a little change in the shape of my arm. It was, of course, my bicep muscle and I, of course, thought this was pretty cool.
You see, I wasn’t a good athlete in school. I played soccer for years, but it was mostly because my friends played. I was slow, overweight and remember that I was out of breath a lot when I was out of the field. I tried to take up running to be like my older brother, but it felt awkward, and my body always hurt.
Then, I hit high school and gym class hit me. Our instructor was overweight himself and wasn’t shy about sharing his disdain about me having to sit out when I couldn’t breathe. (Can everyone say “projection?” ?) The irony makes me laugh even now, but at the time it was murder on my self-confidence.
I remember my first real injury during a volleyball match my sophomore year. I was moving sideways to go for the ball and felt a sudden, sharp pain in my left knee that brought me to the ground. Arthritis had already begun damaging my joints and I had my first surgery within the year. This has been a recurring theme for the rest of my life.
So, for a while, I was done thinking about being an athlete. I didn’t want to be anyway. I was already playing in rock bands which to a teenager is a lot more fun than managing injuries.
But for some reason, lifting weights stuck with me. .
Moving On Up
So, I moved my weight-lifting routine out of the basement and started lifting at our high school gym. I lifted with a friend, we hung out next to the football team. They were good times.
On the weekends I would go with my brothers to Golds Gym before mowing lawns to earn cash. Over the years the gym became a comfortable place where a non-athletic, overweight introvert could feel at ease.
Gyms in the 80’s were different than the “big box,” boutique gyms, or Crossfit boxes of today (what is it with the boxes!?). Leotards, leg warmers and giant parachute-looking weight-lifting pants were the fashion. There was always a slightly creepy aire of guys and girls trying to “hook up,” but I wasn’t part of that. I was about getting something done.
I gravitated toward people in the gym that were there for the same reasons I was. To feel and look better. This eclectic group was made up of bodybuilders, powerlifters, athletes and Average Joe’s who wanted to lose weight or stay active. I trained alongside and with these different populations for decades, and I learned a lot even before I earned my Master’s degree.
At any moment you could be called to fill in for a power lifter’s workout partner who called in sick, or jump in on a back and arms workout with the bodybuilders who were prepping for a show. It didn’t make any difference who you were because it was all about the workout that day.
I credit those days, and weight training, with giving me the confidence, strength and health I have today. And with fueling a passion for helping others gain some of the same.
Now that you know how I came to love “moving heavy stuff” it is my goal to see if I can use that experience to help you on your own journey. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share some of the things I’ve picked up relating specifically to the weight room floor.