For my thirtieth birthday, my boyfriend, dear sweet man, bought me a session with a serious-business lifting coach.
It took me a couple weeks to schedule it because I was afraid. I wanted it, and I was excited also, but I was afraid. I was afraid that he would meddle in what I eat. I was afraid that he would take one look at me and know instantly that I'm not worth his time. I was afraid that he would start talking about fat loss goals.
None of those things happened. This man is built like a brick wall out of which stare the kindest eyes I've seen on a human being since my teaching mentor left my university (it's a high bar). And what he cares about is not getting ripped—it's getting strong.
We just squatted, the first session. Air squats, then the bar, then adding weight. After seeing me do a couple sets with the bar, he said, "You overthink things and it paralyzes you. Just let go." I almost cried. I PRed my squat: 185x3, and he said he thought I could do more, that the bar speed was fast enough that it wasn't my real max. He says he thinks a two-plate (225-pound) squat shouldn't be a problem, that I could deadlift "in the threes" and compete. My bar path is good, he says (I don't totally know what that means, I confess, because you can't really see your own bar path, which is another reason that it is good to have a coach).
At some point I said that I was worried about losing my tension at the bottom of the squat because my legs are big and I felt like I was just sitting on myself, not holding myself up. He looked at me skeptically and said, "That's very creative. You'll have to draw me a picture of what you think is happening. No. Use the mass in your legs to drive up."
He zeroed in immediately: I roll my wrists under the bar, set up slightly left of center (this might actually explain why I feel like my right side lags my left—because it's actually bearing more weight), and most of all, am trying way too hard to keep my torso upright, which is resulting in an over-arched back and less stability than would be ideal. I am practicing dropping my chest and keeping a neutral spine ("nothing should be happening in your spine") when I climb the three flights to my apartment. It feels good. It makes more sense, the position.
He said I could come to a couple open sessions for free. I went yesterday, squats and presses, and even though there were like twelve people in the gym, I felt like I had his full attention: I need to work on locking out at the end of a squat set ("Judges look for it—you might as well practice now, in case you compete"), rerack too delicately, don't explode aggressively enough, tend not to hit full depth on the first squat of a set, roll my wrists under on the press too. And, of course, I overthink.
Leaving the gym yesterday, he said, "So when's your next training day?" and I had to say that I am going to California for a week (though am taking gear & will be lifting at the Berkeley gym if I can), and he said, "E-mail me when you get back." I don't know when he is going to ask me to pay him, but I guess I'll just wait until he does.
I cannot really afford his gym. My initial idea was that maybe I could do a training session like once every six weeks to two months in addition to training on my own. But I think I am going to have to make it work. The best-value version of his gym is more than double what I pay for mine, but if this is going to be a thing in my life, I think I kind of need him. And I kind of want this to be a thing in my life. I worry about group exercise, always, but I think this might work for me. There are other women who lift there—there were women there yesterday—he made sure to tell me that the team he is taking to a meet this weekend is exactly half women—and I think this place is most of all about people who see lifting as a kind of quasi-spiritual personal practice, not that any of them would say it quite that way, more than it is about how good you are or how much you lift. At our first session, the gentle-eyed ox-man said, "You can change your whole world coming out of a squat," and I know exactly what he means by that, and I believe that too. And there was a guy next to me at the open session yesterday, brand new, squatting like 65, learning to power clean (I really want to learn to power clean) (it looks hard and fun) with a bare bar, and people gave him a berth because he was new and clearly a little self-deprecating, but no one looked at him like he shouldn't be there. No one looked at me like I shouldn't be there. I think maybe I should be there. Like maybe a lot. It feels like the right place for me.
So basically I am going to have to make some financial sacrifices if I want to join this weightlifting cult, but I think I have to join this weightlifting cult. I think I need to give this a shot.