I love awkward. It’s why we use loosely packed sandbags with weight that shifts around as we heave and heft. The shifting weight is awkward, and the instability forces your stabilizing muscles to jump in and help out. When you clean (with power, not with soap) and then push a sandbag overhead, your supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis all get tapped. The awkwardness of the sandbag puts much greater demands on these small, rotator cuff muscles than when you’re using a perfectly rigid bar weighted with perfectly balanced bumper plates.

On a physical front, stronger stabilizing muscles translate to much less likelihood that you’ll injure yourself when you move something heavy that’s not a rigid bar weighted with perfectly balanced bumper plates. That is, when you move any heavy thing in real life.

On the existential front, we work with awkward weight because life, like an under-stuffed sandbag, is awkward. Not for everyone – two people have never been awkward: (1) Dawson of Dawson’s Creek, and (2) the Dalai Lama. For the rest of us, though, our lives are filled with awkward.  Family is awkward. Handshakes are awkward. Breakups are awkward.

The point of training awkward is not to just get OK with awkward. The point is to get awesome with awkward.  And there’s no better time than summer to get it on with the awkward. So…four things to do for your most awkward summer ever:

1. Go swimming. There’s great potential for awkwardness in public pools, especially for gender non-conformers and anyone with hang-ups about their body. That is, nearly everyone. Rather than awkwardness being a reason to avoid swimming pools, make it a reason to go swimming. A few years ago, the five year son of a friend spent the afternoon staring (very politely) at me before screwing up his courage to ask (very politely), “What do you wear to the swimming pool?”  I told him I wear a boy’s bottoms and a girl’s top. He thought about that for a while and decided that’s just fine. There are a few true idiots in the world, but the vast majority are like that 5-year old kid. Strut through the changing room and swim like you own the place, and they’ll decide that’s just fine.

2. Get upside down. We don’t spend much time upside down. That makes inversions a great way to give our bodies a chance to learn how to respond to physical awkwardness. Because being upside down requires us to maintain balance in an instable position, our first instinct is to draw inward and/or lock down. Keep at it and your body will figure out that you have to do the exact opposite: push outward and stay loose enough to make the constant micro-adjustments you must make to stay balanced. What’s also great about inversions is that they’re progressive, meaning there is always a next level inversion that provokes enough anxiety to make it physiologically – and psychologically – interesting.  Start with donkey kicks, and work your way up to a handstand hold against the wall. Once that handstand hold loses its awkwardness, try free-standing handstands, then one-handed handstands against the wall, then freestanding one-handed handstands.

3. Do squats everywhere. At the airport, at work, in the parking lot, at the movies (during the previews, not the movie itself), while waiting for the bus. People will look at you funny, and ain’t that great? If you want to step the awkwardness up a notch, encourage gawkers to join you.  Since doing 20 squats invariably makes you happier, you’ll soon associate people staring at you with being happy. And then it’s that much more likely you’ll go do all those things you’ve been avoiding because you believe people will look at you funny.

4. Come to queerfit. It’s going to be a hot, awkward summer of queerfit. We’re going to be trying out all sorts of new movements and moving all sorts of new things. If you’ve been meaning to come (or come back), but worried about not having the right thing to wear or being in good enough shape or whatever, this is the season to jump in. If you’ve been coming, bring that awkward friend who’s been meaning to make it.

By the end of the summer, we’ll all be awesome with awkward. See y’all tonight!

** If you’re not already a member of the Queerfit ATL group on facebook, go join. We’re posting workouts, photos and location changes there.