Fear of weights

Now that I’ve been working in CrossFit gyms for the past four years, I’m somewhat buffered from people who don’t do some sort of barbell training. Most people who come in are eager to grab a barbell, throw some weights on, and start putting in work.

But occasionally, through introductory sessions, stories through friends, or interactions with people not currently into barbell fitness, I hear stories and excuses that often boil down to some level of fear and intimidation.

I’m not going to get into why you shouldn’t worry about squats hurting your knees, or why you’re not going to to hulk up overnight. Those articles have been written about ad nauseum and are all over the internet. Instead, I’m going to touch on my experience of conquering the fear of weights.

That’s right. Yours truly, someone whose placed nationally in Olympic lifting and placed internationally in Strongwoman, once had a fear of weight training.

In fact, I was even scared of the machines!!

I was pretty sure this would happen with the lat pull down.

In college at Texas A&M University, I gained weight like most freshmen do. I wasn’t dancing 3 hours a day. I could eat whatever I wanted when ever I wanted. Soda was easy to come by and I didn’t have my mom trying to restrict my consumption of that sugary nectar. It was when I went home for Thanksgiving break that I realized that I gained about 10 lbs. Winter clothes that I was going to bring back with me didn’t fit so well.

So from Thanksgiving to Christmas, I did what any girl with a ballet background would do: attempt to “move more and eat less.” I switched from regular soda to diet soda and I started to jog the track at the recreation center, sometimes hit the cardio machines, and then finished up with crunches. Obviously.

All this did was stop my weight gain. A month later, when I moved back home for winter break, I hadn’t lost any weight and my clothes didn’t fit any better than before.

Right here I’d love to say that I jumped on the internet and read about how weight training burns more calories during and after the workout than jogging does. I wish I could say that I conquered my own fears, stepped up to a barbell and just started doing the work. But that’s not at all how it went down.

But I don’t want to look manly…. oh wait. That’s me over a decade later.

Instead I just vowed to eat less and run more.

It wasn’t until I met a guy who was an avid weight room attendee did anything change. sigh Yes. It took a boy to get me into the weight room, holding my damn hand the whole time.

He started me off simple enough. He explained each machine and what part of the body it focused on. He explained the typical bodybuilder split: Back/Bi day, Chest/Tri day, Leg day. I even hated leg day, too. Eventually I felt confident enough to go on my own, following the split and choosing the machines to fit. 30 mins on the cardio equipment, 30 mins on the weight machines.

And I started seeing progress! I didn’t have a scale in my dorm, but I could tell that fat was coming off, clothes were fitting better, and seeing some shape show up on my arms and legs was intoxicating. Seeing the numbers I could handle for sets of 10 slowing moving up was amazing.

But I still couldn’t go into the free weight section. That place was SCARY.

The equipment didn’t have little signs showing you how to use it and what part of the body it worked. The people in there were predominantly boys who wore scowls on their face, shirts with the sleeves cut off, and drank water from gallon jugs. There was the odd girl in there, but they seemed to be of either extreme: super jacked, or super gym bunny. I was neither.

So scary!

So once again, I had to have my then boyfriend literally hold my hand into the free weights section. And, of course, my first introduction to free weights was the bench press. I think I was able to start with a couple of ten pound plates on the bar for a set of ten. And that was tough. And terrifying.

But I didn’t suddenly hulk up. I did continue to lose body fat and see more definition. THIS is what it means to get toned! I get it now!

The beefy, bulky, manly arms of a girl who lifted free weights 3 to 5 times a week!

This whole process, of jogging endless loops around a track to finally lifting free weights and appreciating the results, took me about 9 months, give or take, to really embrace weight training. To not question the process, to not fear hulking up, to not worry about what others are going to think of me. It was probably around the 9 month point where I finally realized that everyone was too involved in their own journey (not to mention their own reflection) to give two shits about what I was doing.

So learnings that I would pass on to people who are even considering adding a form of weight training into your routine:

  1. No one is watching you. Everyone is too involved in their own journey.
  2. Get someone to guide you. Be it a trainer or athletic friend, have someone show you the ropes.
  3. Don’t listen to arguments against it. Only you can find out how your body will react to it.
  4. Just do it already!