The unnatural fears of new things

I felt like the guy pulled over on a busy highway with his face buried in a map.

After looking at directions on my phone, I leaned in to squint at the directions taped on the machine in the YMCA fitness room. Then I adjusted the seat height, put my arms in position and awkwardly tried another rep on the weight machine.

I felt like a kid trying to use something without permission. My arms just didn’t quite fit the space for the machine.

It wasn’t working. So I switched to another machine, read the directions and got going.

As I went through my reps, I saw them all throughout the Y workout room: the faces of others working out. I was sure they were watching me.

Thus was my first weight-lifting experience in more than 10 years.

My plan seemed simple and rational — fail-safe, even. After increasing the mileage on my long runs after completing a 10K, I’d give my achy legs a rest by lifting weights and working my upper body.

Mission accomplished, right? How could I possibly botch this?

Well, weightlifting takes planning. More planning than I’m used to putting into my workouts. I workout to de-stress, to de-program, and it’s usually my mental health time. I don’t workout to organize and plan.

I think too much, so organizing and planning stress me out: Is that really the best plan? Should I really do it that way? … And so it goes.

See what I mean?

This is why I run and usually do assorted cardio. All you do is find a place to run, set you pace, set timer if necessary and go. Done. The biggest problem is finding the right music or audiobook (Don’t worry, dear reader, I can overthink that too).

I had a plan for weightlifting. A friend recommend I try Power Hypotrophy Upper Lower (or P.H.U.L.), which seemed like a safe and easy bet. I was going to do P.H.U. by cutting out the “lower” since this whole plan was devised to rest my achy, whiny legs.

I pulled up links to each of the workouts on my phone and felt ready to go.

But two workouts in, I found myself going off script and employing unscripted workout moves I liked better. I felt more comfortable with a certain workout or thought, “That machine looks fun!”

By my third muscle group, I completely lost track of my number of reps. I can’t count, apparently, or just didn’t think to.

Then the gym was filled with people. You know the type: The ones who look far better at lifting weights than you and have the muscles to prove it. And of course, they’re watching me try the moves, all unsure of yourself and the routine.

But another friend wisely pointed out the truth: None of the other people there cared enough to watch and judge my workout failings.

But the unnecessary fear, paranoia and failure of trying something new didn’t make it less worthwhile, even if my triceps were screaming from overwork for a day and a half after (oops).

So I’ll plan a bit more and go back for round two in a few days, hoping I can stick do a better plan — and hoping no one notices when I go off script.

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