Do You Even Lift, Bro?

I’m not afraid of much, but the weights section of the gym terrifies me. Not the equipment itself (although that can be daunting), but the the other weightlifters. They’re big. They’re strong. They know what they’re doing. At my local gym, most weightlifters fall into one of two categories: hulking, grunting muscle bots or tan, beautiful selfie-takers who want everyone to know just how good they look.

Now add to the mix one pale, awkward woman in glasses and you’ll see my discomfort.

Every running program advocates strength training, but for years I’ve willfully ignored that advice and stuck to cardio and little else. Well, I’m finally facing my fear. Call it a new year’s resolution, call it a change of heart, or call it finally acting like a nearly-30-year-old and not a baby. Twice a week, I vow to get over my insecurities and lift weights.

I’ve been at it nearly a month, and it’s going well. To my surprise (and relief!), my presence hasn’t caused nearly the stir I feared. On the contrary, no one seems to mind at all. The other lifters have been too focused on their workout, their music, or their own reflection to pay any attention to me, and I’ve been able to slowly navigate my way in peace.

I’m easing my way in, starting with a few reps at a low weight, and gradually building from there.  My tiny weights look silly compared to the massive weights on my neighbor’s machine, but I’m not lifting to get ripped. I’m lifting to be stronger at running hills, to be less prone to injury, and to be able to open the goddamned pickle jar without my partner’s help.

I honestly don’t love lifting, but I do love feeling strong. I imagine I’ll always be a little intimidated by people who are stronger than I am, and I’ll need to continue to give myself pep talks and remember that I have as much right to use the weight machines as anyone else.

There’s no question that I don’t fit in with the other weightlifters, but that doesn’t mean I don’t belong.

Originally published 1/19/14

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