Since this is a personal post, a little bit about me, my life:
I write the nutrition and food articles here at S&S, 37 years old mother of 2 with a scheduled training regime. You may wonder why I use the term “train” rather than “working out” and what sport I play? We were always taught that only athletes train and the rest work-out. Well, I’m here to tell you that I’m an athlete and I play the same sport you do, called LIFE!
Life is not easy so Train Hard
My training effort comes up often through gym conversation. I often get looks from bystanders while I move through my routine. While others come up and ask, what sport I play? The other day someone asked me this very question: why do I train so hard? The guy who asked me this is young, in his 20’s, fit and works out on regular basis. He felt the need to ask me, but also made me think. I didn’t have an answer for him or myself. But it came clear to me several days later.
Today was my epiphany as the training session began with Power component – Hang Power Clean, to be exact. Olympic lifts and their variations always freak me out. Bar momentum transitioning through series of compound lifts, while increasing its velocity is intimidating to many (myself included).
The technique – In hang power clean, you are taking a bar from low thigh position pulling it to hips (2nd pull). This newly acquired upright position moves immediately into vertical lift (3rd pull) by shrugging and pulling your loaded bar upwards. The job doesn’t end there, as you receive the bar by pulling yourself under it, squatting down while catching the load on top of your upper chest/clavicles/deltoids, while thrusting your elbows forward, by turning over your wrists. After all these technical steps that you move through in a blink of an eye, you finally acquire a clean grip, with bar clinched against your clavicles and front deltoids. You squat up and smile, as you’ve completed one rep.
As you can see, this version of Olympic clean composed of technique that needs to be performed in sequence and the 3rd pull always presented me with the biggest challenge, technically as well as psychologically. As the bar path changes trajectory and begins to move upwards you get this “oh s**t” moment”. Your mind begins to analyze your in-progress lift at the worst time possible. You begin to wonder things like, “does the bar has enough momentum” or “when do I begin pulling myself under”. And just before performing an aerial dive and catching my loaded achievement in a clean position, the brain decides to have a full domestic dispute yelling at you that its “too late…… too heavy”. The result or lack thereof is – no lift.
I’ve been doing Olympic lifts for the past 6 months and steadily worked up in weight. In the beginning I started with a wooden bar, then 25lb bar and so forth…
Now back to this morning and a rubberized plate paved road to hang power clean glory. Today, as usual, I warmed up and steadily pyramided (increase) the weight:
Set 1 – The bar (45lbs x10 reps), no problem! This is my warm up now a days.
Set 2 – 10lb plates each side (65lbs x5, good starting weight).
Set 3 – 15lbs each side (75lbs x5, I’m feeling the pump now).
Set 4 – 20lb each side (85lbs, x3 done, this is where I usually stop; physical and psychological max).
Ohhhh, but today was different. There was no internal battle between my mind and me – I must have carbed up (or at least I thought). I was calm, felt strong physically and mentally. I knew, not believed – but knew – that my body can handle more. Sooo…
Set 5 – 22.5lbs each side (90lbs, x2 done. It felt good. Confidence still holding the foundation).
Now, I see the 25lbs Olympic plates sitting there on the rack. Lifting them was my goal (or dream), for a while. There was no looking back, so I loaded up the bar!
Set 6 – 25lbs each side (95lbs total weight) and it begins…
I am normally 125lbs, that morning, I weighed at 121lbs. Thus, for a beginner like me, 95 lbs bar is heavy. I take deep breaths, play in my head the lift, going through technique progression, motioning them in the air.
Attempt 1 – I deadlift 95lbs off the floor, shrug 2x, and drop it.
Attempt 2 – I repeat attempt 1, again.
Attempt 3 – take deep breaths, drink some water, start again; 3rd pull trying to get it high enough, elbows bend, ready for the dive. But I can’t dive under the bar. I freeze and drop the weight. At this moment I’m second guessing myself as the mind begins to play it’s usual tricks.
Attempt 4 – I do the same thing as above; another mental block. I get MAD. I begin to yell – internally of course – that I will beat this, today is not a question but a statement. It’s not about whether my body is capable of this lift but rather whether I am capable of controlling my thoughts.
At this point my brain presents a logical argument of cause and effect. Potential risk of injury that typically wins the debate. But today I am not listening. My spirit is strong, and I argue that this goal is not only achievable but monumental in becoming something more; something that one can’t explain but rather experience.
I take deep breaths…. and get set.
Attempt 5 – I deadlift 95 lbs barbell off the floor, hips through, shrug up, dive under while driving my elbow through catching my personal best bar. Elbows high and I stand up!
WOW! WHAT A FEELING!
I look at myself in the mirror and at that moment I have the biggest smile on my face. Complete Satisfaction! In that moment the feeling and emotions that were surging through me is difficult to put into words.
Today, I have an answer to the question that 20-something year old guy asked me at the gym: Why do you train so hard?
It’s because I’m an athlete and my sport is LIFE!
I did not lift this weight because it was going to give me a better body, burn more calories, or to show-off to the treadmillers across the room.
I did this, because in that moment:
• There was a physical and mental obstacle – an unattainable goal that was surpassed today.
• There was me accepting the challenge – focused, calm, clear headed.
• There was my mind – battling but not controlling me.
• There was my heart and spirit – believing that I will succeed.
• There was my mind to body connection with purpose and goal – resulting in a successful lift.
• There was an immediate taste of victory through surge of emotion that almost made me scream – I KNEW and I DID.
That moment and excitement is still with me as I write this piece. That feeling of physical and internal strength can not be taken away. This hang power clean was more than just a successful lit; it’s a confidence building block in my self and my abilities. So, the next time when life presents another psychological battle in my path, I will remember this moment and say, I KNOW this, I GOT this, I AM this.
Training doesn’t just build a body, it builds Character!
Challenging yourself isn’t easy but rewards of personal growth are simply incredible. Whatever the obstacle in your path, be it starting to exercise, going to the gym on regular bases, or pushing to a new limit; accept it, try it and practice it. With perseverance that day will come of you achieving the unattainable, and you’ll be right where I was today.
Interesting thing about gyms and training is an instant feedback result that you receive either through endeavour and /or accomplishment. This feedback will pave the road for more success as you start to believe and move forward. From there you’ll begin your own journey to personal growth and fulfillment, going places where you never thought were possible.
So become an Athlete in this Sport called Life, not a Spectator!
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