Willing to be the Weakest. A Guest Post.

The fitness industry is rife with “know it all” blogs that consistently bash and slander other programs. Constantly posting, “Top 5 Exercises to Avoid!” or “The Reason I Don’t Do (XXX) Program”. It is my opinion that this is one of the biggest challenges the industry faces. Anyone who has internet access and a phone can portray themselves as an expert and there are unfortunately hordes of people willing to jump on a bandwagon to hate anything.

And then there’s guys like Mike Gillette. Below is the most recent post from his page. I can’t think of a situation where a person shouldn’t read this.

Willing to be the Weakest

By Mike Gillette

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At two key points in my life I made an important decision. Both times it was the same decision. That decision was to be the weakest person at the gym.

The first time was in 1981. I had just turned 19 and had been living a life characterized by fear, negativity and weakness. In order to reverse course, I knew I would need to do, think and believe the opposite of what I had previously done, thought and believed. So I did.

Intuitively I must have understood that I would never be able to start thinking strong or acting strong unless I actually felt strong. And at 19, I “knew” that in order to get strong, you had to join a gym. So I joined. It was a confusing place, particularly for someone who didn’t know anything about training. There were gleaming chrome Universal and Nautilus machines and an assortment of dumbbells and barbells. It seemed like a lot of stuff to have to figure out.

But the bigger challenge was just walking into that place. A place where I didn’t feel as though I belonged. At that point in time I was as far away from being a physical person as anyone could be. Skinny, weak and I had only recently stopped poisoning my body with drugs and alcohol. I was the weakest person at the gym and I knew it. I assumed everybody else knew it too. It was a circumstance I very much wanted to change. So I did.

Within three year’s time, I went from being the weakest person in the gym to an Army paratrooper who achieved perfect scores on every one of his physical training tests, to aformer Army paratrooper with a broken back. Because of a climbing accident, I had actually managed to become physically weaker than I had been  when I began my strength journey in 1981.

But the one thing in my favor was that in those intervening years I had learned how to “think” strong and “act” strong. So I did. Sometimes.

After almost a year of getting comfortable with things like walking and standing, I started to think about what it might take to “feel” strong again. And just like before, I knew that I needed to join a gym. Between 1986 and 1988 I actually joined five or six different gyms. They were all short-term memberships. Because each time I would start working out, it would take only about a week or two for my back injuries to become so unbearable that I would have to stop. I would then spend several depressing months sitting around feeling weaker than before. But eventually I would gather myself up and join another gym. And the process would repeat itself.

It was in January of 1989 that I made the decision to be the weakest person in the gym for what would be the last time. I had gone almost a year without even trying to train. The endless disappointments had taken a toll and I didn’t want to go through that again. But, there I was, joining another gym. And just like the very first time, eight years earlier, I was skinny and weak. I was actually worse than weak, I felt fragile.

Happily, this story turns out well. But only because I’ve been willing to be the weakest person in the gym. Being weak in a gym full of strong people sucks. But it only sucks for a while. Because eventually you get strong too. And once you’re strong, you can share that strength with someone else. Maybe you’ll share your strength with the weakest person in the gym. I hope so.

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