I bench pressed for the first time in my life.

It was… interesting. And by interesting I mean weird.

I’ve done some upper body strength work with my trainer before, but she has decided that I don’t have the mass I need to perform at the plyometrics level she would like to see me at. Basically, my legs are strong but I need more power in my upper body. I’m not the only runner to neglect my upper body, but my trainer swears that it will make a huge difference in my performance. And so we bench press.

There’s a weird dynamic at the bench pressing/weight area in my gym. The weather is getting warm, so the gym is not as full as it used to be. The only guys that hang out at the weights these days are the hardcore ones. I say guys because there are literally ZERO women. Testosterone thickens the air.

These guys are enormous. Like, different species enormous. I feel like they’re communicating to each other in a way that I can’t hear or understand. They give each other these strange territorial looks, and they shoot me various quizzical, slightly annoyed glances. As if I’m intruding on their ritual. One of them even came up to us at close range, bent over and stared at the routine on my trainer’s clipboard as if it were some cryptic message. She gave him a dirty look and he walked away.

My trainer taught me everything from scratch. How to breathe, how to lift, how not to injure myself.  It was hard to concentrate. I felt like I was in a jungle of human trees that wanted to eat me.

There was one man in front of me with muscles on him that made it difficult to estimate his age. I would guess about 40. He looked exactly like the Hulk, only red instead of green. He was standing in front of a mirror surrounded by a dozen weights. I don’t even know why he needed so many because they were all the same: HEAVY. Every time he lifted a weight, he would make a very interesting sound. And by interesting I mean messed up.

The man would bark.

When you’re on a bench holding a bar above you that could easily destroy your face, you don’t want to hear the man that already looks like a pitbull start barking beside you. I don’t know how most people would react, but I react with an urge to allow the weights to crush my chest so I can start laughing. And then I suppose I would have to immediately cry.

I somehow survived the weights. I did everything “to failure” which means that I lifted until I could literally not lift anymore. Not until it got hard. Not until it started burning. I pushed and pushed until I suddenly realized that I was about to be crushed alive. When I started seeing my life flash before my eyes, that’s when my trainer would grab the weights and save me. I have redefined my idea of hard.

I am motivated by the fact that my trainer threatens to let the weights fall on me if I don’t try hard enough. Do I want to find out if she’s joking? I do not.

The dog-man would eat my remains.