I Found Love in a Hopeless Place: The Basement of My Gym

"I Found Love in a Hopeless Place" is a celebration of love in all its forms, with one new essay appearing each day until Valentine's Day.

Hopeless Love - Lifting Weights - Lead
Photo: By Sage

Sweat dripping, weights clanging, and very little cell phone service. That’s a pretty accurate description of a New York Sports Club experience. Or, at least, that’s how I’d describe the basement of my gym on the Upper East Side. In that stuffy, crowded place full of way too much testosterone and heavy objects, I found love. No, not the traditional kind of love. Instead, I fell hard and fast for weight training and never looked back.

Before I began lifting, I’d only ever identified as a runner. Feeling accomplished at the gym formerly meant putting in some serious miles on the treadmill. “I’d better hit at least five miles today,” I told myself daily. After all, running was an easy and consistent way of keeping my weight in check during college while still being able to drink a few times a week.

That all changed after I moved to N.Y.C. following graduation. For my first few months in the city, I didn’t even have a gym membership and would occasionally go running in Central Park with whomever I’d forced to join me. By that time, though, my body had grown used to the running routine. I was no longer seeing the results I wanted and began thinking of other ways to keep in shape while working long hours at a desk job.

It was then in the fall of 2015 that my fitness routine got a total revamp. At the time, I’d just spent several consecutive weeks hosting out-of-towners for endless days of sightseeing, eating, and drinking. Between that and my job as a personal assistant, I was feeling the effects of my not-so-healthy lifestyle and I was really ready for a change.

At the time, I’d recently reconnected with a former co-worker of mine. Bethany and I had worked together at Fitness Magazine and found that we each shared a passion for health and fitness. We decided to begin working out together. The first day was leg day–and yes, I thought I was going to die–but it wasn’t long before we were absolutely hooked.

Fast forward to now, a little over a year later, and we’ve put countless chest, back, arms, legs, shoulders, and ab days behind us. On good and bad days, we meet at the gym armed and ready to make the most of our workout (and to gossip a little, naturally). Muscles aren't the only things we've strengthened: In a year, Bethany and I have gone from workout buddies to best friends and, more recently, roommates. When one of us hits the gym without the other, we're adorably asked, “Where’s your partner?”

VIDEO: 3 Exercises You Can (Easily) Sneak Into Your Daily Routine

What have we learned during all those hours and reps and sets and supersets? We’ve learned that you don’t have to be a meathead to enjoy lifting—and it won’t make you bulky! We’ve seen the benefits of lifting heavy (and persistently) for a strong-is-the-new-skinny look. We’ve put on muscle, made gym friends, and started studying to become certified so that we can train others on the weekends. And, although we're both a long way from meeting our personal fitness goals, we’ve learned to enjoy and appreciate the process.

In the end, treating your body with respect, while also pushing its limits, has pay-offs you can’t know until you’ve experienced it. Our daily mantra? "If you want something you have never had, you must be willing to do something you have never done.”

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