While watching American Ninja Warrior last week my mind went to my younger years and my time spent watching the show American Gladiators. Like kids today aspire to be ninjas, I dreamed of being as impressive and fit as a gladiator. In fact, starting in elementary school I remember my brother starting, “gladiator training.” His process was quite simple: he would punch me in the right arm countless times and say (in a fairly grating voice), “gladiator training.” Yes, this happened frequently. The visible result was a consistently bruised arm, but on a more positive note, it directly links to my earliest desire to be physically strong.
My first experience lifting weights was around middle school. My brother had some weights and taught me how to do biceps curls with a bar. Now I know this is one of the more pointless weight exercises, but it served as my first exposure to free weight training. I enjoyed the weight getting easier to lift in a fairly rapid fashion. Quickly my arms grew and stretch marks decorated my upper arms. I don’t remember other kids my age getting these, but I saw my brother getting them from his weights routine so I figured it was okay.
Fast forward to high school, my major training with weights started as a track and field athlete. I can still see myself struggling with that 45 pound bar on the bench press diligently working to stabilize the bar while attempting to lift it above my chest. When in high school I maintained a gym membership at our community center and was religious about my weight routines. I lifted all summer and during off season from track and field with my brother or sister. Along the way I got stronger, physically but also mentally. In simple terms, lifting made me feel good and having strength empowered me as an overweight teenage girl. In fact, I remember bench pressing more than my high school boyfriend by the end of senior year and that felt pretty great.
Today I can say that my brother’s punches starting me on my way to a stronger self. I’m sure he did this more so to annoy me more than inspire me but actions can be funny like that. You never know who you may inspire. You never know how you may find inspiration. You never know who may be watching your results and want the same for themselves. While I wonder why nobody was overly concerned about my permanent bruise on my right arm, I am grateful for the hits to begin a journey of strength improvement spanning over the past 27+ years. While I am far from a gladiator or ninja I am inspired to get better every day with or without a daily punch as a reminder.