I’ve learned to embrace the heavy lifting that comes with life
by Lynnette Ramirez
My whole life growing up I was taught to “pull my own weight.” Whether I was part of a team or facing an individual goal, it was instilled in me early on by my parents, teachers, coaches and even friends that in order to succeed one must be self-reliant, hardworking and responsible. While I played team sports as a younger child, in high school when I was faced with choosing just one sport, I opted for swimming. I picked it because I was decent at it and living in southern California, it beat running in the heat or being cooped up in gym.
I also learned early on to appreciate it because while we competed as a team, the ultimate goal from race to race, week to week, was to beat your own previous best time. Therefore, whether the team as a whole won or lost that week, if you shaved seconds off your best individual time, you were considered successful. I wasn’t the best swimmer on the team, in fact I was much closer to the worst, but I was elected captain my senior year because I understood this great duality of the sport.
As I grew older and entered adulthood, I always felt because I had been a swimmer, I grasped the importance of both being a team player and succeeding as an individual. As I moved into management, I adopted this life lesson further because being a good leader meant not only making sure my team worked well together, but that everyone felt they were being motivated to do their own personal best for the good of the group, as much as for their own personal gain and success.
When faced with leadership challenges, I often think about the old swimmer analogy and wonder how I can continue to encourage my team members of today to not just dip their toes into the pool of challenges, but swim the whole length of the pool over and over again, always wanting to improve upon their own personal best and ultimately get to the win faster.
A couple weeks ago I had an experience that made me reevaluate if it is always enough just to carry your own weight as a leader, or if there are times when if you know you’re strong enough, that you should try to pull others weight too.
I don’t swim very much anymore, but I have maintained working out 3 to 4 times a week. It’s only been very brief periods throughout the last twenty years since I graduated from the swim team that I have fallen off the work out wagon completely. Over the course of the past year, I fell into weight lifting as part of my regime, thanks to an irresistible Groupon.
When I began, I thought arrogantly that heavy lifting was lazy compared to the cardio workouts I’d been used to. Under the guidance of an awesome trainer, Lauren Herrera, I stuck with it because of her depth of knowledge on weight training. When I started I could deadlift only sixty-five or so pounds, to which I moaned and groaned days after that my lower back hurt. Just like when you do 100 squats and your thighs hurt so much you regret having to sit down to pee, I was hurting in places I didn’t know I had muscles from these “barbell lifts.”
Lauren assured me that was just my muscles getting stronger and kept adding plates. On mornings when I couldn’t finish the last of my bench press reps on my own, Lauren would spot me, helping to lift some of the weight for me so that the bar wouldn’t crush me. As I went along on this journey, lifting heavier and heavier weight was feeling nothing, like just pulling my own weight. Not just physically, but mentally too.
Lifting barbells above your head, over your shoulders or resting between your shoulder blades takes a lot of concentration and ultimately careful instruction from a trainer. A couple of weeks ago I dead lifted 135 lbs, which was double where I started from and just about my own weight. Lauren was very excited and proud of my accomplishment, and I in turn was appreciative of her excitement and her good work that got to me that point. I can see the changes in my body from heavy lifting more than from any another other workout I’ve done, even swimming 4 hours a day.
All vanity and pride aside, it made me recognize I’ve spent a whole life up to this point believing as long as I pulled my own weight, and lead others to do the same, I was in good shape. Perhaps sometimes in life, it takes more than just pulling your own weight to create true change and definition within and around you.
What’s the sense of building into a stronger, more concentrated and focused you, if you can’t lighten the load of others sometimes; offer to pull some of their weight when they’re not yet in their best shape.
Just like Lauren would spot me during my bench-press lift, because I was persistently putting the effort out there to get stronger. In the pool of life carrying your own weight is valuable and builds muscles, but what’s the true measure of those muscles if you can’t use them once in awhile to help lift others up?
Dedicated to Lauren and all the strong ladies at Pilates Barbell Club.
“Strength of a man, energy of a child, body of a woman.”Tags: Film and television executive, Film and TV business, Hollywood, Lauren Herrara, Leadership, Lynnette Ramirez, Overcoming challenges, Pilates Barbell Club, Weightlifting