I was cleaning some stuff up this morning (hey, it happens sometimes) when I came across a pile of dumbells and little interchangeable plates. I pulled them all out from their hiding place in the dark recesses under my desk and looked at them, sitting there in the sunlight. My husband turned from what he was doing and saw them sitting on the floor. “Wow,” he said. “Remember when you bought those? I bet the you from back then wouldn’t even recognize you today.”
Because what I found under my desk was my very first set of weights. I bought them from Canadian Tire in 1998, along with a workout video on strength training. I bought them because even though I detested exercise, part of me knew that I needed to get stronger if I was going to be able to live with myself – see, at that point I was 21 years old, dangerously obese, and slowly but surely losing my mind because of back pain. At that point I was also investigating the possibility of breast reduction surgery because clearly that was the only permanent solution to the consistent ache between my shoulder blades.
So I did the first 15-minute section of that workout video a couple of times. I was doing 1-arm dumbbell rows with a 6lb dumbbell (for context I use ten times that today) and it was hard work. It temporarily relieved the pain in my back, but it made me feel weak and angry and my muscles hurt for days afterward…so I stopped. Fuck that shit; it wasn’t fun. I was just not an exercise girl.
Here’s the thing though: exercise is a skill. Getting better at it takes patience and practice and time. It’s uncomfortable and it sucks sometimes…but a big part of why it sucks is that we have this idea that we *should* be able to just do it (because who’s heard that slogan before?). But consider this: nobody ever air-dropped into the Kalahari and was suddenly fluent in Khoisan. Nobody ever picked up a trumpet and was able to play it well the first time. When you learn a new skill, you have to start at the beginning. You have to suck for a little while; that’s what makes getting better worth the effort – if you started out awesome then you’d never see progress and how fun would that be?
Start where you are. Adjust your expectations. Learn. Play. And most importantly, don’t quit.