Training a pull-up became my first specific strength goal. When I initially stood on the box to wrap my hands around the bar at Artemis’s “I Am Not Afraid to Lift Workshop”, I had not one pull-up in me. I could barely hang on to the bar without a slight touch of vertigo. I’m not sure I even had a pull-up in me in elementary school when we did the Presidential Fitness Test. But somehow I left that workshop with the wild goal of doing a weighted pull-up with a 53 pound (24kg) kettlebell chained to a belt around my waist.
I had watched Artemis do weighted pull-ups! I had watched her do a one armed pull-up! Artemis invited us to try, and I watched as my friend Amy stood in front of the group and succeeded at a weighted pull-up with a 10kg kettlebell, 22 lbs. It seemed easy enough to believe that I could do it too. Artemis had spent the morning busting myths of women and strength training – what women should do and what women can’t do. Myths like “women should ‘tone’ with 5# dumbbells” and “women can’t do pull-ups”, like an article in 2012 edition of the New York Times claimed in its title. No one in that gym full of strong women believed those myths. Why should I? Artemis gave me a goal and a clear path forward, exercises to progress me toward doing a pull-up and doing it well!
As I embarked on my pull-up project, I realized that most of the strength work I had done up until this point was for a general goal of building some muscle and staying in shape. I had been attempting to “tone” – not train (and I had just learned that “toning” isn’t a thing). Telling people I was headed to the free weight room to “train my pull-up” felt different. My pull-up! It felt good, empowering. I was training to get a pull-up, not to lose a pound. I was training for a positive goal; a goal to make myself more rather than less. I was training to pull myself up to a higher level.
Take a look at your goals. Are you training to get to a higher level or are you working out to avoid being something else? Training to be or not to be? That is a question worth asking.