Saturday, July 1, 2017

Lifting- Older and More Humble.

From time to time in this blog I may veer off strictly educational commentary.  It is my blog so I do what I want (quoting Cartman).  Hopefully there are a couple of our students out there who read this, and maybe some of my journey came help them on their own path.  For this post, I’m going to talk about lifting.  If you have met me, I am a pretty big guy.  I’ve got a little too much fat, but under that I’ve always been pretty strong.    I’m not a guru on fitness, that’s apparent if you meet me.  I do know something about lifting though, and have had a twenty plus year relationship with the iron.  We’re on again, off again, sometimes we fight, and we’ve broken up a time or two.  At 36, I’ve realized I need that relationship forever on, because I can’t be the best me I want to be without it.  Maybe you learn something from my story.

I have vacillated from in shape to out of shape for the majority of my post high school life.  At the core of my journey has been lifting since about age 13.  Over the years there has been time when I would spent 5-6 days a week in the gym, to time spent on my couch doing nothing at all.  I’ve broken bones, tore up knees, and most recently had the pleasure of a bulging disk that has stifled what I want to do in the gym, to just plain being lazy and unmotivated.  I’ve done jiujitsu, muay thai, niseido, wrestling, and on the flipside I’ve spent years eating poorly and letting my health wane. There have been times when I set state records, won trophies, and times when knocking out 135 on a bench was a complete struggle.  I have squatted near 600 for depth, and I spent a solid half decade not even thinking about the weightroom.  In the end, I always come back to it, until an excuse enters my mind.  No more.  I can’t be the best I can be if I don’t submit to the struggle.

Me as a young man.  I think I was 15?

Around Feb/March of this year I took a hard look in the mirror and shook my head.  Working a lot, eating poorly, and spending all my energy in work and family- I’d put on more weight than I wanted.  Couple that with being in the middle of physical therapy for the bulging disk, I wasn’t happy at all with myself.  Since I hurt my back I hadn’t touched a weight since around August 2016 when it started really acting up.  Quick tip: go to the doctor when something isn’t right.  I put it off for months, which was stupid.  I did however, use that pain as an excuse, and a rationalization for being sloppy.  In my mind I listed all the excuses and rationalized them- too much work, kids take up time, need to be home, back hurts need to rest it, I’m not young anymore, days of heavy lifts are over…. Blah, blah, blah.  I realize those reading this may say “Duh!” but I think a critical point for anyone is when they figure out the truth for themselves, and more importantly when they figure out they are lying to themselves.  If you can face that, admit it, and then take action… that is strength.  Introspection and reflection that leads to action isn’t easy.  We can retweet and post inspirational quotes on Facebook all day, but only you know what you say when you look in the mirror, and what truth comes from it.

When thinking about lying to yourself, I can’t help but think about one of my idols: Henry Rollins.  If you aren’t familiar with his work, go find it.  Both in lifting and in life.  The man has made a life of thinking big thoughts, doing big things, and doing it his way.  I respect Rollins tremendously, from the teenager who listened to his music, to the twenty something who read his spoken word, to the thirty something who follows his journey through life.  Smart guy, that Rollins is.  I will direct you to this quote:



Pretty much sums it up. You can rationalize all you want in the mirror, excuse and excuse, but the iron never lies.  Which lead me to around March this year.  Before I go on, I’m going to give bad advice.  I did exactly the opposite of what my doctor told me, but my PT said I should think about and decide what was best for me.  Doc said you’re not going to do anything heavy again, sorry.  That was a huge blow to my pride, and took a bit to sink in.  I needed to lift, and lift hard again.  If I want to be the best self I can be, then I have to lift.  I had a good string going in 2015-16, got road blocked by excuses, and I needed to prove to myself again that I was strong, and more importantly I needed to continue the journey I started as barely a teenager.  It’s not about being an Arnold type physique (that’s never going to happen with me) but it is about feeling strong, being in shape, and taking care of your machine.  Trust me, I’m not the posterboy for that, at all, but one truth I learned years ago in lifting:  don’t compare yourself to anyone else, compare yourself only to yourself yesterday.  Are you better?  If not, why not?  I had to admit to myself that I wasn’t, and it was my excuses that made that happen.

Fall 2015  I was feeling pretty strong.   Months later I would struggle with 225.  Humble hurts. 

So I started back slow.  Rewoke muscles, took it easy with my back.  Read and learned what to do with a jacked up back.  After a few months of getting my forms right, and making sure I felt like I was capable I went hard.  Could I put 300 on my back again and rep it?  Could I pick up 300 from the floor and not break in half?  What about 400?  500?  I won’t lie.  The first time I put 225 on my back, which in the past I would have happily 20 repped, I was scared.  36, out of shape, busted up, and accountable to my family and work- fear entered my mind.  This may sound corny, but as I started to push my limits a simple quote on my phone kept resonating with me.

That’s right.  Hank for the win again.  That quote can be transported all around life, for many situations, but in this instance, for me it was simply “Can you, Rob, be humble with yourself and admit you’re scared?  Can you admit you made excuses? Can you look past it and test yourself?”  So 225 on the back came.  Then 315, then 405, then 450.  Not quite where I have been in the past…. But getting there, and confident about it.  In the quiet of the weightroom, alone and focused the iron doesn’t lie.  You address it, push it, and afterwards the feeling of accomplishment motivates you until you do it again. This is a truth I needed in my life, and had been lying wholeheartedly to myself when I said I didn't.  It's tempting to look at the iron and think about the meatheads who grunt and sweat, but there is truth in that grunt and sweat.  In it you find your limits, what you can tell yourself is impossible, but you manage to do.  In it, you find what you are capable of, and then push past it because the hunger inside will not let you do anything but.  It's a viciously rewarding struggle.  Maybe for you it's not the weightroom.  Maybe it's running 10 miles... but the point remains the same.  When you push yourself, when you forget excuses and come humble and ready to put in work, the reward isn't describable in words in a blog.  The reward is something you need to find, something I had BSed myself into thinking wasn't worth pursuing anymore.  I was wrong.

So I approach my time in the room with a different mindset, older and humble now.  i pay attention to what my body says and logically make a choice to push it.  It's different now, older and more humble, that's for sure.  It's also more rewarding, and I can't quite pin down why, but I am enjoying exploring it.  Whereas in the past volume was more a focus, now intensity and testing myself in each sessions is the drive. Thanks to one of my colleagues Mike Thomas I’ve found the Wendler 5-3-1 program.  I started it June 1 and it’s pretty brutal, but you walk away from it feeling pretty good.  I’m at the end of my fourth week with it, and looking forward to the testing and growth that comes from it.  I feel like it pushes me to forget excuses and just push each time I walk in the room.  That's what I need at 36, and that's what I need to help guard against excuses.  I will revisit this post July 1 of 2018... to see if it worked, but im optimistic as heck that my mindset won't change.  I will do my best that it doesn't, and truthfully, half of this post is solely personal accountability to myself.  If this heavy fellow can put it out that for all to see what his goals and motivations are, then I think that accountability will help keep me straight.

I believe over the past months I’ve learned more about myself, and what I need to feel effective.  For me, that has to have the weight room.    What’s different this time is that I think I had to approach the weightroom from a different place.  Older, wiser, humble that I had made excuses for poor choices and bad habits.  It’s been about 3 ½ months since I had the mirror talk.  Now, I like what I see better when I look inside.  I’m back to comfortably pushing over 1,000 in the core 3, lost over 20 lbs, putting in several miles in the week, and running some hills and I feel good.  Most importantly, for me, I feel good about my mindset.  I’m not going to pretend I’m cut from steel, but I will say right now, I feel strong, I feel like my relationship with the iron is the best it’s been in twenty years, and I’m mindful of the excuses that are sooner than later going to crop up… and ready to ignore them.

So, go out and have that hard mirror conversation.  Be honest and humble.  If you come up not liking what you see and hear, then go do something about, test yourself.  For me, the iron never lies.  Not a lot of 'truth' in the world... but that's one of them.

Week 3 rep set for 5-3-1.

1 comment:

  1. This is inspirational and there are many of us who need a push. I always look for an exterior push when in fact it has to come from within. Good job, Rob.


Love Affair with the Iron Part II