Friday, July 9, 2010

Just an empty weightroom.

There's something very peaceful about an empty weightroom. It's not just the sound of the metal clanging against itself after a set, and it's not the fact that the mirror is vacant from all wandering eyes. Usually I wear headphones while I workout to drown out the heavy breathing of other lifters, or to keep their small-talk out of my thoughts.

Today I walked into the weightroom and noticed it was empty. Not a single person had a towel on a seat, weights on the bar, or a med-ball misplaced. Everything was where it should be and there was a beam of sunshine coming into the room, landing in scattered spots on the floor.

Not knowing where I should start first, I put my headphones in and stand in front of the mirror where the same rack of dumbbells exists in every weightroom worldwide. Deciding that it was too early for hard rock or gangster rap to get me through a workout, I slide on some Bob Marley for my warm-up. Most people assume that headphones should only blast very powerful music during workouts, in order to ensure that motivation levels stay high. But who's to say that Bob Marley isn't powerful enough?

So I grabbed a set of dumbbells and warmed up my rotator cuffs and shoulder blades. "Ya see, in life I know there's lots of grief, but your love is my relief." The song played on and I did some body-weight squats to wake my legs up. And as the music played on, the mood in the room picked up. No longer just a room full of metal, but suddenly a moving workshop had come alive.

I felt myself ease into the workout, knowing I could take it anywhere I wanted next. So I did a few hanging leg lifts, moved over to bench and set up my squat rack at the same time. But now I was ready for a little more music, so I turned to Mariana's Trench. Not quite a hardcore, punch someone in the face kind of sound but it was good enough to get me through the four sets of bench and three sets of squats that lay ahead of me.

"And I can feel the water changing me, it's changing me for good." A drop of sweat falls on the floor and I know its time to towel off. Even though nobody is there to scoff at a girl who actually perspires, it's still common courtesy in case somebody else walks in.

Feeling brave enough to workout without my headphones, I take a whack at going solo-- without the help of any genre. The calmness of the room overtook me a little bit. I felt like I was back in high school when our coaches didn't play music so that we could concentrate on the new lifts we were trying to master. But suddenly my focus sharpened and I was only thinking about my lifts, feeling every movement of each muscle. For the first time in a long time I could feel the benefits of my work right then and there, and not twenty minutes after when I am sore and trying to relax. I had almost forgotten what it was like to be so focused in on one act that it brings out all of these small details in the work.

Lunges with 60 pounds on my back. Suddenly, instead of just feeling my quads get tired, I felt my shoulder blades tense up to help my back stand me back up. I could hear my own breathing and how it changed with each movement. The serenity of the room elevated every sound I made.

I miss the days when I lifted alone, concentrating only on myself and not on the teammates surrounding me. Sure, we all help each other get through our grueling practices, but it's nice to just take it one lift at a time and dig deep into my own heart and soul and find that inner strength to finish on my own.

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