Unforgiving weighted plates rest on a titanium bar waiting to be moved. The mover is no other than I. Pass the resting titanium bar, in the mirror all I see is myself even though the gym is flooded with various people. I then try to center my thoughts but questions based on fear ricochet off the walls of my mind such as “Is this too much weight? Should I do this tomorrow? I’m tired, should I go home? What time is it? Can I do this?” By simply closing my eyes, I silence the noise around me not letting anything or anyone pass the trapped door in my mind. Though my eyes are closed, I know exactly what’s in front of me.
The blue veins in my arms thrust through my forearms. I grab the bar with my calloused, sweaty hands. I then lean forward pressing my chest on the bar and I can feel my chest opening up. The breath of life sinks into my gut. While moving closer to the bar, I am staring at myself in the mirror and I look at myself as if I’m looking through my physical body and into my soul. While moving back and forth to and from the bar, I imagine my soul, mind, and body as one entity moving in unison with one mission: Move the Damn Weight.
After vigorously moving to and from the bar five times, I rapidly throw my upper back under the bar. I can feel the heaviness of the weight already. I hear the weight speak to me in the most honest and direct manner, “I’m heavy, ain’t I? You think you can move me? Let’s see.” Still staring at myself in the mirror, I know the weight of the world will soon be on my shoulders, but I am still here. Grinding my feet into the wooden floor, I squeeze my shoulder blades together in an effort to have them meet each other in the middle of my spine. My worn hands are wrapped around the bar with a death-lock type of grip. I inhale and exhale once, twice, three times, four times, and one last breath to feed my soul. I tighten my core, lift the weight off the rack and walk back three steps.
“I’m heavy ain’t I? Nowhere to run. You either move me or leave me be. Make a choice.” The clinking of the metal weights bangs back and forth, dancing to the delight of my discomfort. I can feel the pressure of the bar and the plates resting on my shoulders and in my hands. Though I see my reflection in the mirror, I see something else. I see effort; a relationship that has one road in and one road out and there are exit signs every 24.7 feet. Those exit signs will soon be mowed down by grit. My body starts to shake without measure and I am scared but I am still here.
I tell myself, “time to move this fucking weight”, shooting my knees out towards the mirror and imagining myself spreading the floor apart, opening up hell right before my eyes. Keeping my eyes gazed on the floor, the devil and I make eye contact, but we both know who is going to win this battle. Though I know I and everything around me is moving, time stands still. I sit back, engaging every aching muscle and fiber in my body. The veins in my forearms and neck pop. No matter the pain, I am still here.
My body continues to lower closer to the floor until I have broken parallel and then I know it’s time to rise back up with vigor, determination, and strength. I move in one motion, driving my hips forward to the mirror with the weight supported by my back and death-lock grip. Rising back up to the heavens, I feel the stick.
The stick is the red light. The stick is the u-turn. The stick is the stop sign. The stick is when every aching part of your body wants to go forward, requiring your soul, mind, and body to merge together in order to move. “Up, up, up, up, up!”, I repeat to myself in my mind. It feels as though the breath of life disappears within me and all there is at this moment is me versus me. The weighted bar is no longer there and neither are the weights of my worries and anxieties. While rising, I feel like I’m on the slowest elevator in the world working my way to the top floor, but I finally reach my stop. Resting the bar back on the rack, looking into the mirror I say to myself “I am still here.”
The weight doesn’t lie to you. It never will.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, “Squat 101”, http://www.schwarzenegger.com/fitness/post/squat-101.