The Gym Jones Shirt is preceded by its reputation. It is earned; never given, never purchased. The Shirt has a long history and has been earned in many different ways. Sometimes the opportunity to earn it is presented, sometimes an athlete creates the opportunity for themselves. In all cases, earning the shirt represents that you rose to an occasion that demanded something difficult from you, and that you can be trusted to do so whenever it is required of you. 

For the next four weeks, we have invited athletes to share the stories of earning their shirts. This week, Gym Jones HQ athlete Lucy Williams talks about how she earned her shirt, what it meant to her at the time, and what means to her now.

“In January, I experienced a physical and emotional setback that nearly derailed me.  As part of this experience, I had to undergo a small operation, which kept me out of the gym for a few weeks.  Returning for my first post-op workout was one of the hardest things I have ever done.  I walked into the gym feeling small and broken and alone.  I was wearing hospital bandages under my workout clothes.  Nobody else knew what I had been through, and I felt feeble, both physically and emotionally.  The workout was hard and magnified my weaknesses.  Halfway through, I went to the bathroom and cried.

A few weeks later, I went to the gym to watch my coach (who is also my sister) compete in a meet.   At the end of the meet, she and the rest of the Gym Jones crew gathered together to take a group photo.  While we were all huddled together, she shocked me by giving me my shirt.  She said, “I have been Lucy’s coach for the last two years.  She has set some really tough goals for herself, and she has accomplished every one of them.  And especially in the last 2-3 weeks, I have seen her do some of the hardest things that have ever been done in this gym.”

I hadn’t yet recovered from my experience, and I still felt bruised and pathetic.  But the shirt told me that those feelings were wrong.  The strongest people I knew—people who have witnessed some remarkable physical feats—had decided that I was worthy of their highest honor.  They thought I was strong enough to wear their shirt.  I believed I was inadequate and weak, but if the Gym Jones community thought I deserved the shirt, then maybe, perhaps, I was wrong.

My shirt reminds me that I can do hard things.  It tells me that I am part of a strong, caring, and supportive community and that I have friends who will help me lift heavy things—both literal and figurative.  But most importantly, it tells me that I am stronger than I think.  When I feel down or inadequate or weak, the shirt reminds me that there is a group of strong people who believe that I am also strong.  If they believe that, the shirt says, then I should believe it, too.”