Tag Archives: success

Why Do You Do This To Yourself?

Right after the question “what the hell are you doing? that usually comes after someone sees me painfully cranking on knee wraps and bruising the back of my legs while putting my feet half to sleep, comes the question “why would you do that?”

I guess I never really step back to think that to the average person wanting to put hundreds of pounds of weight in your hands or on your back might seem a little weird, and maybe it’s as simple as that: I’ve never wanted to be average. There’s no money in powerlifting, you’re not going to become famous from it, aside from people in your close circle who area vaguely aware that you pick things up and put them down, no one cares about what you do. Win a meet, qualify for nationals, set a new record? You’re probably going to get some likes on Facebook, and then get lost in the abyss of baby photos and cat videos.

That being said, I know I that will I be dragged broken and screaming away from the weights that I have given so much to and they have given so much in return. I know I will rage against the dying light of whatever career I have left, but the question remains:

Why the fuck to do you do this?

I sat here stuck looking for the perfect answer, but the more I think about it, it just comes down to who I am. To me, powerlifting is the perfect metaphor for many of the things I value the most in life.

Personal Responsibility

Powerlifting is beautiful in it’s simplicity: it’s you vs the weight, you either lift it or you do not. There’s no teammates, no opponent, no one but you on a platform, there’s no weather or other extraneous conditions to blame a poor performance on. 500lbs will be 500lbs, and it doesn’t give a shit whether you had a bad day, whether you’re nervous, whether you’re feeling sick, partied too much, cheated on your diet or skipped the exercises you don’t like doing. If you don’t make the lift, weaker minded lifters will blame their coach, the bars were too slippery, there was baby powder in the chalk… The strongest lifters will take responsibility for their performance and begin the process of investigating and correcting the error.

Determination, Acceptance of Failure, and the Value of Hard Work

The second you start powerlifting you accept that eventually, given enough time, the weight always wins. There’s a respect among top tier lifters that I believe centres around this very fact. You may have goals and successes along the way, but no matter how strong you are, you’re always after the next 5lbs, and it will never be enough. It’s a relentless search for self improvement that spans beyond just the physical into the mental and emotional realms, and you will be tested in all of them. Stay in the game long enough and you will get injured, you will get scared and lose your confidence, you will miss lifts, you will deal with setbacks and pain that would break many, lifts will go backwards, BUT, through calculation and sheer–I-will-not-be-fucking-broken attitude and determination, you will succeed anyways and you will be better for it.

For me personally the endless pursuit of a goal that is eternally out of reach is the true value that powerlifting provides. To accept that you will never be done, but to devote yourself regardless through whatever trials and tribulations you may face shows not only character, but is the roadmap to success in every worthwhile endeavour in life. Whether you desire to be the best parent to your child, launch a business, or look to make a meaningful change to the world, it requires a process that mirrors the exact same process you will undergo chasing that ever elusive 5lbs more.

Healthy Competition, Perspective, and Community

For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to be the best at something, to push myself past any measurable marker, and outperform my peers. I’ve been admittedly hyper competitive to a fault and when I first started powerlifting I wanted to be the best lifter in my weight class in BC, and then Canada, and then see where I could fit in the world stage. If I’m being honest, I never fully believed that I could become the best in the world, but as I close in on the second goal making a run at all three Canadian records in July, I realize I no longer care where I sit among others. Don’t get me wrong I am absolutely hell bent on getting those records, but not to be better than anyone else, to be the best version of myself, wherever that sits me on the world scale, I am fine with.

Right now I am no longer the outright strongest person in my own gym, we have Cameron who actually is the strongest lifter in the world in his age and weight class and will likely set the all-time world squat record at 105kg bodyweight and out squats me by 90lbs, we have our coach Cam Bennet who out benches me by 30lbs, and although we have a bet on who can make it to double bodyweight first (a tub of protein for a 2+year bet, we really should have aimed higher here Cam…), but if either of you two are reading this, there’s no way I’m ever letting you out deadlift me. All kidding aside I would be more than ecstatic to see both those men remain stronger than me forever, so long as we’re all still getting working towards our next 5lbs, and of course I’m going to do everything in my power to put them under as much pressure as possible as both a coach and fellow lifter, and guaranteed we’ll all be stronger for it.

Always Improving

Today I am chasing a 700lb deadlift, in the future it will be 705, and today I tried to do everything I could to get better, tomorrow I will add one more thing and improve on the things I missed.

Imagine for a second that you took responsibility for your actions and performance, were ferociously determined but could accept the lessons that failure provides, you knew the value of hard work, embraced healthy competition with a sense of community, had the courage to re-examine your perspective, and always believed you could be a little better – what could possibly stand in your way?

This is why I am so drawn to powerlifting beyond just the joy of getting stronger, every day I get to challenge myself to be a little better. Some days I will win, and some days I will lose and learn, but guaranteed I’ll be getting up the next day and will be standing next to that fucking bar determined to try again, and I genuinely hope some of you reading decide to join me

See you on the platform and in the gym.

Does Your Workout Scare You? It Should.

I was reading an article by Charles Staley about the psychology of lifting weights and it got me thinking about my own training and the research I’d done on the topic. Like Charles, I too often wonder why the arguably most important aspect of physical performance is just brushed off as an after thought. The brain is your most powerful weapon when it comes to displaying the abilities you’ve trained your muscles to do.

I’ve talked previously in the “how mirrors make you weaker and ruin your fitness” articles how your brain actually lifts the weight; your muscles simply do what they’re told to do. If you get a large impulse of electrical activity from the brain and spinal cord, you get a massive contraction of the muscular tissue, although it’s slightly more complex than that, barring any underlying disease, it’s not that much more complicated. Pavel Tsatsouline has a great quote “your muscles already have the strength to lift a car, they just don’t know it yet”

We’ve all heard the stories about the untrained woman who lifted a car off her child after a car accident, or the 100lb woman who while under the influence of suspect substances managed to snap her leather restraints and throw an entire hospital bed at the hospital staff – so what explains these feats? Whether through the extreme stress of a life or death situation or the altered chemical state, the brain was able to bypass all its preset limitations and apply a true maximum effort. If a 100lb untrained woman can do these things, just imagine what you could do. Now I’m in no way recommending that you put a gun to your head or munch on some bath salt preworkout powder before your next squat session, but it gives you some insight into just how powerful your mind is

“Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right” – Henry Ford

I have 110lb women that are significantly stronger than many 250+lb men, even some of those who are actively training, do you dare try and explain this difference quoting “genetics” as the reason? Of course the 250lb man has every physical advantage here, the real difference is the way the two groups approach the task. One group approaches the task with focus, they expect to get stronger each week, expect to see results, and have faith in themselves and the process, the other group doubts themselves, doesn’t believe they have the power to change, makes excuses, and fears the task, or mild discomfort. Group 1 will outperform group 2 every time, regardless of the genetic potential, especially if given enough time. I used to believe you were either group 1 or group 2 and nothing could change that, however, I no longer believe this to be true, but it will take a focused effort inside and outside of the gym/sport to commit to this new style of thinking.

“I think therefore I am” – René Descartes

If you’re looking to take advantage of the mind’s incredible power, Josh Bryant, my friend and coach has a great article here http://www.joshstrength.com/uploads/PLUSA_Article_Sep2009.pdf about the power of visualization and belief systems, he sent me this article before testing my 1 rep maxes in one of the first training blocks I did with him and it really didn’t have impact it should have at the time.

Back then I was invincible (or so I thought), nothing scared me, not 600lbs on a deadlift or squat bar, not insane training volumes that would leave me in hilarious predicaments when I had to somehow make it down to the toilet the next day, not my separated sternum or torn rotator cuffs, that nagging pain in my right knee, none of it mattered, every bar I walked up to I expected to lift it – I could recover from ANYTHING! Until one time I couldn’t…

The Power of Fear

Most of you who read my writings know that I had a head and spine injury that sidelined me for 3 years and kept me from training up until late march of this year. I’m now for the first time attempting to peak and seeing where my strength lies in comparison to my pre-injury numbers, and in the last week before deloading I missed my squat weights not once but twice. I’m dealing with medial and lateral elbow tendonitis and a minor migration of the radius across the elbow joint that is especially painful when I squat, to the point where my spotter had to take the plates off the squat bar after I missed the lift and I could barely untie my shoes until the elbow moves back into place. For the first time in my life I’m afraid of pain, and afraid to get under the squat bar.

The squat is especially terrifying right now, because it puts pressure directly on the previously injured area of my spine and I can feel the pressure there more than anywhere else, coupled with the pain response from the elbow, I get an overwhelming rush of negative images and my mind wants to give up, as a result while doubling 510lbs last week, I missed 515 completely the first time, and singled it and got pinned on the second rep the second day I tried it. All I can think about is getting crushed and spending another 3 years trying to walk down the street without getting dizzy, all those experiences are sitting there in the back of my subconscious waiting for me to let them in, and this time I did.

Just like you can use your mind as a weapon, you can let it work against you, this to me is where the character development in training lies. If you ever hear people who have achieved great things through weight training talk about how training has made them a better person, a better business owner, communicator, helped them conquer their fears/phobias etc. this is how it happens. On Saturday I’m going to get another chance to hit 515 for 2, and all the same thoughts will be there, the same fear, that same pressure (I’m fine, I’m medically cleared to train max intensity), and the same elbow pain (ok maybe not so medically cleared here), and I’m going to have to make the decision to get under that bar, put it out of mind and get after the squat.

I may fail again on Saturday, and I may fail again the week after deloading when I test my maxes, I may fail next training block and the one after, but none of it matters. I only lose when I stop trying to conquer my fear, stop trying to fix my elbow and the shoulder causing it, stop trying to dial my training program, stop communicating with my coach, and give up.

If your training program doesn’t scare you a little, it’s probably not making you the best person or athlete you can be, it’s not giving you the opportunity to develop the skills to deal with fear or failure or to appreciate success when you achieve it. Conquer in training, and dominate in competition. In the words of Dave Tate, “prepare, perform, prevail”

Now get after it!

Are you defeating yourself before you’ve even tried? 

There’s a common saying that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you deal with it; I couldn’t agree more. If there’s one thing that ties all successful people together, whether it be in business, athletics, physical or mental transformations, beating addictions etc.  it’s the fact that they all took responsibility for their actions, and all of them believed they had the power to change. 

It’s time to stop killing your own dreams with shitty self talk and a victim attitude. No one has achieved anything by feeling sorry for themselves or blaming outside circumstances. You. You have the power to change your health and physique. You CAN look and feel the way you’ve always wanted. You might have challenges that others don’t, so what? It’s not about them, it’s about you. Everyone knows someone who puts in half ass effort in the gym, eats absolute garbage, yet walks around with single digit body fat and looks like a Greek sculpture: chances are that isn’t you. So do you quit, feel sorry for yourself, blame the universe and your parents for shitty genetics and lying to you about Santa Claus? No. Fuck that. You only have one job and that’s to beat the person you were yesterday.

Can you look yourself in the mirror and tell yourself you’ve truly done everything in your power today to work towards your goals and your dreams? You probably never will, and you know what? That’s a beautiful thing. That means that there’s always a way to get better. Could you have pushed a little harder, gotten one more rep? Could you have made it a priority to get to the grocery store on Sunday? Could you have drank 500ml more water, or watched one less Netflix show and gone for a walk instead? There are hundreds of little daily habits that you can do that will add up. Focus on one and get after it. Got it? Cool. Onto the next habit. 

Don’t be afraid to fail. Fail a hundred times, fail a thousand times. Just keep trying one more damn time than you fail.

The second you say you can’t, you’re lying. I can’t means I won’t. Don’t give up on yourself, don’t believe that things are happening to you, make things happen. The best time to start was yesterday. The second best time to start is today. Do it now. 

 

The Only Thing You Need to Know To Actually Succeed This New Year

This is my one and only post about New Year’s resolutions but I hope it reaches those who truly want to succeed this year. In hopes of actually helping you accomplish your goals this year I’m going to be frank, blunt and honest, because just like you I too have failed time and time again, but if you’re easily offended maybe skip this article.  
First of all I’m not a fan of New Years resolutions and here’s why: there’s no difference between the person you are today or tomorrow unless you make the change, a simple rolling over the page on your calendar won’t make changes for you, you aren’t born again, and guess what? All those challenges and barriers are exactly the same on December 31st as they are on Jan 1st. You flipped the calendar from November to December, did anything change that day? Did you feel different? Where was the fire and driving force for change that day? Or was it just another day that perhaps signified Christmas was coming and, oh shit, what am I going to get Aunt Tracy she has everything… Chances are that if you’re still reading this that you’re in the second camp, nothing happened the last time you flipped the calendar, and most likely this one will be no different. Even more so, chances are this isn’t your first New Years resolution aimed at the same goal, so if it didn’t work last time, what makes you think it will this time? 

The answer is quite simple (but not easy!): YOU have to make it different. 

That’s the unsexy truth about goal setting. If you’re relying on this sense of new that comes from the date on the calendar, not only do you know this will wear off quickly, but you’ve given away control of your life to an arbitrary external event instead of taking responsibility and control of your own direction, and in order to do that you need a strong and compelling reason why you are chasing your goal in the first place. 

Since this is a fitness page we’ll talk about fitness related goals but really these principles apply pretty much anywhere, let’s talk about the most common New Years resolution first: I want to lose x pounds this year and keep it off. Probably the first thing I would recommend to you is to change that to a waist size goal because muscle and fat have different densities and 150lbs can look drastically different depending on the ratios, but that still isn’t getting to the heart of the matter. Why do you want to lose x amount of fat? “To look better” or  “to feel healthy” is too vague and superficial, anyone could say that, why do YOU want to lose that fat? Your answer should be different, unique, and it might sting a little when you say it out loud for the first few times, although soon you should find it empowering as you put the old you in the rear view mirror. Here’s an example of what a goal could look like: 

I want to lose 6 inches off my waist this year, because I’m no longer proud of the person I am when I look in the mirror. I do not like the way I talk to myself throughout the day. I want to walk into a room without silently judging myself in other’s voices. I want to feel like I am worthy of attention and I no longer want to cringe, recoil, and silently refute every time I’m complimented. I want to get to a point where I value myself for my ideas, the way I treat people. I will not view myself a waking set of love handles and stomach fat another day. I will set an example for those around me that I care about, and hope to inspire them to change as well 

Despite the fact that it’s going to sound like a poorly written soap opera monologue, this is the kind of detail you need to get to if you truly want to succeed. Now go write it down, and keep writing until you feel like you’ve got it all out. Got it? Good. Now don’t show or tell anyone. Sounds weird right? I used to think you were supposed to tell everyone your goal, but new research shows that the more people you tell about your goals, the less likely you are to accomplish them , and this happens through deferral of responsibility. Every time you tell someone about your goals, you actually mentally give away part of the responsibility of achieving that goal to them, it’s now up to them to support you and guide you along the path, but it suffers the same pitfall that a date on a calendar does: it’s an external force and the only one that matters is you. 

In the new year, the same temptations will be there, there will be food, there will be alcohol, there will be Netflix marathons and deadlines. You will feel like you have no time and no energy, just like you did last year, except this year you’re going to have a really strong reason why none of that matters and you are going to kick ass, no matter what. 

Now that you’ve got a goal, if you’d like a little more direction on how to overcome some of the most common barriers to success I’d highly suggest you check out this article for further reading https://blacksmithfitness.wordpress.com/2015/03/20/the-1-reason-people-dont-make-progress/