Life Lessons I Learned In The Gym


When I first started training, I was 112 lbs of gangly pre teen. I had never played sports (with the exception of parks and rec micro soccer) and I’d never touched a weight. I fell in love with lifting through anatomy books and body building magazines. After some self educating I jumped right in…I was weak! It took patience, being humble about what my abilities were at the time, and a hefty amount of hope that I’d get stronger for me to improve my performance. Flashing forward to 20 years old I was recovering from 6 open fractures in my pelvic ring, I’d been bed ridden for 6 months, and couldn’t even walk. The humility that I learned from the weight room at a young age helped me keep my head down and work with a hopeful spirit that I’d get better in time. I never would have made it through such a tremendous challenge without learning humility in the weight room.

You don’t get a pat on the back for just showing up

Quite frankly, no one other than you gives a damn if you work out. No one wants to hear about how sore you are or how hard squats are. Lifting, failing, trying again, getting better in tiny increments, and celebrating in my mind for myself without constantly looking outside of myself for the approval of others was good for me as a teenager starting in the weight room and it’s good for me now. This concept applies to a lot of things; learning to be my own private cheer leader has been a skill that’s helped me in my relationships, at my job, and it’s helping me now in my last few weeks of college. Your professor/boss/wife doesn’t care if you simply showed up – that’s the bare minimum – they need you to perform well without constantly berating them for approval. I’m not saying you should never celebrate your accomplishments with others, I’m just saying learning to live without that approval is important.

You refine your character when things get hard.

“First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do…don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it. – Epictetus

Lifting weight’s day in and day out for years is damn tough – I’ve been lifting 3-5 days a week on average for 11 years. You get sore, you get fatigued, you have really difficult weeks at work or school or in your personal life, and in those times you have a choice. Undoubtedly we all need rest, it’s an important part of recovery for your body but also for your whole person and it can be a tool to make you stronger BUT knowing the true difference between when you need to rest and when you need to put your head down and stick with it is a necessary skill. When you’re filled with metal hardware like I am you hurt, sometimes a little, and sometimes quite a lot – I will always have some pain, and I always have to train through or around it to some extent. Likewise, we all get busy, we all work a lot, and we all face emotional difficulties – my love for lifting taught me how to stay dedicated, disciplined, and how to always show up for my passions even when I don’t “feel like it.” Pain and struggle are not your enemies they are the furnace where your strength is forged.

Failure is your best friend, not something to fear

Failure is how we refine technique. From overeagerness in weight jumps, a program that didn’t work quite as planned, a test grade you don’t like, or some critique from your boss you learn! I have learned more from those times where things didn’t go as planned than when things went perfectly. Failure can be deflating, discouraging, and quite frankly…upsetting. It doesn’t have to be, allow yourself to feel what you feel, but get back on the horse! Analyze where you made mistakes, apologize if necessary to any other parties involved, refine your plans to do better next time, then faithfully implement them – if you fail again but you identified and fixed one problem from the first time, then you’ve still had a success however small it may seem.

Criticism is your other best friend

Going back to the first section, when I started training I was a gangly 12 year old (see pic below to prove it!). The number of people who said “are you sure you should be doing that?” or who told me I’d be “bulky or gross or too masculine (jokes on them there)” was significant. As a very young gay woman in a predominantly older male space I never fit the mold of what someone in my demographic “should do.” Granted I was also blessed to have many older male and female mentors at my first gym who did encourage me. They were a life line. Outside of that, I shut all the “shoulds,” my doubts, and the doubts of others out. I put my head down and ignored them. From that young age I KNEW that this was how I wanted to spend the rest of my life. Hearing criticism, not giving it merit, and pursuing what my heart told me was right was one of the best things I’ve ever done with my life. Ignore the haters and find a few folks who will be in your corner – that’s all you need.

12 years
23 years
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