I can rattle off a list of 8 different sports I played before I was in high school. You name it, I played at least two seasons. Yet, with all those sports, I was never taught how to properly strength train. I’m completely comfortable on a field, but drop me in the middle of a weight room and I have no idea what to do.

The weight room has always been a daunting place for me. Everyone there is strong and super intimidating. I was aware of my lack of knowledge, but I assumed I could figure it out. When I first went to the weight room, I copied people who seemed to know what they were doing. You can probably imagine how surprised I was once I realized I couldn’t do the exercises. If you haven’t experienced this before, newsflash: being in cardio shape does not translate at all to the weight room.


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The first emotion I experienced was shock. Complete and utter shock. I’ve run a half marathon and I can handle hill repeats and stairs. But shoulder presses? Nope. Bench press? Not even. Barbell squats? No way. Even exercises with no weights, like push-ups and pull-ups, are extremely far from my capability.

This is when I realized the tough lesson that being in cardio shape does not mean I can lift weights. Although strength training compliments your cardio and can improve your running, just because you’re great at one thing does not mean you’ll automatically be great at the other.

Embarrassment and Anger

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After the shock, the embarrassment and anger hit. I expected myself to be able to lift weights, but I couldn’t and that’s when the embarrassment hit. I may be advanced in cardio, but it’s a humbling experience to start at the bottom for strength training. I go from killing a 5 mile run to lifting little 5 pound weights. Not only is that hard enough to adjust to, but I’m often surrounded by a group of people who are lifting much heavier weights than I am. It’s uncomfortable, embarrassing and upsetting, in addition to the typical gym typical gym struggles.

That’s when the anger develops. It takes a while to come to terms that all your hard in the cardio world doesn’t translate to strength training. I kept thinking “all that work for nothing,” but you can’t let yourself get disheartened. Strength training simply requires a different type of training, one that we often aren’t taught.

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Overall, learning that cardio training is separated from strength training is a tough lesson to learn. Turns out, I can’t expect to be great at strength training if I don’t put in the work. If you’ve only done cardio in your life, do not expect to be good at strength training at first. The first time few times you strength train, it will be hard, painful, uncomfortable, and very confusing.

The good part is that it’s supposed to be all those things because it’s new to you. Embrace the fact that you’re a beginner and be ready to learn. If you can get through the shock, embarrassment and anger of having to essentially start over, strength training has numerous health benefits. A friend last semester told me that once she started strength training and got the hang of it, it became addictive. Personally, I haven’t experienced that yet, but fingers crossed I do soon.