A year ago, I wrote about gym trolls because they’re the toe fungus of Gym World. However, good gym guys do exist; I’m friends with many who counteract the douchey meathead stereotype.
A year ago, I existed in a state of emotional anguish and exhaustion. My grit and resilience took a major hit, reaching the bottom-of-the-barrel low-levels. My self-esteem went along with them. I was constantly fighting myself to rebuild, but it felt like a “gettin’ hit as soon as you get up” vicious cycle. I was tired. I felt bloodied and bruised. Most days, I wasn’t even sure where I was.
Cue Mental Blackhole.
The gym serves is my therapist. I channel my emotional BS into workouts. Sometimes, that junk feels heavier than the weights I’m lifting, leaving me locked in my head. This is where having a gym buddy to kick your ass, get in your face, and call you on your shit to help refocus is crucial. And I didn’t have one.
Or I hadn’t.
He took on the task without a word. I’d been doing assisted pull-ups for weeks with slow, minor improvement. I was frustrated, resigned to continuing on, knowing I’d have to re-strategize, though not sure how.
“What you doing with it at 85? You’re stronger than that.” He said it jokingly, but I knew he was serious. This guy (Bandana) is yoked. I’ve watched his lifts; unlike Captain Douchebag, Bandana actually knows what he’s doing, and he’s genuinely nice.
So when he said, “Alright. We’re restrategizing. We’re gonna do 6 at this weight, then 3 at this one, 3, 2 and then 1. By the end of the month, I’ll have you doing pull-ups, no assist,” I listened. I didn’t argue or brush him off. I accepted that he was taking over, and I did exactly what he said. (This is usually the only way to help me. If you ask, I’ll resist. He didn’t give me a choice; exactly what I needed.)
What started with pull-ups turned into a friendship where he could sense when I’d get too in my head. He’d cross the gym, box my shoulder, nudge me, or throw me a head nod, breaking me out of my trance with a laugh. He unknowingly created bright spots during awful days; I quickly grew to admiration and respect of his friendship, not just for the little goofs, but also for the regular ass-kicking I needed.
And then, I regressed. I was down about it until he pulled me aside for a serious chat post-pull-up failure. “You need to start doing two arm days a week, and you’ll have to lift heavier.”
Chewing the inside of my cheek, I nodded, reconfiguring my program over the weekend so I could return ready to do work and destroy things.
“On Wednesdays, we do pull-ups.” I knocked out warm-up reps. He dropped the assist bench, and my mouth fell open. “We’re getting right to it. 2 reps each grip. Gotta hit all the muscles.” I smile in disbelief, shake my head, and take a lap.
“Okay, let’s do this.”
I gut it out… and fail miserably. He steps in to assist. I struggle, but I get it done.
A few months later, I switched gyms. Missing Bandana blows, but I’ve made new friends who’ve been good for a spot, great for an ass-kicking when deserved, and perfect for delivering smiles and laughter in abundance amidst all my mental bully bullshit.
I still workout alone. When I compete, I don’t have anyone to rely on, so getting through tough workouts by myself is crucial practice. And somehow, in all my hard work, I’ve earned gym #BroPrivilege.
What the fuck is #BroPrivilege??
Bro Privilege (n): Earning respect from regular gym-goers. Decreases judgmental skepticism and objectification; increases bro-help and respect.
Basically, I’m one of the guys now.
It never hurts to have people in your corner who aren’t afraid to push you, even if you didn’t ask.
Best of all? I’m hitting pull-ups consistently all by myself. And bro, does it feel good.
Here’s to getting stronger faster with an ass-kicking #BroSquad on my side.