I’m going to freely admit that sitting down in a chair to write this was far more difficult than it should have been. I am sore as hell. I just got back from my fourth weight training session since writing the original post about becoming a Viking, and I will freely admit it: this is going to be really, really hard.
And that’s good. I’m still in. This is probably my best start to any health-focused event I’ve ever had. I’m in the Viking state of mind, and it’s working for me. I got a membership to the cheap 24 hour fitness center at the end of my street on Thursday, and I went there on Friday, Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday.
I’ve always had problems when I’ve started weight training at a gym. Typically, the problem has been feeling like an outsider. I’ve never looked muscular in any way, shape, or form, and the weight area of every gym is always mostly populated by the most dedicated and muscular. It’s tough to slip in amongst that group when you look like you’ve not been there longer than a week and you don’t know what in the hell you’re doing. I’ll admit it: lifting weights amongst muscular people is intimidating. Guys don’t talk to each other unless they are both ripped and want to talk about how ripped they are. Then there’s people like me to squeeze by and ask politely if they are done with this or that machine, and I usually feel foolish following these giants. I’ve always had problems following someone on the bench press, for example, because invariably I will be waiting for some neckless dude to finish benching 300+ pounds. After he’s finished, he stalks away pounding his chest, and I’m left to wipe off the nasty bench and remove all of his weights so I can slide on two small discs that I struggle to lift up ten times. When I’m sliding off 300 pounds of weights, I’m cursing the person who just lifted all of that. Not just because he should have put his own weights away, but because I have the old Jim Gaffigan joke going through my head: “What is this guy doing at the gym, anyway? He’s done!”
Not knowing what I was doing in the weight section of a gym was a problem that plagued me up until two years ago when a muscular friend of mine with whom I worked in emergency medicine pointed me in the right direction. He gave me a workout plan and showed me how to do each exercise. I remember going to the gym regularly with confidence that I knew what I was doing, and it helped. I made a lot of progress for those two months. But why only two months? Why did I stop? Because of my other, more major problem at any gym: I’ve never really had any confidence.
There’s always great big mirrors in the weight section, and I know that they’re there to ensure you’re using good form, but I’ve always hated looking at them. I see my soft, rounded self interloping amongst all of these titans. Even though they aren’t, I’ve felt they are looking at me and chuckling, knowing that I’m only a temporary nuisance in their precious gym space. Of course, all of these muscular dudes had to start somewhere, and perhaps their starting point was in a place fatter than I currently am, but the present-day scenario is that I am way behind everyone I see in the mirror. And I’m thinking that they’re all looking at me, scoffing at how I shouldn’t be there because I’m fat.
Of course, they never actually think that, and if they do, then they probably have more self-esteem issues than I ever will. I know that it’s been my own careless, wandering mind and lack of self-confidence that has put those thoughts into the minds of the other weight lifters. It’s always been me, and I will freely admit to that. Being new in the weight section of the gym is intimidating even with a good sense of self worth, let alone feeling like you’re a fat guy who can only bench toothpicks. Plus, I’ve always been around people trying to gain muscle and weight, whereas my plan at the gym before was always to lose weight. I’d only go to the weight section to try a different form of exercise. And whenever my minimal efforts resulted in an unchanging number on the scale, I’d inevitably retreat from the weight section, ready to embrace the solitude of the line of treadmills, where everyone is just staring at television screens, lost in their own worlds. And, as I’ve said before, I hate treadmills, so it would not take much longer after that for me to simply stop going to the gym altogether.
But this time it was different. This time, these past four visits to the gym, something changed, and I’ll tell you what it was: this time, I went in as a Viking. I might not yet look like a typical Viking, but the spirit is in there. And I will not let the flame of my Viking spirit die anytime soon.
Although I swear it almost killed me this week.
The gym membership I got came with a complimentary personal training session with someone who looks like a full-blown gorilla. When it came to the pre-workout interview, I told him all about my Viking goals. He loved the enthusiasm. I told him that I already had worked out twice, and both workouts were for different parts of my upper body. I admitted that I was sore to the point of not being able to effectively scratch my back or fasten a seatbelt within a minute. He thanked me for the heads up and announced that it was going to be “leg day.” I felt fairly confident in this.
I like my legs. They’re easily the most disproportionately muscular part of my body. They have carried me through thousands of miles of running over the past seven years, and they’ve never complained. If my arms could do half of the work my legs can do, then these particular blog entries wouldn’t be happening. I felt confident in my abilities to keep up with whatever this guy was going to throw at me during “leg day.”
And I was right. At first.
He started out just making me do squats, obviously underestimating me based on the fact that I’m shaped like a muffin. But soon enough he caught on to the secret my legs held. He decided to push me hard. I decided to dig deep into my Viking spirit and keep up with whatever he threw at me. I was sprinting on a resistance treadmill, I was bending in all directions while holding weights, I was doing wall sits, lunges, dips, and all sorts of shit that actually made me feel tension in my ass muscles. I have never, I am happy to say, felt tension and pain in my ass muscles before.
When I would keep up, this dude just pushed me harder. The workout was only a half hour, but it felt like ages. But I dug down and finished the entire workout. I was proud of myself.
When it was over, he invited me back to his office to “talk about the workout.” What this actually meant was “talk about the kinds of results I could get if I paid $200/month for personal training.” He told me to drink a bunch of water before meeting him in his office, and then he walked off.
Thank God he did.
I needed a few moments. My legs were more wobbly than they were right before I fell and hit my face on a curb outside of a strip club during my bachelor party (another story for another time). I stood, wobbled over to the drinking fountain, and chugged water. I was sweating faster than I could drink. My head felt numb. Then, the nausea. For whatever reason, despite these feelings, I still made it back to the office for the sales pitch.
I remember it just raining sweat all around me, saturating a little pool around this guy’s guest chair and carpet. The nausea was getting worse, and I politely tried to maintain eye contact with one eye while searching this guys office for a trash can with another. He kept blathering on and on about how I did great and how I could get real results in three months just by investing $50/week. I could barely pay attention. His pitch seemed to be going on longer than the workout, although it was perhaps two minutes long. He was a nice dude, and I’m often too nice, so I let him finish his pitch. He finally said, “So what do you think? Do you want to get started today?”
I hummed for a few seconds, just testing to see if sound passing through my vocal cords would be the final push my nausea needed to come to fruition. When I didn’t throw up from humming, I mustered saying the most articulate thing I could think to say:
“I think I have to ask my wife about it, and maybe throw up.”
His eyes bulged a little.
“Woah. Are you okay?”
I nodded and gave another quick hum.
“Yeah. But I gotta go. Sorry I drenched your office.”
I’m a nice guy. I apologized before leaving his office. I would’ve ran to the bathroom, but my legs didn’t work. Instead, I hobbled across the fitness room floor before finding the restroom, giving one dry heave into a toilet, and then instantly feeling a little better. I sat on the toilet and breathed deep. I wondered, “Do I want to feel this way for only $50/week?”
I shook my head no, and waddled home as though I had just finished a four-hour horse ride.
This is why it hurt to sit down to write this. Now, I’m too sore to buckle a seat belt and tie my shoe.
But I’m seriously proud of myself. I might be sore, but I’m always sore after I first start weight training. The trick is to keep going. I will keep going.
It appears that I have turned on a light for a few others with my warrior-like approach. This week has been uncontrollably busy, so I’m sorry that I haven’t been writing on here for a bit, especially with the response I’ve gotten. It seems that there are others out there with the Viking spirit. I’ve had a few others reach out and tell me that they want in, or are encouraged by my attitude. I thank you for that, and perhaps we can all keep one another motivated. We might have just been let out from the starting gate as far as our health goals are concerned, but we are VIKINGS, damnit!
We all have our goals, and it’s okay to be completely crap at those tasks right now. As I’ve said, doing the monkey bars is my goal, and I assure you, I’m currently awful at them. I can’t even do a pull up, and my belly hangs out when I attempt the monkey bars, as can be seen in this video:
And although I totally just bit it at the monkey bars, I am proud of myself for putting the video of that failure up for all to see. Perhaps there are others out there like me who need motivation, and perhaps seeing someone else suck at something, show the world that they suck at it, and then proclaim that one day they will no longer suck at it is inspiring. I know that there aren’t enough videos of people who are at my (lack of) fitness level showing off their starting point out there. I plan on making progress videos in my journey toward monkey bar dominance. I just need to keep going, stay a Viking, and be patient with the change.
Here’s to continuing on the journey. Here’s to the videos of the after. Here’s to progress. Here’s to all of you. Thanks for reading, and thanks for your support.