So there I was, in the squat rack, doing a volume set of moderately heavy back squats. An older woman comes through the weight room (on her way to somewhere else, carrying a cup of coffee), and says to me “careful, you’ll hurt yourself!”
“Actually”, I replied, “this is how I make sure I don’t hurt myself.”
Let’s back up a sec: see, I’ve always had a janky back. Thanks to some mild scoliosis and growing super fast in my teens, my low back is a house of cards, ready to fall apart at any moment. When I was in 9th grade, I threw out my back in gym class- we were doing a “line dance” unit (we all had this, right??), and I bowed to my partner, and wanted to die. I finished the dance (we were being tested, and in 9th grade, I still cared about my grades in P.E.), and promptly lay down on the gym floor. Next thing I know, my mom is there, and I’m being hauled off in an ambulance. That’s right- I square-danced so hard I had to be taken to the E.R! I was the hero to the sophomore class, whose next period of gym was delayed due to the broken girl on the floor.
Being the early 90’s, I was given some stick-figure drawings of stretches to do (that was the entirety of my physical therapy), and was told to lay low and rest in bed for a few days. Since I was 13, I obviously ignored the PT and, after a few days off my feet, got right back into life. I wasn’t athletic, but I was on the dance team for a few seasons, and was active in theater productions, but let’s be real- I didn’t exercise, aside from occasionally doing yoga after school with Kathleen Hitchcock on PBS out of boredom while I waited for Square One to start. #nerd #shewasawesomethough #mathiscool
Over the years, I’ve thrown out my back over a variety of stupid reasons: sneezing. Picking up an empty plastic bag. Getting out of a hot shower into a cold bathroom. It wasn’t until I went to massage school that I realized I wasn’t a lost cause- I could actually do something about my back pain, because it was a muscular issue! At this point in my life, I realized I needed to take exercise more seriously, and spent the next decade or so trying out a bunch of stuff- yoga, bodypump, HIIT, bootcamp, running. All of it seemed to help a little (any exercise is better for me than no exercise), but nothing really seemed to be the key (or like something I wanted to stick with), until………
Lyn and I used to run together. Running is a thing you do in this town- there seems to be a 5k every weekend- so I figured I should also run. I loved spending mornings with Lyn, and really, the run was just a reason to end up at the co-op, drinking delicious juice and gabbing for an hour after the run (which was THE BEST). Then I broke my foot (stress fracture- 0/10 do not recommend), and then Lyn had some reasons to stop running for a bit, and I realized that, actually, I really liked NOT running. Running was always judging me- I’m just not built for it, would dread the workouts, and always felt like a failure. Needing to do something, but still feeling fearful of impact on my foot, I took a chance on a new class in town. Not only did I gain a super new friend out of the deal, but fell head over heels for kettlebell training.
Kettlebells are super fucking rad. There is some very specific technique involved, and some very specific skills to learn (please with a certified trainer please please), but then it’s just plain fun. I mean, inasmuch as flinging iron around is fun (a lot).
The best thing about training kettlebells? Learning how to use tension. Kettlebells teach you where your power “leaks” are, and how to engage them. Because of this, I found my glutes. And let me tell you, in my professional opinion, if there is one thing that we as a whole population need to work on, it’s finding your glutes. I could write a whole post on that alone- THIS is what helped my back the most. Bonus: I look pretty great in leggings.
After training kettlebells for about two years, I was having the itch to pick up other heavy things. I had been following some fitness professionals and influencers online, and decided to try on powerlifting. Now, mind you, I am still handily in the “beginner/novice” category of strength, but I am ok with that. I am loving the journey of polishing my technique, listening to what my body needs, and surprising myself- days when the weights fly up? THE BEST. Days when I’m feeling less than great? I dial it back and come out feeling pretty proud of myself for just showing up.
It’s cliche, but true: the best workout is the one you show up for. I love lifting. I look forward to it. I research it and plan my workouts ahead of time. I follow programs. I watch YouTube videos. I get to wear Chuck Taylors to the gym and check Instagram between sets. On lifting days, I sleep the sleep of the gods. I love every minute of it.
As a woman, we are taught to be small. Frail. Weak. To need help. Fuck that. Being strong feels amazing. Not having pain is life changing. Go pick up something heavy today. Here is a great place to start.
Want to come lift with me? I need a partner!