Sunday, March 16, 2014


I've been absolutely swallowed by the new gym (also dissertation, but, you know, that's par for the course).  Swallowed whole.  I love it there.  I can't remember what it was like without coaching, without a community of lifters around me, without the possibility of competition as an incentive.

There's a meet in August and one in September.  By then I'd like to be competitive with the current New York State records in my weight class (90+ kg, women's raw open), which are shockingly attainable—the squat and bench press, at least.  The deadlift's a little ways off mine.  I'm working on 245x5 now; the record is 380.

The squat record is 280.  My five-rep max is 225; I got it twice and then tweaked my shoulder and have been working under it ever since.  But getting it was still a big deal—225 is a two-plate squat, which was my maybe-one-day pie-in-the-sky goal when I started lifting.  The first time I tried it, from a competition stand with one large man on either side, I panicked during the last rep of my second set; they had to pull it off me.  My coach looked me in the eyes and told me I was safe, surrounded by people who were there to help me and root for me.  I got the third set, and then I went home and cried.  Came back in, tried it again, got it.  And once I get my shoulder dialed back in I'll get it again, prettier this time.

My squat form continues to be my pride and joy.  I was sharing a platform with a new girl the other day; she was struggling with 95 and I remembered being there.  I busted out a quick warm-up set with 135, and she said, "You make it look so easy."  I told her I'd just been doing it longer than she had, that was all.  I remember getting 135 for the first time at the Y, in the little nook with the rack and the Smith machine back to back, and being so glad for that nook so none of the guys could see me get teary.  And now it's an easy warm-up set.  One day 225 will be an easy warm-up set.

And I'm working on 115x5x3 on the bench, creeping closer to the big plates.  The record on the bench is 140.

I was out of the gym for two weeks housesitting for my parents upstate and I missed the gym so badly.  I missed the people, the sounds of the iron and the chat, the vaguely musty smell.  I lifted once at my dad's gym up there and realized I've become completely disadapted to commercial gyms.  No bar jack?  No chalk?  No house wraps?  No one whose job it is to yell at the guy in the rack next to me who's doing half-squats with 135 and then slinging more plates on the bar?  It's home, my gym.  I do feel safe there, cared for.  It's my favorite place there is, pretty much.  I'm doing one more week at 3x/week and then bumping up to 4x.  It makes my programming a little more complicated but the reality is that I just want to be there more often.  I love it there.  I'm so grateful to all these people for taking me in, for taking me seriously, for caring about me.

I cannot describe how strange it is to be most at home in the kind of place that has felt most threatening to me my entire life.  I cannot describe how I feel when I leave there in the cold in the dark and walk up the industrial street back towards my bus: how calm, how open to the world.

Soon I'll test my one-rep maxes for the first time ever, and then I'll know how much ground I really have to cover if I'd like to hold at least one New York State powerlifting record by September.  Which I would like to do, and which, mysteriously, is a reasonable goal.


Annabel said...

You are amazing!!! And, I'm so happy that the gym has become a place of refuge for you. It's amazing how life can change and how the things that once scared us the most become the things we love the most, eh? Hugs!

Em said...

It's truly amazing.

I think more than anything it's the idea that a gym full of *other people* can be a place of refuge that's crazy. Even as I got used to the gym as a happy thing in my day and week over the past year and a half or so, it was always a place where interpersonal interactions made me nervous. I always felt like I was getting away with something when no one talked to me or when I escaped a conversation without feeling like I'd embarrassed myself.

Which is a far cry from being delighted to see the girl who just got back from a trip to Iceland that I saw pictures of on Facebook, you know? I've even done the mobility/endurance workshop (our only group class) a few times, and felt mostly fine with it despite my general horror (born of negative experiences from preteen years) of group exercise.

It is, indeed, remarkable.

Thanks for this!

Anna said...

I looooooove this. Feeling powerful and proud in your body is pretty powerful stuff. I just got into lifting and I now better understand why you're hooked. It's awesome. So glad you have found a community for you to fully revel in it.

Em said...

Anna! Welcome to the fold! It's the best thing!