The Heaviest Weight In The Gym

I came across this phrase earlier today: “The Heaviest Weight In The Gym.”

It was probably an ad for some piece of fitness equipment in advance of Black Friday, but whatever it was, the words have stayed with me all day.

When I opened a gym–and gosh it seems like forever ago but it was really only 12 years–I thought a lot about objects and their weight. I thought about how many dumbbells and kettlebells I could afford to buy, down to how much I’d be able to spend per pound. I thought about how many permutations of 95 and 135 lbs we could get onto our barbells.

The more things change, the more they stay the same: this month in the gym we’re pushing our sleds pretty heavy once a week. It’s one of those awesome things everyone can do, it’s cut and dry so there is no weird fitness drama, and almost everyone can push way more than their own bodyweight. Way, way more. It’s awesome.

But no matter how heavy that gets, it’s not the heaviest weight in the gym.

I might have thought it was, way back when. But that was before I made it a practice to sit down and talk with every person for at least 30-45 minutes before they even touched a weight in our gym. I try to keep these conversations simple. What do you want to do in here? Why is that important to you? How can we help?

And what I’ve realized, through so many of these conversations, is that the heaviest weight in the gym is almost always the one we carry on our backs. The one we carry into the gym with us.

It’s the weight of what we feel like we should have done by now, or should be doing, or the weight of the failures we’re only too willing to condemn ourselves for, chapter and verse.

It’s the weight of seeing ourselves through funhouse mirror glass, darkly. It’s the weight of what our worst critic on their worst day might say about us. And I think that’s heavier than any of us can fairly bear, frankly.

I’ve started asking some new questions, though. And here’s my favorite one:

How would your biggest fan describe you?

Inevitably, this elicits a chuckle. “No, really,” I say, “I’m serious.”

And then we get to the nitty gritty. Someone out there already thinks you’re pretty strong, capable, and a genuine superstar. Probably lots of people, actually.

So…how do we treat that person? Kill them with workouts, punish them with restriction, search for things they can’t do so that we can say “see, you NEED us”?

Or do we make an agreement to find things we can do, and then do better, and then to keep building?

Do we want to tear that person down, the one who is so special to so many?

Or do we make an agreement to build that person up because they’re worth the effort?

Because YOU are worth that effort.

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