Gym Rat 101: Avoid the Mousetrap of Pain

gymrat_bigA loud brutish grunt escaped me as I engaged the weight to begin my tricep pushdowns. Something felt awkward and I opened my eyes to see half of the weight room dead still staring in my direction. I am very self aware that at our particular gym I am the female oddity. However, having trained there for two years now I’ve become a commonplace, familiar face. It therefore was slightly shocking and unnerving to see everyone staring in my direction and then it clicked. They were looking past me, at the leg press in the corner. I stopped mid set to see what was going on and my stomach dropped. (Even as I write this my heart tightens) There was my Husband struggling to keep the leg press loaded with 8 plates from crushing the overzealous teenage lifter stuck in the press.

It felt like forever for it to click to everyone that it was going to take more than one guy to get the leg press racked. The press itself weighs at least 100lbs, add to that 8 plates, an awkward steep angle and a lack of spotting bars and it took 3 guys to get it racked.  A few minutes later I pulled Trevor aside to make sure he hadn’t hurt himself helping the teenager. The kicker to this story, Trevor had asked the teen if he was sure he could do that much weight before he got in the press after watching him struggle with 135lb squats.

Know your limits and push them safely. I am not trying to be a gym know it all. I am not saying you shouldn’t lift heavy or push for new personal records. However, there is no trophy to be won by injuring yourself (or others trying to help you) by not knowing your limits.  There are enough ways to get injured in the gym, remove the factors that you can control. Here are some tips for training hard and heavy safely:

    • Keep a training log. This allows you to know your previous max weights and set a reasonable warm-up weight and new max goal.
    • Use proper lifting gear.
    • Practice good form. Yes, those last few reps of a new weight max can be ugly, but the majority of your training session should be done with proper form.
    • Use a spotter. There is absolutely no shame in having someone there as a safety precaution. I find that oftentimes having a spotter allows me to go even heavier because of the confidence and peace of mind they give me knowing I won’t be crushed by the weight I’m lifting.
    • Check your ego at the door. There is a difference between wanting to conquer your training session and thinking you are the visual gift to all the other gym goers.

Train hard, train heavy, train smart. Break those PR’s without breaking a limb. Go get it.

**Please note that these are suggestions. I am not a personal trainer. I am just a gym rat sharing her thoughts on how I do my best to train safely.**


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