“OK, 10 burpees in 3, 2, 1… GO!” The trainer clicked his stopwatch and looked at me expectantly. He had the power-stance that trainers adopt, almost military-style with feet apart, one hand ‘at ease’ behind the back, stopwatch held in the other. I didn’t move. “I don’t know how to do that,” I told him and I got a helpful demo. 3, 2, 1… now it’s my turn. He shouted generic encouraging things at me until I was through. Muscle memory made it impossible for me to jump back into anything other than a bent-elbow caturanga position which was not what he wanted — apparently it’s too hard that way! As opposed to later on when we did push-ups and the caturanga mantra of ‘torso no lower than the elbows’ was deemed too little effort. “Chest to the floor!” I was exhorted each time I lowered into position. Oof, it’s not too bad to lower down but no way I can push back up from the floor as many times as I was supposed to.
No, I wasn’t in yoga class! This was my first kettlebell training. My first time in a gym in two years. “Well, it doesn’t look like it” the trainer told me, which I took as a huge compliment 🙂 Though clearly he was baffled by my general ignorance and my inability to perform simple gym moves and how I made easy things hard yet did some hard things pretty easily! Heels down squat with torso rotation — yes, please! Alternating jumping lunges — what…?
When lockdown happened in UK, all the gyms closed by law, and more specifically my workplace closed and with it the corporate gym that I used to use for free. On Sunday mornings it was usually empty. I could go and cautiously figure out how to use each of the weights machines without any testosterone-filled muscleman waiting impatiently for me to stop playing around so he could train seriously… 🙂 So it was in my head, at least! I liked these times of slow discovery and I have missed them. I was pleased that I got stronger in the process but most of all I liked that I overcame a lot of fears and misconceptions about my physical self in this journey of discovery, however uncomfortable and unnatural it felt to be in a gym environment.
It’s kind of nice to begin again. With my workplace still closed, I’ve joined a commercial gym and braved it for the first time this week (twice in fact!). The warehouse look, full of weights and cardio machines, looks super-intimidating and busy. I will need to find a quieter time of day for my first solo workout. For now I’m taking the easier option and going to some classes.
As we chatted after my first session, the kettlebell trainer offered to teach me to deadlift. And you know what, I might even take him up on the offer.
The suggestion made me realise: maybe in the novelty of the gym environment I can ask for some help, be shown how to do things, have some support in overcoming my fears? Maybe with the encouragement of a trainer I could make progress with my pull-up attempts?
I’m weirdly excited at the idea that I don’t have to figure everything out by myself. I’m not on my own. Help is at hand.
And of course, like all good ideas, it started on the yoga mat. Not just in learning good form for caturanga! Rather that my teacher has been encouraging me so much lately to think about sources of support. He was talking ostensibly about setting yourself up well for poses and transitions, but the deeper message is clearly there. I have been asking myself — how much is my habitual independence a good discipline and how much is it a denial of other forms of support, cutting myself off from other people and setting myself apart? Maybe I can explore the question at the weights rig as well as on the yoga mat…