Until about two years ago it had been a life goal of mine to own an operate a gym. I first started my exercise journey at the tender age of 14. My friends and I would often spend time at my friend DD's house doing all sorts of things-basketball, hockey, baseball, and other things young kids should do. In his barn, he had a spring with handles on the end that his father used to work out back in the day. All of my other friends were able to bend the handles together easily, but I was always smaller and weaker than they were, so I struggled with it immensely. One day I will be able to bend it, I told myself.
I didn't really make any changes that would help me achieve this goal at first, but I kept trying to bend that bar whenever I was there. I came closer and closer to bending it each time in spite of my lack of training. I'm sure that puberty supplied the gains in strength, but determination probably didn't hurt either. I did not want that piece of metal to defeat me.
I eventually managed to bend it successfully after months of trying and felt a great degree of satisfaction in doing so. However, there was no higher notch for the bar, so my strength gains stagnated for a while until I started watching Dragonball Z. The awesome strength of those cartoons was inspiring to me and caused me to start my quest to become like Vegeta, my favorite character from the show. He would always train extremely hard to get better than kakarot, another character in the show, who would always outdo him. This irritated Vegeta as he was the prince of all Saiyans, the race of both he and Kakarot, and so should be the most powerful. Pride was certainly his main motivating factor, and that was certainly true for me as well. I think I saw something of myself in him. Some dormant power that I had yet to tap into.
My grandfather gave me a pair of 10 lb weights that he had in his house and I started doing as much as I could with those weights and did plenty of pushups and situps. Eventually those weights became a little too light and I upgraded to 25 lb weights (Incremental progress was a foreign concept to me at the time!). Of course, I struggled immensely with these weights, but the desire to be like Vegeta pushed me to new heights. One upgrade led to another and eventually I had a weight bench that allowed me to do dips, leg extensions, preacher curls, and bench press and off I went with those exercises, doing them all the time and adding new ones as I went along. Eventually I even surpassed my friends who had always been stronger than me, and then a few of my friends started flocking to my basement to start working out with me. Thus, Dan's gym was born.
We would work out almost every day after school and slowly but surely we started to "get ripped". We all progressed substantially and it wasn't long before we had to upgrade Dan's gym. At it's peak, we would lift weights until we felt like we were about to burst out of our skin and then push harder. By the time high school rolled around, we were all stars in gym class.
Sadly, I went to university and Dan's gym died off. I did, however take my training to the next level in university and ended up getting quite strong. At some point though, the lift things up and put things down side of myself started to wane. I had achieved far more than I thought possible and it was time for a new challenge. My friend dragged me to a step Aerobics class and I was a regular for a solid 5 years. I still lifted weights on the days that I didn't do step class, though.
Fast forward to today and I have hardly stepped foot in a gym since November 2010. The days of trying to prove something to myself are over and the days of trying to understand myself have begun. At some point I realized that I had been trying to beat a metal bar for nearly a decade. I had chained myself to it and continued to add links to the chain as time went on. As with many chains, it became tangled along the way and I am now in the process of removing the links one by one so that I am no longer bound by the chain. In the words of the beatles, it's time to just let it be. Adios, metal bar!