My Sanctuary

I shove two pieces of Cobalt gum—I won’t lift without it—in my mouth. Pandora, the only music I listen to on my phone, is playing. I am not a fan of monotony. I take the last sip of my preworkout, the one that reminds me of those hot summer days eating my favorite mango Italian ice from Rita’s. There is no turning back. My face begins to tingle, my eyes widen, and the blood rushes to my head—it’s go time.

The blizzard of ’93 marked my entrance into this crazy world. The doctors told my parents I would most likely not make it past birth and, if I did, I would have a list of health issues that would stick with me for the remainder of my existence. Luckily, that was not the case. I fought for my life since birth and I continue to fight to this very day for who I am and what I believe.

My interest in lifting began when I was a child watching my dad lift with my uncle in our basement. I would see them grinding it out on occasion as I would play around with the lighter weights and pretend I could keep up. Although my dad’s red bench was rickety and a bit rusty by the time I ever saw it, there was something about it—inherited from my grandfather—that I couldn’t shake.

Still, I never understood what lifting was really about as I was more involved with the arts throughout most of my childhood. From age five to 14, I played the piano. I sang in a touring choir during my youth, was involved in Girl Scouts and community service, Irish danced, and eventually ran track and field.

I continued with track and field in college at Towson University. As part of our workouts, we had mandatory days where we would work on strength and conditioning. Much to my surprise, I started to put on muscle very quickly and fell in love with lifting—even more so than running. I had no idea that people actually “lifted” as a sport. Then, I quit running and began to spin out of control. I thought I was “living it up” by partying excessively, but I was just being self-destructive.

I finally got my act together, for the most part, only after I decided to transfer to Temple University. My father also suggested that I check out a gym called Greg Long’s. He used to lift there when he was younger. I shied away from lifting for fear of looking too “manly.” I always tried to be model skinny in order to conform to what society considers to be feminine or beautiful, but I decided to follow my heart and check out the gym.

Greg Long, the gym’s owner, partnered me up with two guys, Glenn and Roger, and from there on out there was no turning back. I finally felt at home. I finally found the place where I knew I belonged. I was not judged, I was not ridiculed, I was not picked apart or put down for not being “good enough.” I was accepted for every single part of me—the good, the bad and the ugly.

The gym is my sanctuary, it is my safe place, it is my passion and my home. Every time I walk down those red, white, and blue stairs and enter that old gray door, I leave all of my troubles right there. I greet my second family with a bright smile and warm hello, look around, zone in, and prepare myself to kick some ass. It’s me against the weights. Every rep, every breath, every movement depends on my own willingness and drive to succeed and do better than I was the day, the week, the month before. There is no turning back.