It was April, 2003 when, after years of having been humiliated both physically and emotionally, I finally decided to do something good for myself and hit the weights. Before that moment I was one of those kids, you know the ones, an outcast musician that’d rather just stay in his bedroom and bash the living hell out of my Tama Rockstar Custom drum kit while I was home alone. Exercise? At first I just saw it as a form of conformity and I didn’t want to be like everyone else. Even after seeing a picture of a Zakk Wylde at his most JACKED in 2001 I still didn’t care, despite being in awe. It simply took one moment for me to just make the snap decision to give the gym life a shot.
So, one day after class, I walked to my campus athletic center, complete with racquet ball courts, and indoor track, a big swimming pool, a room dedicated to just treadmills and ellipticals, a basketball court and of course, a weight room. Like most gym goers, my first time in the gym was completely intimidating. Worse? I had absolutely no plan written down, I’d done no research at all. As I looked around me the gym was one big mass of people since most of them were most likely done with there own classes of the day was well, making it even harder for me to make my way around since my anxiety levels were sky high at this moment.
The weight room itself was very barebones, by which I mean there was just one bench, one squat rack (not a power rack), one smith rack, a pullup/dip assistance machine, several preset barbell going up to 100lbs, several dumbbells, a broken stationary bike, one of each type of machine and then there was what I considered to be the weightroom’s centerpiece. This had to be the biggest multi station cable crossover machine I’ve ever seen.
First off, it was way too long in width, to the point that when it comes time to finish crossovers the process of letting go of the handles becomes pretty awkward. There were times later on where I’d find myself in this situation and the handles would just pull too aggressively on my shoulders because there was too much distance between me and the base where you’d have to bring the handle back to. Also, both towers holding this together featured multiple stations, sometimes three per tower. The tower closest to the weight room’s exit door included a lat pulldown station on the right side, a triceps pushdown station on the left, and a cable row station in the middle facing the wall. I don’t remember too much about what stations where on the other tower, other than the cable preacher curl station in the middle. This thing was huge, I wish I was able to find a picture of this contraption!
So, what to do? I at least knew I needed to warm up before I did anything so I went on the malfunctioning stationary bike and pedaled away at a steady pace for ten minutes, surely the only thing I did right the entire time! After that I made the choice to just toy with the machines since I they had instructions on them, therefore making it even easier for me to avoid talking to anyone and avoid judgement…you know…the judgement I’ve been fortunate enough to have never been subjected in any gym. So starting with Leg Presses I essentially worked my way down the row, using probably every machine there. Chest Press? Yep. Shoulder Press? Oh yeah. Oh, do you think I even remotely knew the importance of post-workout stretching? Fat chance. Post-workout nutrition? Not on your life!
Needless to say I paid dearly for not at least stretching because I woke up with my left side completely cramped up. My hand, chest, shoulder, quad, you name it, it hurt. I think it even hurt to breathe! Worse? I had a big test first thing that morning and, that’s right – I’m left handed. Needless to say, writing hurt so bad; it was a miracle that I even passed with a perfect score. I was so sure I’d get points off because my professor wouldn’t be able to understand half of what I wrote. Right there was my first lesson in fitness that I’ll now share with you: always stretch after your training sessions! But of course this was the first of many lessons I’d learn along the way, but more on those another time.