Building blisters: six weeks of personal training
After years of failing at fitness, I decided in August that I was going to get a personal trainer. I had a couple months to kill of just doing nothing while looking for an apartment and working, so I figured I’d jump on the investment and actually try to make the time worth it.
Previously, what had kept me from a more steady schedule was either injuring myself, losing motivation, or never really having it in the first place. My health and physical fitness was something I knew should want to improve, but the desire was never really there when the chips were down. Even now, if I’m still faced with the choice of spending the afternoon comfortable at home or going to the gym, I’m not seizing that opportunity to improve.
And I guess that’s what this blog is about.
I have little foundational strength. Years of sedentary desk work hasn’t given me the opportunity to do the activity that would keep that muscle as part of my day-to-day, and recently I’ve even dropped the long walks that would burn some calories during a daily commute. So I decided to change that, mostly because I wanted to make sure that at some point in my life I would feel like I was really in my physical prime.
When I started with my trainer, I was actually pleasantly surprised because he was a fairly nice guy who knew exactly what I wanted: to educate myself so I would be able to make my own decisions in the gym later. So, after 16 sessions, I feel a little bit better, can feel a bit stronger, and marginally have an idea of what to do.
I don’t regret the time or money spent there. I don’t think of it as an investment that I now “need to make worth it” by continuing. I just kind of… do it, even if it can take me a couple hours to force myself to get there.
For a while while learning about lifting I had this weird thing where I was insistent on working with barbells, mostly because I found that it was easy to compartmentalize (five exercises to Stronglifts 5×5, less to worry about). The thing was, I would consistently plateau, injure myself, or be overly worried about hurting my back or knees.
During the sessions, we didn’t really touch barbells until later, and I think it’s a good thing; I kind of broke this conditioning thinking that machines or dumbbells were inferior. A lot of the reading that Reddit will recommend kind of shies away from machines because they’re supposedly less good for building supporting muscles (since the machine keeps you locked to a certain motion). The thing is, while that might be true, I wasn’t at the point of my fitness journey where that decision even mattered.
By committing to that way of thinking, I was locking myself into a situation that wasn’t working for me. Even if I wanted to get back there eventually, I needed to swallow my pride, admit that I had work to do, and do it.
That pride is something that’s a common thread, I guess. Going to the gym when you know you have work to do is a series of reminders that you are inadequate, and facing that fact every time you’re in that locker room is hard. Obviously that goes away with more confidence and seeing progress, but it’s something that I think I struggle with in a couple facets of my life. It keeps me apathetic and hesitant to actually try.
It’s been a week since my last session, and I’ve gone three further times without a trainer being there. I’ve just followed what he wrote out for me; I haven’t lapsed, given up, or stopped pushing myself. I feel like I have some definition in my shoulders and chest where there wasn’t any before. That feels good.
It doesn’t… energize me, though — even thought I feel like the progress should ping a part of my brain that connects some dots and says “hey, this is actually a thing you should care about!” I still struggle to get off my ass.
Part of what I’m looking for is something that ignites a fire inside me so that I want to just dive in and let myself be surrounded by that project or effort. I haven’t found it yet — that’s pretty much why I’ve put off trying to get better at anything competitive in video games, like Dota or Street Fighter.
But part of this — and perhaps why I was able to keep pushing myself — is realizing that just turning my brain off and doing it because it’s there is enough. It doesn’t have to be the plan I think I should be doing. It doesn’t have to be partnered by a perfect diet. It doesn’t have to be accompanied by a romantic goal or vision of myself, or doesn’t have to yet. For now, it can just be something I do because I know it will be objectively good for me.
And I guess that’s all it needs to be. For now.
Matt Demers writes about video games, culture and the Internet. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You can watch him stream on Twitch. You can pick up his new book, Event Content Planning for Esports, on Gumroad.
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