Friday, June 6, 2014

The Best Conversation Starters Are Somewhere Between Ridiculous and Amazing

In case you haven't been paying attention to my Facebook page, I've been eagerly awaiting the arrival of my very own women's olympic weight lifting bar.  The YMCAs I work with haven't added these bars to their arsenals yet. I requested a few times, but it hasn't happened, and honestly, I need something I can practice techniques with at home so.... I'm now the proud, and incredibly goofy, owner of a Bella 2.0 Bar from Rogue! In fact, I was so excited, I decided to throw a little break-the-bar-in dance party in my kitchen. Ya know, I think the world is missing out on a serious synchronized lifting sport here... What do you think?

Alright, that goofiness aside, I really do love having it at my disposal. (Don't mind the bandages... the box bit me as I tried to get it out.) Much like my laptop, my jump rope, and my "I Love Nerds" Mickey Mouse backpack, it's pretty much a constant companion. Of course, I couldn't wait to break it in "at the office".

So that's exactly what I did. Today, I walked into one of the YMCAs for an appointment with Trainer Guy, parking in my usual - farthest away from the door - parking spot. (I don't believe in going to the gym just to be lazy and not walk the extra 30 feet or so to the car, so I leave the spots closer to the door for those carting kiddoes.) There I am, trucking through the parking lot, carrying my Bella Bar 2.0 across my back.

Sunglasses on, headphones in, I either looked like I owned the neighborhood, or (more likely) that I was a crazy person who was going to the gym, but wouldn't touch 'community' equipment.

Neither were true. I walked in the door, feeling slightly ridiculous as I balanced my bar, dug out my key tag, and took off my earbuds. I said hi to the staff and scanned my card.

Then the conversation started.

The two ladies working behind the counter were obviously curious about me carrying in my own bar. The older gal walked over and asked me about it. I explained it's a women's bar, and the YMCA doesn't carry them yet, so until they do, I'll bring my own. She asked what was different about it, and I went into the explanation of the difference in the grip and, yes, it's SLIGHTLY lighter. It's more the diameter that I am interested in though, as I've been training with Men's Olympic bars for the past year and half nearly exclusively anyway. (Women's bars weigh 15kg - roughly 33 pounds, while Mens' weigh 20kg - or roughly 44 pounds.) Put simply, women's bars are safer for folks with smaller hands because there is less chance they'll drop it on themselves due to slipping grips (and in my opinion, the lighter weight may actually help women who are more timid or afraid of barbells, bringing it down to a manageable feat).

Breaking in the bar at the gym, along with time, work, and some further education in Olympic lifting has transformed my overhead squats. As a quick reminder - when I started figuring out how to do these things, they looked like this in March (45lbs):

While they weren't the worst in the world, I was obviously a tad off balance, and often times the bar itself was too far behind my head, and my spine was a little bit curvy, and they aren't very deep... okay, yes. It's true. I'm my own worst critic. But everyone has to start somewhere - right?!
Left -'celebrating' hitting 200 lbs, and feeling miserable because I still didn't fit into the clothes I liked
Right - Just an average day, only 5 lbs lighter, but light-year's stronger, happier, and healthier!
You never know. Often times, it's those little, short moments that can ripple and grow into bigger things. The sharing of knowledge is never a bad thing. Like when Trainer Guy mentioned getting an Olympic Lifting Certification, I already knew I was going to aim for a certification this year (at least one... though I'm now staring down 2 more I'm itching to get my hands on as well...). That tiny thought grew pretty quickly into "Let's do this thing," and now, it's not only improved my lifting (as evidenced by today's work out seen below - of the same overhead squat technique only 85lbs - and some body fat % later) but it's given me something I can pass on to others as well.

 A similar thing happened on my way OUT of the gym. (What can I say? Between my "This is why I Squat" shirt and my Bella bar, I kinda stand out!)

This time, an older gentlemen approached me on my way out, and asked if that was my bar. (No doubt he thought he might be detouring a would-be-barbell-thief). I said answered with a smile, a nod, and said it was my bar. He didn't fight my reply. In fact, he approached me and noticed that (a) the Bella bar looks very different from the bars the YMCA has, so I was probably telling the truth, and (b) the bar had a significantly narrower diameter than he was accustomed to seeing at the gym. We got to chatting about it and even lined up hands. His fingers were shorter and rounder than mine, which explained why the hook grip troubled him on Men's barbells. We went on to talk for a few moments and it ended up something like this -
Older Gent: huh... that's neat. You sound like you really know your stuff.
Me: Thanks! I'm a certified Olympic Lifting coach and an athlete.
Older Gent: Oh! So you don't just LOOK like a badass; you're a legitmate one!
Me: (laugh) Thanks! I'm working on it!
Have a great work out! 

It completely made my day. I didn't feel ridiculous at all carrying my bar to the car. It was all amazing.

But, as crazy as it sounds, it didn't stop there!  I stopped off at a local Hallmark for a card or two and the woman behind the counter asked me "What do you do to stay in shape?" She said I "looked like the type". Before I could answer, she started asking if I track my BMI (I don't anymore), if I log my food (nope, I don't do that anymore either), and what diet program I was using. I explained that I'm a lifter and a cross trainer. We got into a conversation quickly about what's been holding her back from reaching her health goals. I shared with her the before and after picture above, gave her a card with Trainer Guy's information, and jotted my name down for her as well.

As I left the store, I could hear her tell a co-worker, "Did you see her before and after pictures?! Wow!"
 I'm always prefacing my progress photos with "your results may vary". The truth is, every body is built differently and responds differently to different training. I had NO idea my body could look like this. It wasn't in my original goal set. 

But that's okay. Goals change and in the end, I just wanted to feel good and be healthy. And I'm doing both of those things. (Heck, my blood pressure was NORMAL for the first time in 4 years yesterday, despite the ongoing stresses of deployments, career change, and having what could have been a serious injury!)

Sometimes it's the littlest word of encouragement that makes the biggest difference to someone. Kinda reminds me of a quote I've always liked: "Be kinder than necessary; you know never what storm someone else is weathering." - Unknown.

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