Dan and I joined a gym – it’s temporary, as I won’t be in Australia much longer. But we had been working out in the spare room (or, throughout my travels in hotel lobby’s, parks, basements, front stoops) since leaving Singapore last year. So I was pretty stoked when Dan told me about the month to month, no joining fee gym membership we could get, together! and it’s a 24/7 gym 🙂 I was so excited I could hardly sleep – I have been doing just bodyweight, resistance band workouts for the better part of a year. Recently I started using the barbell as I found some cheap plates for it but it only goes up to 35k (which is fine for me so far – haven’t gotten higher than that yet).
I prepared by writing my own new program for myself! It’s a 4 day, minimalist lifting routine and all my cardio is optional. I always do some days of HIIT, some dance classes, some jogging, some walking – and I’ll be walking to and from the gym most days. It’s a good 45 minute walk each way. I’ve found that if I just write a strength program I always end up doing 1-3 days of cardio additionally anyway – it’s just how I roll 🙂 I was so excited to have access to dumbbells, barbels of different weights, a squat rack, a stretching room (yay, I’ll actually try foam rolling), medicine balls, kettlebells… et al Off topic, I really thought they were called kettleballs for like, 5 years. Only recently did I realize people were calling them kettlebells. Oops.
Walking in though, I got nervous! There were some seriously large men. Usually I push Dan away when I workout (I know, I’m a real treat), I don’t like to talk to people, or to feel like someones watching me lift – but I was really happy Dan and I were there together. We did our own thing but some of our stuff is similar so we could have benches next to each other and switch sets on the captain’s chair and the pull up bar. I’m out of my element, it’s been so long since I was in a gym. I feel like this first week is going to be a warm up week, a “get to know your equipment” kind of week instead of anything that brings big strength gains. Using dumbbells, I was dumbfounded that I can’t actual bicep curl that heavy (damn resistance bands made me feel so beastly). I was intimidated of the squat rack so I did squats with the barbels but that meant front squats and lighter weight than usual. I asked Dan some questions to make sure that next time I walk in with squats on my lift (in like, 2 days) I’ll use the rack so I can push some real weight.
I forewent the HIIT as I couldn’t figure out how to change speed on the treadmill quick enough – I opted instead to walk home from the gym – the LISS option – which took me 45 minutes.
I felt a little ashamed of my gym performance, but I remember when I first started with a program in hand at 24 Hour Fitness California. It took me 2 workout days to get the hang of where things are and how to work with the other people there without engaging (ipod, all the time, even if I’m not listening to music). And man, those bicep curls and tricep kickbacks with actual dumbbells, I’ll be feeling those tomorrow which will distract me from my lackluster squats. And it did feel really good to be able to jump up to the bar and do real chin ups in front of all the meat-heads (okay there were only like 3 people but…still).
It really got me thinking about strength vs. aesthetic goals. Dan and I were comparing goals in this light today. My goals are strength – even though I want to look good, I need to be able to perform. I relied on my resistance bands for the last 3 years believing that since my ripped, stuntman ex only worked out with bands that they were fine. But curling baby 5k dumbbells taught me a lesson today. I look good – okay, yes, I just said that. I don’t look perfect, but ladies (gentlemen too) when we work hard, or even if we don’t, at least recognize what you’ve got, don’t be shy or humble (this is my opinion). I do look pretty good, and muscular. I know because people comment and I can see the pictures. But I look waaaay better than my strength reality. There are so many people with less visible muscle who can kick my ass right now in strength. Dan wants to look strong but doesn’t care if he is strong – that is opposite of me. I feel like I have that. I look strong, people comment all the time. When I walk into a dance studio people ask if I’m a gymnast. But the softer curvier girls can often out bench me. That is not what I want. I don’t want to waste my workout time – I want to actually be able to push some weight, I want to be able to climb up and down a rope (or silks) longer than anyone else. I need to, for my profession and also just cuz I want to. I want to go climbing, I want to do partnering again, I want my time at the gym to increase the things I can do in my daily life. BUT at least I know that I can totally look good on very little effort (I believe this is the case with anyone who does the hard yards first to build a fitness base – after the initial year or two of working out like a freak, it takes vastly less effort to look pretty good, and twice the effort to look fitness professional lean)