I’ve never really enjoyed going to the gym or made it that much of a habit in my life. When the gym teacher turned us loose in the weight room, I’d fool around on the leg press machine because I could do a lot of weight and nothing else. In college, I had a gym pass so I could play basketball. After college, I started to get into running, but never bothered much with weights. During my stretch working for FedEx, ain’t no way I was gonna pay someone a fee to lift heavy things because I was already doing that all day.

So how the hell did I wind up here?

Mostly, I got sick of listening to myself. I wasn’t in horrible shape, but had also come to the realization that I wasn’t going to cardio myself into better shape either. I needed to do something to counter the gradual breakdown of muscle that we all go through year after year.

That meant lifting heavy things and putting them back down.

Crap.

Last August, I signed up for a new gym membership and did the one thing I hadn’t tried before amongst all my fitness failures. I asked for help. I booked time with a trainer, made some goals, and committed to working on it. Almost a year later, I’m hooked and training for my first powerlifting competition.

Now, before you start thinking this is some fitspirational blog or that I’m trying to sell something, relax. I have no illusions about winning said powerlifting competition or going pro or anything like that – it’s a new goal and it scares the hell out of me, which probably means I’m heading in the right direction. It gives me something to aim at and if nothing else, it’ll make a cool story.

If you want to take any lessons away from a person becoming a gym rat later in life, I humbly offer this – reach, but be realistic.

Realistically, there’s no way I’m walking into a gym and figuring it out on my own. It’s not just outside my comfort zone, it’s not within sight of it. I needed somewhere there to hold my hand through the process in using all the equipment, write a program for me, and make sure I wasn’t doing stupid things that’d get me hurt. That’s why I spent the money on a trainer – for knowledge, expertise, and also because it gives me a damn good reason to show when the money is already spent. Yeah, I made a commitment, but it had a dollar amount attached to it.

Realistically, it’s a long road to building muscle and getting in shape. So I started off by telling my trainer I wanted to get into shape, lose some weight, and get stronger so I’m less likely to hurt myself. My back and knees have been a mess from years of dumb decision – whether it was jumping off loading docks to being the only person to shoulder all those boxes that said “team lift” on them quite clearly to moving a ton of mail every other week for five years. Not getting hurt was my first priority because I knew it’d affect everything else – it was my biggest fear in working out. With my trainer knowing that, everything was geared towards that with lots of assurance that I was doing things right and wasn’t about to have a vertebrae shoot out of my back.

The way I see it, once you hit “a certain age”, your options are acceptance or expansion. You either accept that you’re going to do things slower or get worst results or not do them at all… or, you expand your planning and willingness to work.

I can accept that some things are slower, but I’m also willing to expand my planning and put in some more work to make important things happen. At this point in my life, it’s very important to me that I’m as healthy and active as possible for as long as is possible. That’s the big goal. If lifting heavy things gets me there, so be it.