I lift, bro

Ugga Rarr Grrh Hnng Ugga Rrrr!

Me Connor. Me man. Me lift like a bro. Rarr.

I must have been in my big, friendly, gay-friendly London gym about 100 times. But I’d never been in the weights room until today. It’s an actual room. Like there’s the gym and then you have to go through a door to the weights room. It’s like they want you to be intimidated by all the sweaty muscly men in sleeveless tops grunting under barbells.

Back in 2008 I had a personal trainer. I paid a fortune to go to a one-to-one gym. And there was a muscular young straight trainer there who used to flirt outrageously with me. Sometimes, I’m not sure if people are flirting; but when a man is standing between your legs, holding your feet down while you do crunches and he looks up your shorts and says “Cool jocks, man” when he sees your colorful underpants, then that is definitively flirting.

I loved the one-to-one gym. Loved it. It wasn’t just having muscular men stand between my legs, helping me stretch my things and squeezing my biceps that I liked. It was partly the luxury. The giant fluffy towels, the expensive shower gels and body lotions, the fact you had a whole gym to yourself. But also, it was that I was good at it.

I was good at weightlifting and strength training. OK. That’s an exaggeration. I wasn’t good. But I wasn’t terrible. They told me I was strong. And maybe they were just telling me that in the interests of good customer relations, in the same way they only complimented my underwear in the interests of customer satisfaction but I chose to believe them. And it was funny seeing myself being good at something so masculine.

I am stupidly emotional about sports. Even now, at the age of almost 37 and a half, I’m still terrified of football. I was walking through a park the other day and the noise of teenage boys kicking a football set my heart racing and I could feel my chest tightening and I had to fight the urge to just leave the park. I have no rational reason to fear boys kicking a football, but I fear it nonetheless. But while I hate sports at a deep and emotional level, I find myself loving exercise at a deep and emotional level too. Long-term readers of this blog will remember various breakthroughs I’ve had while running or swimming or boxing. Weightlifting doesn’t bring me to that place but it brings me somewhere emotional too.

Today, I went to the gym and started out with a twenty-minute warm-up on an elliptical trainer. For all my enthusiasm for running, my joints just can’t face it right now. Then, I went through the intimidating door into the intimidating weights room.

One of the things I like about weightlifting is that there’s lots to learn. And I do like a project. I do like researching something to death. (My next blogpost is likely to be about me buying my first goldfish and no one has ever researched fish as much as I have in the last two weeks.)

Anyway, I love swotting up and learning different lifts and moves and all that. Strength training is kind of like dancing in that respect.

I started with a shoulder press and picked weights that were way too heavy. I managed 12 reps but did nearly topple backwards. I did some back rows. Then I lay on a bench and did some a set of chest reps. The next bit was the most embarrassing bit. I couldn’t stand back up. A weights bench is super narrow and I don’t have the core strength to go from lying on my back to sitting up. I can only get out of bed in the mornings by levering myself up to a sitting position with my hands. I lay stranded on the weights bench. I vaguely considered calling for help but felt too silly. In the end, I rolled off, I deliberately fell on the floor and was then able to lever myself back up to a standing position using the bench.

Did that stop me? No! Rarrr! I did another set of shoulders, backs and chests. But for the second set of chest presses I raised the bench so I wasn’t lying completely flat. It worked out fine. I didn’t have to roll off onto the floor again.

Once I was done with my chest, back and shoulders, I proved that I have an inner Popeye by doing some bicep curls and some tricep exercises that I can’t remember the name of.

Feeling ridiculously proud of myself, I showered and then sat in the shallow end of the swimming pool to bring my temperature back down to normal.

I love new exercise endorphins. That feeling of being surprised by happiness and of just having little thrills and jolts of pleasure shooting through your body. I haven’t felt that in a while.

I was actually stupidly happy. As I walked up the hill home from the bus, I found myself crying. Crying because I felt in control of my life at last. Everything’s been such a fight for the last few months. And suddenly everything felt right and it felt easy and I felt in charge of myself again. And feeling in control of your own life is empowering.

I cry easily. I cry from being happy as much as from being sad, but tonight was my first time happy-crying since my dad died. It’s all been sad-crying for the last eight months. But not tonight. And I know all I did was lift something over my head 36 times. But sometimes that’s all it takes to come back to yourself and to feel right and tonight, I felt right.

Let’s keep this feeling.

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