HomeHealthFitnessWorking Out at a Strength Gym Has Been Great

Working Out at a Strength Gym Has Been Great

Even though I believe in full body liberation and fat freedom, I don’t like to talk about my “I’ve been fat all my life” baggage. It’s actually become a weird thing. I certainly don’t mind talking about my fatness or the ways this world wasn’t built for me or people like me, but I hate going deeper than that. The truth is that for many of us who have gained weight, our lives have been filled with one traumatic body-related event after another. Everything that could help keep the human body healthy in the long run – watching the quality and quantity of food you eat, exercising regularly, drinking water, etc. – all turn into an oppressive, perverse system of limitations if you a fat kid forced to lose weight. And my experiences are exactly the same.

I can’t remember the first time I went on a diet as a kid, but I know I was younger than 10. I was an active kid who played both rec league and school sports and was constantly cycling and skating with my friends, but none of it held me on to what doctors and my family would have considered a healthy weight or appearance. You can’t diagnose something more than 24 years from when it actually happens, but I’m pretty sure it was mostly my entire family’s lifestyle and financial shifts that caused this. Over the years, doctors and therapists have urged me to remember when I started eating emotionally because they always assume that happens. But I’ve never been an “emotional eater” or a “binge binge.” I also don’t have any chronic illnesses, hormonal issues, or issues with my thyroid, which makes it hard for these people to answer a question that has an obvious answer for me. Why am I fat? Well, I have a fat body. And I’m supposed to live in that fat body. Of course, this isn’t an answer they would ever come up with as it doesn’t fit with the stories and treatments they are selling.

When I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my left knee this year, I knew that one of the first things the orthopedic doctor would mention was my weight. And he did. Very carefully, knowing full well that losing weight could not heal my knee, but it did relieve it some of the pain and problems I had. After our appointment, I did some research myself and found that every pound you weigh puts three pounds of pressure on your knees and that for people with osteoarthritis in their knees, every pound they lose takes four pounds of pressure off. As much as I wanted to say “Fuck this shit” to everything I read, I couldn’t deny the reality that my knee hurt horribly, my mobility was limited, and I had to find ways to change that without relying on cortisone alone . injections in my knee.

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I knew I was going to fight a lot while doing this process. Usually I would have to learn to silence many thought processes that try to take over when I think about the way I eat and how much I exercise. And I should avoid falling into a cycle of self-flagellation that I learned from my nearly two decades of yo-yo dieting. I wanted to rebuild my relationships with these things, but it felt like I had to be careful about how I did that as well. I turned to one of my best friends who competes in strength training competitions and whose hard-won healthy relationship with exercise makes him an extremely knowledgeable and compassionate person to talk about this sort of thing. When I told him I was thinking about strength training to help combat the degeneration that was and would continue to occur in my knee, he encouraged me to go for it and connected me with his strength coach to help me get started.

Within a few weeks at the strength gym I experienced something very special. Strength sports are not about vanity or perfection or thinness. In fact, they are more about the exact opposite. It’s all about progression, about getting stronger and pushing yourself further, but not at a speed your body can’t handle. Going too fast or pushing yourself too far beyond your limits puts you at risk for injury, and injuries can negate your progress. In the strength gym, no one judges you on your size or doubts your ability; they compliment you on how much better your squats have gotten since you started or tell you that you’ll get it the next time you can’t achieve something.

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It’s easy to exercise there because it makes everyone feel comfortable, which definitely alleviates some of the anxiety I had about this process in general, but I’d be lying if I said exercising was a beautiful, magical experience for me . I keep jokingly asking everyone when the supposed endorphin rush of it all is supposed to kick in, and I joke about how my brain must be broken because all I want to do after exercise is cry or sleep. I’ve been consistent because I know it’s necessary, but it’s really one of the hardest times of my day, and I never see anyone talk about how this shit isn’t much fun most of the time. That being said, there are of course some exercises I prefer to do over others, and the ones I hate, well, I really hate them.

Regressive pull ups

As my strength coach Vinny always says, “Any exercise can be reversed.” But honestly, maybe some just shouldn’t? Like pull ups. I used to think pull-ups were the hardest, toughest exercise a person could do. I’m sure you know what I mean… you’ve seen the movies where a stern looking character jumps up, grabs a bar and starts pulling himself up forcefully. Yes, this is not exactly so, but the idea is that maybe, could be one day I will (probably not). For now, these hurt my hands a lot and make me feel like my heart is about to beat out of my chest.

Battle ropes

People seem to love this, and I get the appeal. You literally swing your arms around, and you can get some satisfaction from hitting the heavy rope on the floor. They have been proven to improve flexibility and endurance. But overall, these just bored me to death. They are also not nearly as satisfying as sledgehammer tires.

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Barbell Squats

I’m really going to keep it with you all… I usually just hate them because I can’t do this one very well yet. I know you’re probably looking at a barbell squat and imagining it’s the amount of weight that makes it hard, but I’m here to tell you you’re wrong. Zercher squats, goblet squats, dumbbell squats, I can do it all, no problem. But barbell squats? No. Barbell squats change your entire center of gravity because your arms and shoulders must be locked back to support the barbell on your back. Every time I try to do them I feel like I’m going to fall right back and break my neck on the bar when I fall.

Dead insects

Have you watched the video? OK, then you understand why they are damn bad.

Push the sled

Everyone who knows me has heard of the sled. This shit is horrible. Yes, awful. Look, I know it seems like it’s not a big deal. I know it seems like there are more difficult exercises, and there certainly are. BUT pushing the sled? I don’t know how to explain it. Actually yes. Okay, so I disagree with George Orwell’s general message Animal farm or something else, but do you guys remember Boxer? Boxer slowly worked his way to death. That’s what pushing the sled gives me. It makes me feel like I could fall over and die at any moment. But I think it’s good for my mobility and stamina or whatever.

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