Thoughts From Three Months Under A Barbell

Maya Kosoff
4 min readOct 16, 2022

I started seeing a trainer last year. This is a function of making more money than I used to but also giving up years of hyperfixating on cardio, which I obsessed over. I used to go to the gym for a couple hours and not get off the elliptical until it felt like the calorie output number was high enough that there was no way the food I would consume the rest of the day would surpass that number, leaving me in a calorie deficit for the day (I did not know anything about calories then. I have deprogrammed myself now to not fixate on calories as a goal or even a metric I track). I was tinier than I had ever been at any other point in my adult life and I was completely miserable. This was not sustainable, which is why I would crash and burn after a few months of this until I stopped entirely, gained back the weight I lost, and then re-enter my manic exercise era. In 2020, stuck indoors and unable to replicate these patterns at the gym, I got a Peloton and basically did the same thing on the bike in my home, since I wasn’t doing anything else anyway.

Last year, sick of anything that reminded me of 2020 and preparing for a hiking trip in Utah, I decided to cast off my unhealthy old ways of being and invest in becoming stronger instead of trying to become smaller. After about a year of full body workout training, training my core to become stronger, and doing 437893797 planks and squats, I decided this year that I would move my goals even further away than what they used to be: instead of just learning the basics, I wanted to lift heavier weights. The barbell terrified me, but I wanted to be under it.

Not my gym, but maybe someone else’s? Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

So we have spent the past three months training me on squats, bench presses and deadlifts with the barbell. First, we started with just the bar so I could learn the basic form and get that right before we added weight, but I’m impatient and stubborn so every week we add weight and then I ask for more weight. But although my body wants to lift heavier things, my brain and central nervous system take longer to adapt to the new weight, and I falter, and we spend the week building up my confidence and ability to lift more. Learning how to use your muscles takes work, Every step of the routine is a conscious effort and part of a choreographed dance — it starts with visualizing myself lifting the weight, approaching the bar, gripping the bar…

Maya Kosoff

i’m a freelance writer and editor. you can also read me in places like the new york times and vanity fair.