Niina Pollari on Minor Gains

Niina Pollari on Minor Gains:

Three things about weightlifting drew me in: its relative solitude; the tangible results (mostly pain) that followed; and the slightly transgressive way it felt to be a woman near the free weights. (Though numbers of non-male lifters seem to be on the rise, we’re still far from the majority.)

Maybe I’m just looking for some feelings-based narrative in weightlifting because my gender dictates that I’m an emotional creature who falls in love with everything.

Emotional arcs and storytelling exist in writing about other physical activities—running is the best example. Runners who write seem gifted at linking motion with writing. The process of putting distance behind you with just your own two feet lends itself easily to an essay about strong dedication. The one-two pattern of feet on the ground mimics both the heartbeat and the iambic structure of English speech, which makes running easy enough to relate to craft. (Haruki Murakami wrote an entire book about it.) Running, particularly as a practice for writers, has gathered for itself a nobly meditative reputation. But what if what I love is something other than endurance, than distance? I’m a poet, I tell myself. I don’t deal in distance.

But the satisfaction I get out of the action of lifting weight is a different kind. It’s the same kind of joy that I get out of following a calm, caring routine week after week with the partner who shares my space with me. The transformative power of love is that it builds over time. When it works, love is comprised of the mutual interwoven patterns of its participants.