Melissa and her husband, Mike, joined us around the end of November of last year. Mike had contacted me in June to learn more about our program but back pain, life and a wedding put everything on hold until November when they finally were able to start. Melissa seemed a little reluctant, even skeptical, at first. She almost didn’t come back. “I had never been so sore in my life!” she finally told me, months later. Mike had to really talk her back into coming. I don’t blame her for not wanting to give it a go again….the DOMS she experienced was pretty fierce. ;( But….she did return and after a couple of weeks of on again/off again training, something clicked, and before you knew it, Melissa was in here 2-3 times a week, schedule permitting. She is quite proud of her work and her accomplishments and most importantly, she has never, ever been as sore as she was that first day. Whew! 😉
Here is her story.
My exercise has varied greatly in recent years. I tried a variety of new exercise fads, but sometimes with limited motivation. I moved between cities, fluctuating between student life and adult life, eventually buying into a You Tube channel with “easy at home workouts.” As a kid, I was generally athletic and was involved in most sports at some point along the way. I ended up falling into softball where I played varsity and travel leagues though high school and still keep up with the intramurals here in Baltimore….Go Dragons! I did marching band and winter guard too. I realize these may be unfamiliar and topics of debate in the “sports” category…. they definitely require significant physical skill and endurance. I’m happy to have that debate with anyone interested. 😉
Through college I dabbled in generic gym use (largely included stationary cardio as I was too intimidated to try any of the other gym equipment) and afterward I tried to set a real exercise plan to “finally get in shape”. I started with yoga and really loved it but still didn’t find the motivation to make it beyond a drop in class weekly. I made use of the gym through grad school and attended weekly spin class and “Pound”. If you don’t know about Pound, look it up. It’s awesome for a fun, high energy, stress relief. It’s Zumba meets Stomp, fun but probably not a sustainable exercise plan, as I learned. So as my student memberships expired, I had to take fitness into my own hands. I told myself that in living near a park, running will be my thing….it’s convenient and effective. Nope. Running was profoundly boring to me (no offense to those that actually feel the runner’s high and truly find stress relief – I somehow only found it more frustrating). I could never stick with it and found every excuse to not do it (it’s raining, it’s too cold, it’s too hot…). In all of these experiences, although none were very successful, I did learn a few things about myself. First, I am NOT a morning person. Second, I need an exercise plan where someone else also holds me accountable and third, I enjoy predictable activities. Yes, the thrill of sporting event where you make each play as it happens is fun, but in a maintenance plan, I appreciate the ability to look ahead, be in control and plan my next work out or activity to set goals and feel that I’m making progress.
Hmmm….I think you may know where this is heading.
Fast forward to the end of November, 2016. My husband had been interested in strength training on and off for several years, but I had never given it much thought. During his quest for a strength training gym, he found Fivex3 Training and talked to me about trying it out and joining with him. Being the wonderfully kind, thoughtful, and caring wife that I am, I decided to put in an effort to share in his “hobby” and give it a try. I hadn’t found tremendous success with any other exercise regimen so I didn’t see any harm in trying something new. I went into this whole experience pretty blind. I didn’t do any research on strength training so I could keep and open mind. I had not idea what Starting Strength was, knew nothing about the deadlift. It wasn’t even until a few sessions in where I figured out where the name of the gym came from…
I was very thankful for this VERY clean slate. As a result of my ignorance, I appreciated the activity even more for its foundation, not theories or misconceptions or stereotypes. I was able to draw many similarities to activities I’ve enjoyed in the passed. In Winter guard (“sport of the arts”), you learn movements and work for 6 straight months to make those movements perfect, to perform them at the best of your ability. Can you believe I just compared powerlifting to Color guard, a flowy exhibit of dance, musicality, and emotion!? Like Color guard, strength training is simple at its core but complex in its mastery, and I love the physical and mental challenge of that. I love the challenge to learn seemingly straightforward exercises then strengthening them overtime and trying to make them perfect along the way. Contrasting to my previous athletic endeavors, Starting Strength does not have built in excuses, which is great because I already have too many. 😉 This close knit group of coaches and clients keep you accountable, purposely or even just in your head. There are people you see regularly, who are cheering for you every single lift, (sometimes very literally cheering). This type of encouragement is hard to come by in a drop in yoga class. These people are invested in you and your growth and accomplishments, yet another motivation to show up and work hard.
I can also clearly remember Emily telling me when Mike and I fist visited the gym, before setting up our training, that many women begin noticing that their “clothes fit differently” once they begin strength training. I thought she was a great saleswoman! Now, I am noticing my clothes fitting differently and feel silly for ever doubting her. 😉 As a woman, it is hard to change the preconceived notion that your health is measured by a number on the scale, but strength training has shown me that those numbers don’t matter. The value is how you feel. In my experience, I have gained weight and have not been in better shape in my life. I am physically stronger and much more comfortable and confident with my body.
I can do chin ups, which 9 year-old Melissa is way proud of. The days of hanging on the monkey bars in gym class in total defeat are over! It’s incredible to think about where I started. I considered myself mostly healthy/fit but turns out I had no idea what that meant. Thinking back, it’s a wonder I was able to do any activities of daily living – walking up stairs, holding bags…..feeding myself! I am no where near one of the strongest folks in my gym but when I see where I started, I can’t help feel proud of my personal growth and the accomplishments I’ve made. My mental toughness has grown as well, and I repeatedly push myself to my physical limit which inevitably pushes me to my mental limit; forcing me to focus, adjust my attitude and concentrate on the task in front of me.
I love that this is an exercise that I can put my mind to. I had previously been seeking exercise plans that would allow me to take my mind off a day and escape to a happy land of fitness and weight loss. I found that those activities, at least for me, only gave me time to further fixate on the events and stresses of the day, becoming distractions and impeding my progress. Strength training gives me something else to focus on and work toward after a long day. I don’t get to turn my brain off but merely redirect it, which for me has become an even greater stress relief. I work as a genetic counselor, I sit and talk all day and encounter emotionally challenging and draining scenarios, I’ve found strength training to be incredibly helpful as it allows time for me to separate from that stress and really focus on me.
More importantly, I have also learned the value of recovery. It’s easy to think that you need to push yourself to exertion everyday to get in shape but weight training helps you appreciate other aspects of your life that make you healthy beyond physical exercise like eating the right foods and getting enough quality sleep. It also shows the utility of active recovery. Exercise will strain you and you will be sore (true story my husband had to walk me down the stairs leaving the gym the first few sessions since my jello legs were not going to make it) but physically and mentally, you have to get back in there after a tough work out or after an injury because that’s how you will grow and overcome. I have certainly become much more aware of my body, my posture, and how I move in general. I’m more aware of taking breaks to get up and walk and stretch instead of just working right through the day. I pay significantly more attention to my body mechanics when I’m lifting objects or even just sitting in a chair! I am not only more consistent at exercising regularly, but I am also healthier in every way.