I can't do that.
I'm not strong enough.
During week two, these were the thoughts I had holding me back. Although my muscles had mostly stopped aching and were getting used to the regular workouts, I still didn't think I was really that strong.
The week started bright and early at Coastal Fitness Performance Training with a 6am one-on-one session with trainer Sophie Reid. If you think that's early, you should know that the first group class is at 5.15am. So by the time I blearily stumbled into the gym and gave a grumpy, yawning, half-hearted "good morning" to the always cheery operations manager Chris Fulton behind the desk, the gym was already full of pumping music and energetic people lifting large weights.
I can't do this, not this morning.
But in I went to the training room, greeted by an upbeat Sophie who wasted no time in getting me going and putting me through my paces. My knees cracked with each weighted lunge, and my arms burned as I pushed through each overhead press. "You can do this!" Sophie shouted.
So I did it.
Then it was the rowing machine and pushups. My lungs were burning. I can't do this, I need a rest. "Three more minutes, you can do this!" Sophie shouted.
So I did it.
I was back in the gym again on Wednesday, where it was time for overhead presses, pull downs, and Romanian deadlifts. As Sophie piled more and more weights onto the bar for my deadlifts, I looked at her like she was crazy. I can't do this, I thought once again. Sophie smiled. "Try that," she said. My hands were burning, and my grip was slipping by the 12th rep. I can't do any more. "Your back is fine though, and your form is good. I think we can go up to 45kg," Sophie announced confidently. "You can do it."
So I did it.
The next morning I was back again for more. Slowly, very slowly, the voice inside my head was changing. This time, every time Sophie announced we would be going up a weight level, I thought to myself, I can try this. By the end of the workout, I was feeling proud and strong, and was ready to take on anything. Which was when we switched to the battle ropes.
The battle ropes look easy. They're just ropes. All you need to do is raise them up and down to make waves. Sophie demonstrated, making large looping waves all the way down the ropes. "Make the waves go to the end," she said, smiling easily. Despite her demonstration though, nothing about the battle ropes is easy. They had defeated me last week, but this time I was determined. I'm going to do this.
So I did it.
Finally it was Saturday, and time for the Strongman class. This week it was all men, except for one other girl there with me. I felt my confidence and determination start to melt away. Everyone there was strong and fit, and knew what they were doing! I can't do this... started to creep back into my head.
But trainer Andy Bratsanos once again set the tone with his bright energy, and set the gruelling pace for the class. Everyone does what they can handle. The goal is to push yourself, but not to compare yourself to anyone except yourself. And set after set, I was managing to push through and complete each routine. I pushed the weighted sled, and then pulled it back, arm over arm with the rope. Three times. My confidence was starting to come back.
And then Andy pushed the envelope. For the Farmer's Walk, he led me over to two massive 30kg dumbells (60kg total). I looked down at them incredulously. No way. I can't do that. I looked up at Andy doubtfully. "Just carry them to the end and back," he smiled. "You can do this."
And to my complete and utter shock, I could. Three times, I carried that 60kg load to the end of the gym and back, along with throwing a medicine ball and doing a very awkward bear crawl which made my thighs burn.
But it wasn't over. For the final push at the end of the Saturday Strongman, we had to push the weighted sled one-third of the way down the gym, do five burpees, push it another third, do five more burpees, push it to the end, and do five more burpees. Then do the same thing on the way back.
"Come on Ariel, your turn!" Andy shouted. "No problem, you can do this!"
It was harder than anything I've ever had to do. With 50kgs on the sled, and already worn out from everything else, every step was a struggle. It took me three times as long as anyone else, and by the end I was wheezing and about to collapse from exhaustion. But I did it. And every laboured step I took along the way, I thought to myself:
I can do this. I CAN do this. I CAN DO THIS.