"You can do it, Ariel!"
"Come on Ariel, just a little further!"
"You got this!"
My whole body was aching, my muscles were burning, and sweat was pouring down my face. I gathered up the last bit of energy and willpower I had, forced my legs to move and pushed the weighted sled the remaining few feet to the finish line. The open space of the Coastal Fitness Performance Training gym erupted in cheers of support from the other Saturday Strongman participants as I collapsed in an exhausted - but proud - heap on the floor.
It had all started on Tuesday, when I went in for my assessment with Andy Bratsanos. I knew I was pretty out of shape, but Andy wanted to see what I could do and how hard they could push me. The assessment was more just going through the basic movements and correcting my form, so we weren't doing anything too intense, yet. Even so, Andy cheered me on and encouraged even my smallest victories throughout the session. I was feeling pretty good about myself, and was looking forward to really getting started with Sophie Reid, who would be my personal trainer for the coming month. Maybe this wouldn't be as hard as I had thought it would be!
Then came Wednesday. I arrived bright and early at 7am to get started with Sophie, who wasted no time in putting me through my paces. For the next hour it was nothing but weights, weights, and more weights! Weighted split lunges were followed by weighted overhead presses, then rounds of Romanian deadlifts and pull-downs. Finally it was push-ups, sit-ups, and pulling a weighted sled. Every time it looked like I was getting too comfortable with the weights, Sophie would increase the load, all the while smiling innocently, and assuring me I could do it, "no problem." By the end, I could barely move; the sign of a good workout!
The rest of the day on Wednesday and the whole day on Thursday it was hard even to walk. All of the muscles in my body that I had been ignoring for the past few months had been called into action. And those muscles were not happy about being woken up! Muscles I didn't even know I had were hurting... but I still had to go back in on Friday morning.
I arrived, stiff and sore, on Friday morning. The gym was full, as it is every morning, with group training. I watched enviously as both guys and girls lifted barbells and kettlebells above their heads with confidence. Their drive and the support they gave each other (with high-fives and shouts of support all around!) gave me the courage to face Sophie and the challenges she had for me. No matter what, I was determined to get strong!
Sophie was equally determined, and amped up the challenge for Friday. It was a new routine filled with presses, squats, and more and more weights. Sophie would demonstrate each new movement with a cheerful smile, effortlessly lifting the weights I struggled to get off the ground. By the end, once again, I was completely spent.
But I was back Saturday morning for the Modified Strongman class. Andy was leading the group, which more accurately should have been called a StrongWOMAN class! There was only one guy in our group of about 10. And of course, once again it was all about strength. These women disproved any myths about girls not being strong, as we carried heavy kettlebells, deadlifted, and pressed our way through the rounds.
The last part was the sled push. Andy loaded the sleds with weights to match our bodyweights (I'm not quite there yet, I had to do about half my weight), and we had to push the sled back and forth to different markers across the length of the gym. If that sounds easy, think again! It was one of the hardest things I've ever done as part of a workout, but I was supported the whole time by the rest of the group, and by Andy urging me to on.
Strength training is hard. The whole idea is to push your body to its absolute limits. It hurts, it's exhausting, and it'll make you sweat more than you ever have before. But more than that, it's unbelievably rewarding. The pride you feel for having completed a set, or gone up a weight, or just making it through a session outweighs all of the pain and struggle. And the support at Coastal Fitness, from the people who really understand just how hard it is, gives you the mental strength to keep pushing forward.
So bring on the muscle aches and the early mornings, because I'm going to get STRONG!