The gym makes me uncomfortable

This photo is a fairly concise summary of this post, but do keep reading.

The gym makes me uncomfortable. That’s why I go.

Well, that and the fact that the key to better health and faster bike racing and stronger knees, according to like every expert I’ve had the opportunity to corner and interrogate on the subject, lies somewhere in those hallowed rows of kettlebells and dumbbells and other things I am only just now learning the names of. I mean, if I thought I could be a halfway decent bike racer by only riding my bike — or doing other straight-line sports like swimming and running — that’s what I would do. There is very little appeal to me in being in a gym. Both the being-inside part and the lifting-heavy-things-around part are equally unappealing. I don’t enjoy the gym, and like almost everything else I don’t enjoy (knitting, washing dishes, running the updates on my computer, to name a few), I’m pretty bad at it. I say this from a place of self-love and also, I don’t know, reality or something, so don’t jump down my throat.

I just don’t know how to push myself in the gym. I never learned that. Can I make myself vomit during my bike intervals? Sure (although I have recently learned that that perhaps shouldn’t always be the goal! whaddayaknow!). Circuit training, core workouts, jump rope, all of these aerobic things that you can do in a gym — I have a handle on those. But picking up really heavy weights? I seem to have a hard time distinguishing between “this sucks because it’s supposed to suck” and “wow you’re about to put out your back dumbass.” And so I tend to veer way to the side of caution, as I discussed in my last post, which is obviously better than the alternative, but still can be frustrating.

I should clarify that I am getting much, much, much better. After three years of working with REVO PT my squat and deadlift form only sucks a little bit, as opposed to the complete dumpster fire it was before. I am learning, and even if I don’t love being in the gym, learning is gratifying. But the reality is that I am still really uncomfortable in this space. And for me, that has been a very good thing.

We say “growth happens outside of your comfort zone” and a million other cliches like that, but sometimes I think the people who say these things (implicating myself here) are often really unaware of what being outside of that comfort zone really, truly feels like. Working out in the gym has given me a lot of empathy for people who show up to group rides or mountain bike parks with the wrong equipment or no experience, because for three years I have been doing gym workouts and while I do okay most of the time, I still don’t feel like I own the space. I am so comfortable in a mountain biking arena that I forget how long it took for that comfort to grow and flourish, and also how damn stressful and anxiety-producing it can be to do something new, challenging and that — to be blunt — I completely and totally suck at. It is humbling, and an excellent reminder that, well, improvement is measured in years, not days, and certainly not hours. I need that reminder. Preferably at least twice a week.

So I am going to keep going to the gym. Not in spite of the fact that it makes me uncomfortable, but because of it. And besides, I may not like lifting weights, but I do like getting strong.

Syd Schulz

Pro mountain biker.

Average human.

I write about bikes and life and trying to get better at both.

more here

5 thoughts on “The gym makes me uncomfortable

  1. Ha! I feel you. I’m still working on getting comfortable with the technical aspect of mountain biking, so the gym is where I go when I don’t want to think about that. I thought I was comfortable there, until I realized that all I do is ride the spin bike. I have been in the weight room twice, ever, and both times with some hand-holding from a good friend. Now that I want to train for reals, I am going to have spend quite a bit more time there…and I will also have to watch YouTube to learn 99% of the exercises assigned to me.

  2. This makes me think of a Bill Gates quote that i’ll paraphrase. “Most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year and underestimate what they can accomplish in ten.”

  3. Thanks so much for writing this post! I went to the gym for the first time in … a year?? … yesterday morning. I felt super intimidated by a place where I used to feel very comfortable. Redefining my physical limits and being honest about where I should start was also hard to swallow. But I showed up.

    So seeing this post in my mailbox today was a great reminder that I took an important step. Thanks for sharing your experience!

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