Bench Press, The Story (Part 1)

The week leading up to the competition was rough.

I started a new job. I counted every calorie. I woke up every morning and asked my arm, "Everything okay? No tendonitis today? How about carpal tunnel?"

The nerves threatened to do me in, and when I arrived at the YMCA on Saturday, I saw clues everywhere that maybe this wasn't the place for me.

On a typical day at the Y, you'll see all types of people, all shapes, sizes, and ages. A toddler, hair still wet from swim lessons, will stand defiantly and block your way through the front door. A friendly elderly man is ahead of you at the front desk, checking in. A slightly overweight new mom sweats her way through lunges in the room you pass on the way to the lockers.

Saturday, things looked a little different.

Men without necks: everywhere.
Tattoos and shaved heads: everywhere.
Men whose chest diameter surpassed their total height: all over the place.

I approached the desk to sign in, and the staff member tried in vain to find the T-shirt that came with my pre-registration. "Hers is over there," yelled a trainer. "It's the only 'small.'"

Maybe Amy doesn't belong here.

Not everyone there would easily be suspected of a secret powerlifting life; muscle size does not always equal strength, and some folks looked downright ordinary. There was one guy who came up to my chin--just a little taller than my 9-year-old son--who benched over 500 pounds. (Mesomorphs have all the advantage; were my arms eight inches long, I'd probably be benching 500 pounds, too.)

There was one other woman in my age and weight class, but I didn't realize this because I spent the better part of the competition thinking she was chubby. What fat arms, I thought. No way is she in the 132-148 pound weight class with me.

Turns out that fat was actually solid muscle. We're talking huge triceps, huge traps. We're talking beast.

And we're talking 142 pounds. Uh oh.

(to be continued)


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