The Surprising Reason You Should Lift Weights by Lisbeth Darsh

The Surprising Reason You Should Lift Weights by Lisbeth Darsh

If you lift the barbell, you are my brother or sister. Period. Dot. 

I don’t care what color your skin is, where you live, how much schooling you’ve had, who you like to date, or how you’re planning to vote: if you lift the barbell, we are kin.

It doesn’t matter what your t-shirt says, what brand of pants spread across your booty, and whether you’re wearing a headband or a hijab. It doesn’t matter what lift you’re doing or whether you’re also using the elliptical or just doing something funky with that foam roller in the corner. Your occupation, your salary, and your ancestry mean nothing to me when you lift the barbell.

In these moments of pain and triumph (or defeat), you are simply my brother or sister.

  • The steel unites us
  • Effort bonds us
  • The willingness to use pain to improve is our common language

Your suffering for a cause is something I can respect on a fundamental level. One more human with a desire to be better than they currently are. I can dig that. I am trying to be that, too.

Why do I say these things?

Because in these increasingly troubled times, tribes appear to be separating in America and elsewhere across the globe. We have divisions and strife. We have unrest in our streets. We are all stressed. It would be easy to shrink from the world, to hide out, to isolate more, to retreat unto ourselves.

And that would be the exact wrong thing to do—in this time of stress (or perhaps any other). We need to talk, we need each other, we need community, and we need ways to deal with physical and social and emotional discomfort—and I firmly believe using the barbell is one of the finest ways to cope with all of these things.

Lift the barbell up. Put it down. Simple and yet not so simple.

Lift your burdens. Take them on. Put them down and walk away from them. The weights are such a metaphor for this life, these burdens, these troubles of the heart and spirit.barbells-edit-1

If you lift, you are part of a small but merry band of brothers and sisters, and maybe this world would be better if this band of barbell buddies became bodaciously bigger.

Think about these numbers:

  • 312 million people reside in the U.S.
  • Only 58 million of those folks use a gym
  • The average age of a U.S. gym-goer is just over 40 years old
  • The gender split is roughly 50-50 for men/women with gym memberships

I couldn’t find any reliable statistics on the number of people lifting barbells or dumbbells, but even if it was half of those gym-goers (and I doubt the percentage is that high, particularly in non-CrossFit gyms), it’s still a small percentage of the American population that is lifting weights as part of their exercise regimen.

Someone recently asked me on a podcast what I would like to say to women in their 40’s and 50’s and 60’s, and I said this: pick up the barbell. Pick it up and put it down, and keep doing that. (Well, take a break once in a while. Sleep. Eat. Go to work. Visit your mom. Drive your kids to school. Have a bourbon. Kiss a special someone.)

Dedication to working out seems silly to some people, and somehow time-wasteful in a world that needs so much work and help, but think about it this way: if the barbell is a path to health, if the barbell is a path to serenity, if the barbell is a path to brotherhood and sisterhood, then maybe we should be picking up the barbell and putting it down! 

When we improve ourselves, we are more equipped to improve the world.

When we calm ourselves, we are more able to calm others. When we share struggle and triumph, we are more inclined to enjoy and appreciate the struggle and triumph of others. And so too does the barbell help us to understand failure—our failures and those of others. Compassion grows in the most unlikely of flower beds.

So there is nothing wrong with working out. There is nothing wrong with taking an hour per day for your body and your mind.

  • Tell your kids you are unavailable
  • Tell your boss you have an important errand (perhaps a “pressing matter”?)
  • Tell your partner that you need to see your other lover—the one that’s straight and laying on the floor in the gym

Take the time to get your body right. Take the time to get your head right. Then return to the world. It will still be waiting. All your problems will still be there. All the needy children will still be begging for your attention. But you will be more capable of handling them. You will be stronger. You will be more patient and full of love. You will be more capable of being a kind and loving you. And perhaps that’s exactly what this world needs: a stronger and kinder and more loving each one of us.

So, don’t listen to those who would speak of the selfish nature of physical pursuits. They apjordan-lift-barbellpreciate not the mind-body connection that you know at the depths of your being, in the membranes of your mitochondria, in the very heart of your heart. Others may not grasp how your soul is housed in your body, and your body is housed in your soul. But you grasp it. You know it. Cleave to this truth, and practice it.

Go lift: because when you lift the barbell, you become stronger and you become my brother or sister, and I become yours. And this is exactly what the world needs.