A metal bar with two round weighted circles holds more power than meets the eye. To my friend Karen she saw in that innate piece of gym equipment an intimidating reminder of what she couldn’t yet do on her own in her life. Karen is a successful woman by anyone’s standards. She has a career, two children, a loving marriage, and had already lost 40lbs as part of a mom weight loss group.
Each program Karen was given by a trainer used dumbbells not the barbell, and so she continued to dubiously eye up her opponent at the gym.
At 5 a.m. one morning, I sat on the edge of a weight bench in the gym ready to lean back into my barbell chest press and I thought of Karen. Years had passed since I felt like the gym was anything other than my second home, a safe haven, and a spot for sweat therapy. But that morning I remembered my former self, a woman who was new to the weight room, unsure of her surroundings and most significantly unsure of herself. I leaned all the way back on the bench, positioned myself under the loaded barbell, grasped the metal bar with my gloved hands, breathed in, and pushed. I pushed for me and I pushed for Karen.
I told Karen I had picked up the barbell in her honour that morning and expected her to join me soon. Karen promised she was getting her nerve up and soon would venture out to the co-ed weight room to go toe-to-toe with the barbell.
A couple weeks passed and Karen wrote: “Well I did it – I picked up the barbell for my squats today! Wow! I loved it. I was able to squat deeper than I ever have and really felt it in my legs…I felt like superwoman!!”
And then the next week Karen wrote “I did my entire program on the ‘boys’ side of the gym today! I used equipment I’ve never used before. I’m feeling good after stepping way out of my comfort zone. Baby-steps but I’m making progress.”
And then the next week Karen wrote “I feel so empowered, I taught myself how to use the smith machine today and was able to add more plates! I became less and less self-conscious as the workout went on. I’m feeling so good. This is just the beginning for me.”
And then Karen wrote what I know is really the game-changer when it comes to lasting health & fitness:
“If I can keep this powerful feeling going, then I know anything is possible and my dreams will happen!”
I grinned from ear to ear, and felt my own sense of empowerment start to vibrate. The barbell was the same as it was before, but with a single shift of perspective Karen grabbed a hold of her power and was different. Karen was empowered.
Recently Karen beautifully shared “I have always been self-conscious of my legs. I’ve always thought of them as thick and big. Last week I took a huge step out of my comfort zone and bought the shortest workout shorts I’ve ever bought in my life and today I actually wore them! For the first time I looked in the mirror and loved the athletic legs I saw. I can see my hard work paying off and I wasn’t self-conscious at all. It may seem silly but for me wearing short workout shorts in public is a giant leap for me!”
Karen shows how each small action builds, just like moments build time into years and years into decades. Yet we often feel the answers in our own health and fitness are beyond our own knowledge and abilities. That somehow exercise and food has become so complicated it is best left to the direction by experts. So we give up our power.
But who is the expert on your health? Your doctor? The nutritionist that has 10 accreditations behind his name? What about that lady who writes all those books? She must know what you should do. And really who are you to know more than they do? You’re just a busy average woman who maybe has a kid or two (or three), so it’s probably best to let the experts point you in the right direction.
You see Karen grasped what is the key to lasting health the day she chose to allow her fear and uncertainty to keep her company while she picked up that barbell. Empowerment. The power to choose and the power to act.