Strength Training for the Soul: Lessons from Hot Chicks and Ripped Dudes

January 4, 2017

 

Previously published on Medium.

 

I’ve never been a fan of flashy group work-out classes. As an avid runner for a few years now, I enjoy my weekly solo runs and time spent moving through the weight machines at the gym. However, I’d recently seen so much on social media about Barry’s Boot Camp — the photos of attractive, young, fit, smiling people working out in crop tops and tight black spandex pants, I started to consider attending a class. If Barry’s was trying to convince me that working out at Barry’s was sexy, it was working. They just opened in Chicago and with the holiday break I had some free time, so I was going to give it a shot.

 

When the day finally came I found myself struggling to get dressed. I go to the gym 4x a week and run 5x a week. I never struggle or think twice about what to wear. Yet, I started to reconsider after every photo I have ever seen of people working out at Barry’s showed women looking nearly night-club ready, even after the workout. Going anywhere new is challenging for most people. Being out of our comfort zone generally stirs up some internal self-awareness. When it comes to the gym, where the focus is on our bodies, self-confidence and other insecurities get’s stirred up as well. I did my best and put on my newest gear, including my new Nike training shoes (side note, I love these shoes!), and headed to class.

 

Barry’s interior is exactly what one assumes; it’s a slick open space with cement floors, black accents, minimal details, and of course a Fuel Bar for post-work out shakes. I easily found my way to the second floor and checked in. There was a clique of girls leaning up against the gray cement wall. The five girls were clearly friends, laughing, all while pretending not to be aware of their enviable physiques. They were the girls with those perfect lifted rounded asses in tight black pants, like the girl in all the photos. They we comfortable enough with their tiny figures to wear sports bras, backless shirts, and although we were working out they still managed the morning make-up routine. Total truth, I could feel myself judging both them, and myself.

 

As I walked into the dark red-lit workout room and stepped on my assigned treadmill I could fill my nerves creeping up on me. What if I get tired? What if I can’t finish? What if I can run fast enough? To make matters worse, the only guy in the class walked in nearly naked. No joke. He was long and lean, taller than six feet, and only wore a tiny pair of workout shorts. He walked through the room confidently, and took the treadmill two stations away from me. Only one thing crossed my mind — “WTF. What is with this place?”

 

I had little time to dwell. Within seconds, the trainer walked into the room and we were running. The music was blasting and we moved from speed drills on the treadmill to the floor for targeted strength training. It didn’t take long before I was sweating and my focus quickly shifted to breathing while running up inclines.

 

Truth be told, all my uncomfortableness and insecurity left within 20 minutes into the class. Everyone, hot chicks and the super-fit dude included, were running at their own pace. Some were sweating and some people stopped for breaks. It no longer mattered what we looked like, what we weighed, or what we were wearing. We were all working toward individual fitness goals, yet working together.

 

After the classes ended, some other classmates gave each other high-fives. As I pulled my sweatshirt back over my head, there was a hand waiting for me in front of my face; the short-shorts guy was waiting for me to give him a fist-bump. Fist-bump granted.

 

I was reminded that often times in life the biggest challenges aren’t the physical tasks at hand, but the mental roadblocks that stand in our way. Sometimes that hardest part of working out isn’t the workout. It isn’t the long run or the speed training. The struggle isn’t with getting up early to go lift weights, nor is the hardest part actually lifting weight. To be honest, sometimes the hardest part to working out is getting comfortable around others. It’s the self-doubt that quickly creeps in when you stand at the starting line of a race, and it’s the insecurity and inferiority you feel when you walk into a new gym and size-up everyone around you.

 

Just like strength training for the body, sometimes we need strength training for the soul. Feeling uncomfortable isn’t always a bad thing. It reminds us to reassess ourselves and recommit to our goals. So next time you feel those uncomfortable feelings swelling up inside, start here:

 

Acknowledge Your Feelings: When feelings of doubt, fear, and/or insecurity creep up on you, pause and acknowledge your feelings. The only way to address an issue is to tackle it honestly, so be honest with yourself.

 

Ask Yourself Why: Take a second to ask yourself why you are having these feelings. Is it because you don’t look the same as the other people around you? You weigh more? You weight less? You don’t have the same gear? Are you afraid you won’t be as fast or as strong as the others around you. The root of your feelings matter, so stop and consider what surrounding circumstances are affecting you.

 

Remind Yourself Of Your Goals: Self-improvement. You are putting in effort to improve yourself. Whether you are trying to improve a PR, trying to shed a few pounds, or trying to increase your strength, all of these goals are centered around one common goal of improving yourself. Regardless of any answer to the second question, self improvement isn’t dependent on clothes, weight, speed or strength. The key to self-improvement is your effort, and the most important factor is that you try.

 

Just Do It: The Nike tagline holds so much truth; take a step of faith and give 100%. By the time your workout is over, you’ll be more aware of your accomplishments and less aware of the circumstances around you. Those not-so-pleasant feelings will have subsided. Promise.

 

I’m going back to Barry’s. It’s not the most comfortable place for me yet, but the work out did kick my ass so I’m going to keep trying.

 

image Women's Running Magazine 

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