My health journey—and I still wouldn’t call myself healthy—has been a series of more downs than ups, by which I mean “I like food and hate physical activity.” I did well on Weight Watchers in 2011 and have had some success with exercise on a treadmill, but I stopped being diligent and all the weight came back, plus some.
Last July, I found that I was nearly too overweight for Cedar Point. In fact, two park workers literally had to squeeze me into one ride. Around the same time someone published an article about how almost all the people who lost weight on The Biggest Loser had regained it and more; the gist was that to sustain weight loss, you had to focus on continuing to build muscle. It couldn’t be a once-and-done thing. Which led me to conclude that I needed a serious lifestyle change, and the only way that was going to happen was if I joined a cult.
So, having watched several people post excitedly about their workouts, I found myself at the tail end of August 2016 stepping inside a gym for the first time since probably 2003 or so, and lifting serious weights for the first time ever. Exactly a year ago today, I did my first full workout, and I haven’t looked back since. I hope to never look back. I remain one of the slowest people at my gym, lifting some of the lightest weights, but I’m stronger and healthier than I’ve ever been.
This particular poem was part of last November’s Poem-a-Day challenge; the prompt was “If I’d only.” My theme was “If I’d only started this sooner.” The particular move described here is called the Thruster; normally we wouldn’t have to pause, but our coach always has us review the moves a few times before we actually start the workout. The photo is of me last October doing a front squat; I have better form and can go heavier than the 55 lbs. pictured here. I used it because it’s (unfortunately) the most recent photo I have.
Also worth noting: for being a sonnet about a weightlifting move, I like this more than I remembered or expected.
November 3, 2016
The flooring has a certain kind of scent
Of dirty socks and chalk and unwiped sweat
That drips from every pore, and leaves a wet
Stain on my tee shirt. My knees—creaking. Bent
Down in a squat, I hold the technique bar—
Just fifteen pounds!—against my shoulder blades.
But I am weak. My strength begins to fade.
“Keep elbows up—now hold it where you are—
And up!” The coach’s voice triggers release.
I spring upright. I lock my elbows out,
The bar above my head. I hear the shout:
“Bars down. Load weight.” Somehow I’ve made my peace
With sacrificing sleep and comfy bed
To get up early and grow strong instead.