Lifting Weights and My Confidence

Weightlifting was doing more for my mind and body than just building muscle.

Shortly after the moving last summer and stopping my regular boot-camp-style workouts, I noticed the return of some resistance to exercise. Specifically weightlifting, which I had grown to love. Burpees, jumping jacks, pushups I could do, anything body weight, really, but picking up the weights made me nervous.

The kettlebell press was a breeze in June 2013. (Photo by Stephanie Glaros.)

The kettlebell press was a breeze in June 2013. (Photo by Stephanie Glaros.)

For about three years, I had been weightlifting with a personal trainer and then with a small group under the watchful eye of said personal trainer. I would occasionally work out and lift weights on my own, but since my group met three times — and we’d lift heavy, which was empowering (and led to faster results) — I usually relied on that time alone for my weekly exercise.

Then after the shift in my program, I’d swing a kettlebell but ventured less into the weight room. I started to doubt my ability to lift, and lift heavy, and fear kept me thinking I’d hurt myself without proper supervision. If I were just starting out, it’s a valid concern, but I had been doing this for a while.

Thoughtful rationale wasn’t in charge. It was my own fear, my own slowly lowering self-esteem that told me I couldn’t. It’s been hanging on throughout the winter, and I’ve been trying to trace its roots so I can exterminate.

My conclusion? The simple fact that I stopped lifting weights. When I was regularly lifting weights, I felt strong not just in the gym but in life. Since I’ve stopped lifting or only been sporadic, I’ve started to feel less confident overall, old body-image issues have cropped up, and I hesitated in going to the gym at all because I felt unsure of what to do while I was there.

So I asked for help. I started meeting with a personal trainer again, and recently, I nearly accomplished one of my goals I shared with him when I started. Even though I used to lift heavy, I don’t recall being able to go big for deadlifts. I told trainer Mike that I wanted to get to 100 pounds, then eventually the same amount as my body weight.

We started with the 45-pound bar so he could watch my form. So far so good, just a few issues in loosening my lower back at the bottom of the squat, so we remedied. Then he added weight so I could lift 65 pounds. All good.

Then — THEN! — Mike suggested I just lift a bar at 95 pounds, just hold it up off the rack to get a feel for the weight. When I did and said it wasn’t too heavy, we decided to have me give it a try.

And then, my friends, not only did I complete one rep at 95 pounds, I completed two. Two! Huzzah!

That weekend, I felt happier, lighter, prouder, and a bit invincible. What’s that? Problem at the mill, old boy? I’ll be the hero! I did deadlift 95 pounds, after all.

My confidence was improved, my muscles, however, were sore. My quads were so sore, in fact, that I hobbled around for nearly a week. (That’s one way to deflate this newly rebuilt confidence.) Alas, more dynamic stretching, foam rolling, and no doubt, more squats and deadlifts will be needed in the future to make my body more comfortable. But, man, it sure feels good to regain that power.

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Courtney Lewis Opdahl