Discovering life beyond the barbell / by Dana McMahan

‘You actually have muscle now’ (by Dana McMahan)

bench practiceIt’s something how one little sentence can make your day. As I was working on my new nemesis, the bench press (which feels akin to swimming through drying concrete), Ben repeated, “tighten your legs!” They weren’t tightened of course — it’s hard to remember to do all the things he says — shoulders back and tighten your legs proving to be one too many instructions to process. “But how did you know they weren’t tight?” I still protested.

“Because you actually have muscles now!” he replied. He could see whether or not they were tight. I tightened those new muscles and focused on the blasted bench press, but had to grin. A few months earlier, just shortly before joining CrossFit, I had — in a low point — referred to myself disparagingly during a conversation about the Iron Man competition as a marshmallow woman. Reflecting on that statement later was probably the turning point in deciding I could wallow in self-pity about being out of shape, or I could take responsibility. And that was when I wrote Ben and asked for help.

Three and half months of finding out what was lying in wait under the marshmallow fluff later, I was giddy at that statement: “You have muscles now.” I’m no longer a marshmallow. I may struggle to bench press 60% of my weight while other women slam out more than that with ease, but really, even benching that much — for four reps! — is no small accomplishment. I do things now that wouldn’t have occurred to me to try a few months ago. That 44-pound bag of dog food that needs to be carried in — not a problem. Lifting our 75-pound dog onto the bed? No longer my husband’s job.

And it’s only going to get better. There’s a new weight belt at the gym for those of us on the petite side and I’m going to try it out today, as I progress through my training for the power lifting meet. I remember being thrilled to squat my bodyweight one time. I can now do it multiple times, and am going for body weight-plus multiple times. Marshmallow indeed!

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