Discovering life beyond the barbell / by Dana McMahan

‘Don’t call it a comeback’

I wouldn’t have been more surprised if I’d woken up with my head stapled to the carpet.*

I’ve been carrying around a desolate feeling that I’m weaker than before. Before I was hurt I worked out five, six days a week. An hour was a short workout. Two was more like it. I knew I was strong. Of course I did – I could measure it any time I liked with barbells. And barbells were king. Then I got hurt. I had surgery. I lost weight — muscle. I spent a lot of weeks out of the gym.

And when I went back to my new gym, it was for only three days a week. Half an hour, 40 minutes tops. Bustin my arse, yeah. But on machines, mostly. Some free weights – I still bench, get some skullcrushers in once a while. I use dumbbells for lunges and curl. But mostly it’s machines.

No way could I be as strong as I was before. Not after how weak I had become being hurt, out of commission, scaling back my workout time, and having to give up chinups, my favorite upper body workout, because of the pressure they put on my spine. Of course I wasn’t as strong. How could I be?

Well. Don’t call it a comeback. I been here for years.

At the peak of my training, last summer I reached my goal of 30 push-ups. One time, and I was never able to again. I wasn’t interested in proving to myself how much less strong I am now than then, so I never tried maxing once I got back to doing pushups. I kept doing my machine work though, lat pulldowns, rows, tricep pushdowns, preacher curls, a bunch of stuff I don’t even know the name of, with unknown weights because my trainer picks the weight and I don’t worry about it, I just work as hard as I can with what he loads.

Today I had to do a challenge for an UnderArmour contest I’m taking part in, I had to video a workout with a friend. Lauren, the beautiful badass married to my trainer, was a good enough sport to do the challenge with me after she completed her own workout. We decided on pushups.

I was afraid of being totally blown away, but I couldn’t think of a good reason to refuse. So off we went. 15 went by easily. Then I had to work. Then my arms got quivery, wanted to give out. Then I hit 30. I wanted to best my previous max. 32. “Five more and that’s my age!” I thought. My arms shook more with each one, and I feared I might just wipe out on the bottom of 37, but after taking a big breath my stronger-than-I-knew arms came through for me and I made it. SEVEN more push-ups than my PR from my most badass days of powerlifting! [video if you want to kill a minute and a half]

I was flabbergasted. Truly. I knew I’d been working hard, but to get unquestionable proof that not only am I not weaker now, but that I’m significantly stronger — that was a much needed reset for my outlook. It’s been a fight to not feel sorry for myself for losing so much of what I had. Turns out, it was there all along.

And after the workout following this revelation, when my trainer (not a guy given to hyperbole) said that I’m strong an an ox, I believed it.

I think I’ll go for 38 on my birthday in a couple months : )

*Thanks Clark

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3 responses

  1. good work dana, 38 push-ups here you come!

    June 21, 2012 at 7:54 am

  2. Dana, your post put a huge smile on my face. Will it sound cheesy if I say I’m very happy for you? Cause I am! It’s a great accomplishment, congrats!

    June 21, 2012 at 8:59 am

    • Ah, thanks so much! This was huge for me so I totally appreciate your congrats!

      June 21, 2012 at 9:07 am

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