What the gym gives you

What the gym gives you

The first day is always the hardest.

You’ve made the resolve to do something. To work out. To take yourself where you want to go even if you’ve never worked out before. And what’s getting you there is your resolve. Your first step on your journey to affirming yourself.

My first step was into Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn, New York. I was 42 years old and had recently undergone 8 1/2 hours of neurosurgery on the nerves that fed my right shoulder and arm. I wanted to feel strong again and let a lifetime’s worth of fascination with the “sweet science” propel me over the threshold.

Gleason’s is the quintessential boxer’s gym. I took in the gym smells, heavy bags being pounded, men and women pummeling each other in the ring, the “da-da-da da-da-da” of the speed bags and found it all scary, daunting and in the end quite exhilarating.

While your gym might not be a gym as steeped in boxing lore as Gleason’s — that first moment is no less daunting. The people you meet in the gym have all arrived before you. You watch them going through their routines and think, I’ll never be that good. And then it clicks in. You are there. You’re there to work. You’ve crossed the divide and staked your claim on what it is you want to try for yourself.

And that’s the thing. There is no judge and jury. There is just you and the hard work you bring to what you do. Each workout is as challenging and unique as you are. And if you miss a day, a week, or a year, that’s part of the challenge too. What you learn is that the challenges are no less mental than they are physical.

Don’t kid yourself either; the challenges for women are particularly unique. We’re trained from childhood precisely not to hit things. In my own experience, the first time I hit someone in the ring I started to cry. That’s how hard it was to break through my own barriers. And it was not much different on the bag.

What you have to remember is that there is something in you that wants to work it out on the bag. That wants to test out your physical stamina and mental resources.

And what has propelled you in the first place is the beginning point to a brand new world. You are a boxer now. And a woman boxer at that. And wherever you go in the world, you can walk into a boxing gym, stick out your fist in a boxer’s salute, and work out with the best of them.

Congratulations, you have arrived.

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