Tag Archives: powerlifting

The Forever Student

There’s a technique of framing arguments (which is really a bit of a cop-out) by dividing THE WORLD into 2 camps. You’ve probably seen it before and used it as well – Lord knows I have.

There are two kinds of people in the world, man. People who totally understand why pineapple on pizza is amazing and then there’s barbaric heathens, destroying the foundations of Western civilization with their disdain of this culinary delight.

It’s dramatic and eye-grabbing. I mention it because of how tempting it was to use here for this because here is something I do wonder about whether there are two camps:

People who seek to learn for life and those who mail it in once formal schooling ends.

There’s definitely shades of interest and intent between these two positions, but sometimes it doesn’t seem it.

Now, as I title this post “The Forever Student”, I don’t mean this as that one guy you knew from college who seemed to be trying to figure out a way to never graduate, much to the chagrin of his parents or eventually his credit rating as he amassed a student loan debt that would rival the gross domestic product of many first world nations. (Side note – Why is there always talk about first world and third world countries, yet no one even mentions second world? These things bother me… and yes, bother me way more than they should).

All of this swirled in my head a little bit yesterday as I attended a strength training seminar at my gym.  Two exceptional coaches/lifters in Swede Burns and Greg Panora came through for a 7+ hour seminar covering any topic you wanted to throw at them, as well as hands on coaching on the “big 3” lifts of the squat, bench press and deadlift.  It was the second time I’ve been to a seminar they put on and it was exceptional – they could not have been more generous with their time, knowledge and teaching.  I’m a better lifter today for having been part of this.  Without question.

The reason this idea of the forever student jumped out at me was noticing the people who weren’t there versus those who were. Why, you undoubtedly ask?  Simple – there are plenty of lifters in that very gym who could have gotten a ton out of this somewhat rare opportunity to pick the brains of two of the best around while having them give direct feedback on the finer points of their lifts. But they weren’t there… and that baffles me.  Because they absolutely needed to be… which isn’t an insult to any of them (unless they are one of those people who actively thinks they are better than the coaches who came… and they absolutely are NOT).  It’s just stating a fact – none of them hold all-time world records and the funniest thing is that those who do will admit to all of the top-notch coaching that allowed them to get there.

I just don’t understand the mentality of “No thanks…I’m good as-is and have it all figured out.”  You know the types.  The ones who cannot accept any advice, no matter how learned or proficient the person providing it because…hey, I cannot imagine fixing anything.

Now, before I get accused of virtue signaling (a term that gets trotted out… and incorrectly… way too often), it’s quite the opposite.  This isn’t me giving myself a self high five – I just cannot imagine anything but being a student because I know that there’s mountains of things I don’t have figured out in any way, shape or form.  Why wouldn’t I want to listen to pros and hope to get even incrementally better than yesterday?  I will be the first to admit I need work in any of a number of areas.

I think at a fundamental level that a big reason for my position on this is I refuse to think of myself as a static person where everything is sit, never to change… which also means to never improve.

Hence, I hope genuinely hope I kick my silly ego out of the way as often as possible and embrace the fun of not knowing how much more there is to learn… but giving the effort to try and find out.

Neat and Tidy Little Boxes

Change comes in a lot of forms.  Sometimes it is the blinding flash of light epiphany like Saul on the road to Damascus, but I think a lot of times, it’s more of a slow build over time.  For me, the latter tends to be true much more often than the former.  It certainly was the case recently when I finally accepted for myself that powerlifting was not the draw it once was for me.

While the change was slow and over time, I can think of two more distinct moments that helped drive this path.

The first was returning to playing indoor soccer a year or two ago (before being driven off by nagging injuries).  I thought I was in fine shape – I was stronger than I had ever been, I had been working back in conditioning and I thought I was ready to roll.  Then, I hit the field and stumbled around, moving with a grace that could be described as “wooden” if we were being highly charitable about it.

The second was when I went out to EliteFTS for a training session and seminar.  I went heavier on deadlifts than I had in a long time… and in the days that followed, my training felt crushed.  My recovery was just not great and I felt beat up for the umpteenth time.

In the days that followed that, I realized that returning to my athletic roots as a focal point moving forward was what I wanted.  I thought I was always training to be a strong athlete and realized I spent a lot of time on the strong and not nearly enough on the athlete portion of that mix.  Maybe I came to this realization because I was older and wiser.  Maybe it was because my body was yelling loud and long at me “Bro…this ain’t working out like you think it is.”  Maybe age was catching up with me (although I fight this notion with every core of my being that age should ever be an acceptable excuse for not doing what you love).

Regardless of the reasoning, I knew that at 44, it was time to change course for myself and get back to what I knew would be enjoyable for me in the long term.

The funny thing about all of this is part of the reason I struggled with making this change over the last year or two was how easy it had become to be too concerned with a neat and tidy label for what I was as a lifter. I was a POWERLIFTER.  That was a distinct classification and readily identified me as part of a community of likeminded folks.  There is comfort and power in that kind of identity – we’re social creatures and community matters.

But what happens when, as the cliché states, the juice is no longer worth the squeeze?  That the enjoyment you derive from that has gone way down for what you get back from the work and sacrifice?

What if I went back to training that did not have that neat and tidy little box that had become so cozy for me?  The opportunity to provide a ready answer when people asked what kind of lifter I was? How would I answer that question?

In the days following that lifting session in Ohio, I smiled and realized exactly how I would answer that question… any damn way I really wanted.  I’m a lifter and an athlete.  No other details needed beyond that.  I lift heavy weights.  I throw things around.  I row.  I do yoga.  I play golf.  I sprint hills.  I push Prowlers.  I will, hopefully, start running again.  I may even play soccer again (if my right knee will stop being an obstinate pain in the ass and get on board with this plan).

Those boxes are tempting for everyone and often we slide into them without even realizing it’s happening – they can be lovely boxes, perhaps velvet-lined and gorgeous.  If you want to be part of that group, that’s clearly not a bad thing at all.  But when you realize it’s more convenience or comfort than conscious choice, that’s when things get interesting (and something I’ve thought about before when I wrote “Your Pathetic Little Box” a few years back).  And that’s why this Churchill quote hits home so much with me:

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I’ve chosen a new path and I must admit the details of a lifting program aren’t terribly interesting to anyone but the person writing it or training under it.  The interesting part is assessing your why and seeing if it’s what you want or just part of a sitting in your neat and tidy little box.

Because the thing about those boxes?  They are a certain shape and a certain size… and you can only grow in them just so much.

And I never want to stop growing.

Elite vs. Elitism: Know The Difference

Working to be the best is something I’m all for.  Heck, part of the point of this blog is to detail a little bit about how I am trying to do that with my own life… along with the requisites victories and stumbles that come along the way.  There is a tremendous amount of skill, dedication, discipline and sheer willpower that goes along with the quest to reach that pinnacle… to become part of the elite.  To say I admire those who make that commitment fully is an understatement.

However, elite is something that differs greatly from its annoying cousin that often likes to tag along with it.  That snot-nosed little brat would be the never acceptable elitism.  These two traits don’t always have to travel together as an inseparable pair… but damn it, sometimes they just do.  The sad thing is that they really never need to.

Allow me to illustrate a bit:

Music

This is always one that stuck in my craw a little bit – the way people tend to elevate one band or artistic while simultaneously putting down another for “pandering to the masses” or just being “meaningless pop”.  The latter category would tend to be for music like this from Ke$ha:

And the critically-acclaimed darlings would be something more like this from Arcade Fire:

I can almost sense the level of utter disgust from some reading this post… even though you are doing so in the future.  Yeah, I’m kind of a seer like that – freaky right?  My point is that regardless of why someone may like Arcade Fire and feel repulsed by Ke$ha, I have pretty much zero patience for those who sneer at others for listening to “lesser” music.  If you don’t like Ke$ha, don’t listen to her and the world will just continue spinning along on its merry way with nary a blip in the scheme of the cosmos.  It’s the fact that elitists really are looking for a means by which to set themselves above and apart from others… in this case via their musical tastes… that simply falls flat.  Ke$ha sells a lot of MP3s and albums because people like her music (even if they don’t want to admit it to their friends).  If people like it, why is that such a bad thing?

Fitness

Elitist!

Hoo boy, does this ever happen in the world of strength, fitness, training, exercise and so on.  It’s not enough to be looking to improve yourself or get stronger/leaner/faster/healthier/more awesomer… far too many people are compelled to take that next step from shooting for elite to acting like the elitists will all know and love.  Powerlifters do this.  Bodybuilders do this.  Crossfitters do this.  Triathletes do this.  Hell, I’m sure this even happens in curling, Wiffle-ball and lawn bowling (as this photo proves to a weird degree).  Need I continue?  It’s a disease that doesn’t reside with any one particular clique.

Again, the difference between the two is that someone shooting to be the best is focused on doing what they can… or really… what they must do to improve while elitists focused more of their time on why others are less.  It’s as if the actual work to be better is too hard, so hey, we can look better if everyone looks worse.  YAY!

And truth be told… if you have to resort to acting like an elitist ass to make yourself look better or to feel better about yourself, that’s pretty much the first sign that you were never that great to begin with.

Be humble.  Be great.  Probably one of the most powerful combinations I know.

January 15, 2011 Training – Deadlifts

Just a little video action from yesterday.  It’s interesting because I had been playing around with what I was doing on this lift of late, from not using a belt to doing full stops between reps… and then it hit me: stop trying to be cute and just lift the freakin’ thing.  End result?  A great set that I truly enjoyed… plus I got to let out a battle cry on that last rep.  That’s just a good day any time you can do that.