I stepped into the gym on a cool spring Tuesday evening, ready to begin a training session. I was feeling particularly unenergetic that evening, a bit discouraged as to my progress with weightlifting. I was being consistent, but progress seemed to be moving at a snail’s pace.
I was there a little early and decided to honor my promise to myself to do Turkish get ups each time I was at the gym. I did a few, and was about to move on to my program, when I heard the voice of one of our trainers, Geoff Hemingway, “Stella, what’s your heaviest get up?”
I shrugged. “I guess a 10kg. I can’t really do these very heavy. I usually do an 8kg.”
“Show me a 10kg then.”
“I don’t really do those. The only time I did it was at your workshop a couple of weeks ago.”
“So do one now.”
“I don’t know that I can…I—“
“Yes you can. Just do one. I haven’t seen you do one.”
I grabbed the 10kg off the rack, gripped that bell tightly, and did a Turkish get up. A Turkish get up that felt not much different than the ones I had done just a few moments before with the 8kg…I was confused when I finished.
I stammered. “That —didn’t really feel—that—heavy. I think I could try heavier next time.”
Geoff smirked. “Because you’re strong as FUCK.”
Hmmmm. Was Geoff right? Was I “strong as FUCK”, but somehow convincing myself that I wasn’t?
Weightlifting was unnatural to me from the start, and I embraced it as a means to strength and fat loss. But I was always felt out of place in the weight room. And I always seemed to stall at some point. And now I wondered if that wasn’t a limitation that I manufactured for myself.
So what was so different about that Turkish Getup? Was I trying to impress Geoff? Doubtful. I mean, at 10kg it certainly wasn’t a feat of extraordinary strength…still, for me it had been almost unthinkable before. Why wasn’t I able to do that before? Clearly I was strong enough.
And it hit me.
I wasn’t holding on tight enough physically to let myself go mentally. Hear me out.
Prior to that moment, I was unaware that when I picked up barbells and kettlebells and dumbbells, my commitment to lifting the weight actually ended at my wrist. I wasn’t really holding on tight. It’s not like I was dropping barbells or anything. It was a question of power. Literally, my energy stopped just shy of where I needed to be in order to go beyond the level of just holding onto the weight to the level of actually bringing power to the movement. So all that time I was learning to adjust my breathing, my alignment, my feet, even my big toe—attempting to doing everything right, yet baffled as to why everything was so…sluggish. Like a weak handshake. Simply put – I wasn’t really holding on.
But that Tuesday evening, when I picked up that kettlebell, I was holding on. Every part of me was engaged in that getup. I felt the strength push through my shoulder, down my arm and into the bell. It was almost as if the kettlebell were now an extension of my arm.
Thinking I might be onto something, I took my newly realized grip and tried it out all over the gym. In my deadlifts, presses, pullups. I could feel the energy and strength push through my hand this time instead of stopping. Huh. Maybe I was strong as fuck.
I remember taking class with Mark Fisher, hearing him say, “I can tell how you live by how you train!”
Was my inability to “hold on tight” at the gym a metaphor for an inability to completely commit to myself outside the gym as well?
It’s funny, when my kids were little, and we would cross a busy intersection, I would never consider anything less than holding on tight.
But when it came to myself, I wasn’t really committed. As far as I had come in life, I had not made that full commitment, where you allow yourself the ultimate glory that comes with embracing life with full strength. The part where you grip the bell. Like you mean it. Like it’s everything.
Because it is.
A strong grip on that bell means making a commitment to being strong, to conquering the fear that what you about to lift is just too heavy. It is a dedication to push through doubt, a statement of personal integrity.
Sometimes you have to hold on tighter to let go. (TWEET THAT SHIT!)
Sometimes you just need to be reminded to Grip.That. Bell.