Last Friday was just like any other Friday.
I spent the morning in classes with a cup of coffee in my hand as visions of snatches danced in my head. Sorry, I’m already excited for the holiday season. I was just humming Theres No place Like Home for the Holidays and I might have broken out into full song once or twice.
As my Friday training session approached I felt the usual butterflies in anticipation of a great workout. I drowned out those butterflies with a tall red eye from Starbucks and an energy drink (Caffeine is my drug of choice) and made my way to the gym. With every step I thought about each rep I was going to hit. If everything went to plan I would be sticking a 95 kilo snatch and a 115 kilo clean and jerk. Although, the jerk is a jerk so I don’t often count on it. I would just end up heartbroken.
Joining us for Friday’s workout was a friend of mine Tom, and my training partner, Josh. We got right on a platform and started warming up. First, I worked with the bar for about 10 minutes, getting it ready to be snatched as much as I was getting ready to snatch. Then I added 10 kilos, 20 kilos, 30 kilos and so on until I got to my once arch nemesis of 90 kilos. Hitting that weight a few weeks back, I am no longer intimidated by it. While it was once the monster in the closet, I have opened up that closet to reveal its true, benign nature as just another weight.
I stuck 90 kilos good. Now I had a choice. Attempt a new PR or maybe try to tie my previous best of 92.5 kilos and become even more comfortable with my former demons. It’s these moments in the gym that I love the most, when preparation and belief meet fear and the unknown.
I put 95 kilos on the bar.
I took a short walk to concentrate my thoughts. I filtered out the uninspiring music, the grunts of surrounding meatheads, the negativity until my thoughts only consisted of the essential self-requirements I would have to fulfill to complete the lift.
Fast under the bar.
Standing in front of the bar I let out a primal grunt as if I was alerting the bar that I would be violently attacking it in a matter of moments. I reached down, and wrapped my straps around the cold and sharp barbell. At this juncture it always seem the bar is whispering to me, taunting me.
“Are you serious? You’re really going to try and lift me? I’m heavy. You’re weak. Good luck. Not.”
I tell it to shut up and I get into my starting position, pulling the slack out of the bar. Ready for launch.
The bar comes off the floor. It’s moving slowly, but it’s moving. Once it reaches my knees the afterburners turn on and my hips move faster than the eye can see. I upper cut the bar and begin my descent.
I miss the lift in front.
I can deal with a missed lift, if it’s behind. A missed lift in front signifies either a failure of effort or an egregiously improper choice of load. In this case I knew I could lift the weight. I just needed to stop messing around and lift the darn thing. So I performed the same ritualistic preparation from earlier.
I miss the lift behind.
Okay now we were getting somewhere. I should have hit the rep, but now I had a slight degree of confidence that I could get the bar exactly where it needed to be. All I had to do was dominate the bar in the hole. I needed to own the barbell.
I miss behind again.
This time I fought harder. For a moment I had the lift, then one of my arms lost its lockout and the barbell fell behind me, scraping me on its journey to the floor. Maybe that was a warning shot, letting me know that it wasn’t my day. We have all seen the horrible videos of weightlifters who snap their elbows during a lift and crumble to the ground in overwhelming pain. Those images try to mess with you when barbells start falling from the sky and training fatigue begins to accumulate.
Fear sets in.
I wanted one more shot at 95 kilos. I wanted to go one more round. I was angry. My training partners were surprised. They would have given up. I took the same walk that I had taken for the previous three misses I step onto the platform. The wood and rubber battleground. Before grabbing a hold of my lifeless opponent I looked over to Tom who would be recording the upcoming attempt and I told him,
“You can’t be afraid to have the barbell come down on you.”
The barbell landed on my back.
The barbell chewed me up and spat me out.
Next week, 95 kilos. Next week.
If you find yourself afraid, unnerved, unsettled, uncomfortable, it probably means you are close to a great opportunity and a learning experience. Don’t run away from fear. Attack it.
You might succeed and in the process gain a wealth of confidence and momentum, propelling you to even greater achievements.
You might die. Or get close. But it seems that the closer to death you can get, the more you know about life. “Near death experiences” seem to be quite enlightening.
As Alfred (Michael Cane) said in one of the recent installments in the Batman saga, “Why do we fall, sir? So we can learn how to pick ourselves up.”
Face your fears and if they knock you down, get up and go at them again. Whether it is in the gym, in the office, in the kitchen, in your relationship, in life…