Fourteen minutes set on the clock... it begins counting down from 10.... I've got butterflies in my belly and I'm thinking of reasons to stop the clock before I even start.... 7,6,5 seconds.... I chalk up my hands one last time and get in front of my bar just in time for the three beeps at 3, 2, 1, GO.
It's not a competition.... It's a Tuesday... and I'm anxious and excited about training; putting the WORK in.... Part 3 of a 4-part session. 6 burpees and 4 "touch and go" power clean and jerks on the minute for 14 minutes. A nice little blend of skill and efficiency with a touch of hard breathing mixed in for good measure. My kind of fun. It'll be tough enough to make me question why I am doing it but technical enough for me to be forced to stay focused and work on weaknesses, both physical and mental. The struggle became evident about 4 minutes in. This wasn't easy; it revealed some mechanical flaws in my touch and go clean and jerk. I wasn't staying on tension in my glutes and hammies as I brought the bar back down from overhead which lead to a series of systemic breakdowns: I loaded my hips which made me dip forward, the weight went into my toes which loaded my arches of my feet which then made my shins ache and I was slamming the bar off of my legs instead of letting it travel to the ground in one fluid motion (hence the 'touch and go' part). I've still got some work to do... back to the grind. I love the grind. I love the WORK. It is the part I look forward to and its a rarity that I dread my workouts because I know I always feel better once I start and even more amazing once I am done. Even if it was a long night with the kids, I know that putting in a good strength session will make me feel better from the lack of sleep... So I don't avoid the work. I jump in and do it. The funny thing about the word "work".... most of us associate "work" with something we "have to" do which means it carries a negative connotation yet by definition, work literally means:
There is nothing really negative about that. It is what you make of it. If you choose to make it something negative, it surely isn't going to be as enjoyable to push through. It'll feel forced... it won't be fun. This is true for a workout, this is true for a relationship, a job, anything. Confucius said: "choose a job you love and you'll never work a day in your life" I'm pretty sure you can insert anything into that sentence and it'd still hold true. Choose to just love what you do <insert anything> and the very best potential will be released based purely in the innate simplicity of the <anything>. I choose to put the work in because I like the way it feels. I like the process and I like the results. Its organic to my lifestyle; never forced. It is, however secondary to my family which means that the training I choose must fit my lifestyle - NOT the other way around. That means that I don't have the time or energy to workout more than about 75 minutes a day. In that time, I want to gain strength, stay lean and move well. What I've learned about myself over the past 2 years is that as much as I enjoy being a "competitive level" athlete, I don't enjoy competing. I don't enjoy the build up, the preparation and anticipation of the "big event." I love pushing myself to be the very best I can be but I hate measuring myself against other people. I always have. It gives me an anxiety that I can't explain and though I am open to understanding this about myself purely for self improvement, I don't want to elect to feel like this every time a competition comes up.
So the Open quickly approaching, I've been asked a dozen times or more over the past few weeks: "are you excited and ready for the Open?" My answer doesn't change much; each time I smile and say: "I am excited to watch and follow my friends but I am not competing." Some folks are puzzled and ask why and so I tell them the truth: I compete with myself every day and I really enjoy the process. Sometimes that is enough and I get a "that's awesome" or "good for you!" Others are little more perplexed since they see me train and assume that since I've got all movements dialed in relatively well and have finished in the top 1% both regionally and worldwide for the past 2 years that I'd be vying for an elusive spot in the regionals conversation once again. It's a fair assumption, given that I take my training seriously and have grown as an athlete each year with the help of some coaching influences. But there is significant piece of this puzzle that most folks aren't aware of... I didn't sleep for 8 weeks last year. Literally.... Did.Not.Sleep. I was a mess. I obsessed every second of everyday from mid January until April and when the open actually started, I was A MESS. The anxiety was ridiculous and I am embarrassed to even admit how much it affected every part of my life. I would dream about the workouts once they were announced. I would cry after the workout because I didn't perform the way I'd hoped and I was impossible to talk to about any of it. The irony of it all is that when the last workout was announced, I was still within reach of the top 60 finish I needed to have a shot at regionals. And while doing the last workout - I lost it. Literally and figuratively. Thrusters and burpees in any variety are a grind. You can either handle the "suck" or you can't. I wanted to quit the entire 11 minutes and 52 seconds. And while lying on the ground, knowing that it wasn't going to be enough, I swore I'd never do that workout again. Not because the workout was impossible but because I HATED EVERY SECOND OF IT. I felt like I had let so many people down. Our entire gym was supporting me, expecting me to make it. I failed. I failed my coach. I failed my athletes and I failed myself. Most importantly, I'd failed my family over the past 8 weeks by being completely absent in the daily GIFT called life. That was my biggest failure of all... So I thought... So that spurred the question... why am I doing this? For what? If I hate the competitions - competing against other people and the anxiety it brings me; the dark place I have to go to in order to finish in the top spots with the top athletes; why am I doing it? Not to mention the fact that at the time, I was already ignoring a nagging "ache" in my shoulder that was irritated by the previous week's workout and I went into the last workout feeling beat up and I moved like shit. So then I was out of commission for a while - IT HURT TO PICK UP MY KID...which I HATE TO ADMIT and I find this the most disgusting. All the while, what I really wanted to do was get back to what I love to do anyway: TRAIN. Which then lead me to begin reevaluating WHY I was so upset. First, I went to my coach and best friend and told her how I felt. She shared with me a quote that I still reference regularly:
“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” —Denis Waitley
Time to reevaluate what I want.
Step 1: What are my values? (Time to separate the wants from the needs.) I want to look good but I need to feel good.
Step 2: Set myself up with the right coach to help me achieve what I've outlined as most important.
Step 3: TRUST the process.
Step 4: Love every minute of it.
Back to the grind <the GIFT> of training everyday... trying to get better... focusing on weaknesses and LOVING IT. Fast forward a week later from the power clean and jerks I struggled with and low and behold, they are in my training session again. Lighter weight with no overhead movement. Back to basics. Fix the glitch, feel the RIGHT movement and build from there. Progress... and its all about simply putting in the work. I stumbled on one of my new favorite quotes while piecing this together and it has resonated with me in every way:
“Work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls-- family, health, friends, integrity-- are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.”
I am not saying I'll never consider competing again and I do see the value of the Open and strongly encourage anyone who is interested or curious about the process to check it out but for me, for now, I'll work.
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