Thursday 11 February 2010

Thursday's treatise: an article on why I am a weightlifter

I have been thinking about what Olympic weightlifting can offer a person and why we, as individuals, train and compete in this sport. Each person has different motivations and aspirations, but I believe—or hope!—that sometimes a group of people, regardless of nationality, can experience similar passions, trials and tribulations. Here is a brief portrait of why I view Olympic weightlifting as my path to fulfilment.

Weightlifting appeals to my underlying personality. My parents raised me as a lifelong learner and in the twenty months since I gave up rugby to train with the barbell instead, my inner perspective has, and still, continues to evolve. Weightlifting forces me to look at myself as I really am and how I want to be. Do I want the sublime athleticism of Kolecki? The ruthless efficiency of Kakishvilli? The brute power and showmanship of Dimas? No. I want to be myself. The beauty of this journey is that I am continuously discovering what exactly I want to be, and more importantly, what I am. This differentiation is vital for anyone who seeks to progress, adapt and evolve on any front.

Our sport requires a mix of brutal honesty and romantic ambition. These two traits are seemingly at odds, but I feel that they actually fortify and strengthen each other. Without ambition, there can be no will to improve. Without honesty, there can be no method to improve. I think we all know that when genuine will power and thoughtfully structured planning are combined, totals tend to soar. Things tend to change. You need to believe that your body is capable of far more than it is currently achieving in strength, speed, power, skill and flexibility. Can your ability to focus on the task at hand improve with dedicated practise? Can you change how you respond to external and internal pressure? You need to believe that your body and your mind are capable of adapting to the stresses placed upon it. I need to believe this. One without the other is a flagrant waste of potential, but this essential belief is there in all of us, if...we dare to expose it.

Are we ashamed of our romantic ambition? Do we really think we are good enough to go looking for the total of our dreams? This requires genuine testicular fortitude—metaphorical for the fairer sex!—which cannot be faked. Time and actions reveal all. Courage matched with ambition can become a potent tool. What I believe makes this tool accurate, is brutal honesty. You need it. Your training partners need it for themselves and as a group. Your coach, if, like me you are lucky enough to have one, must have the courage to question his or her methods. Do you have the belief in yourself to hit a raw nerve and go for the jugular; can you look at yourself in the mirror and work on what frustrates you about your lifting? This is where honesty and, what it hopefully leads to, planning, comes in.

Planning, whether it is short, medium or long term, is needed. Specific planning for you, the lifter, can only be optimal when one’s strengths and weaknesses are critically analysed. This is why your coach needs to be as self aware as you are, because he or she may have to examine their traditional beliefs about technique and how to construct a program. It is not enough to try new exercises or different repetition and set ranges. Getting stronger is not enough. How a movement is felt and understood both physically and intellectually has to change; coaching cues may need to evolve; how you use mental imagery before and during a lift may need to be coloured in differently. Your entire understanding—and initially, your comfort—of each lift may need to change. Most of us are amateur lifters who lift for love. We do not have professional coaches and our lives are not tailored around workouts. We need more than the elite to progress. This requires self belief and faith, which can only be rewarded with an improved total when there is a plan that is intelligently structured. Can you picture breaking down your body and mind to build yourself stronger? Then roll on the romantic ambition and brutal honesty.

These are traits that I want and need to develop and weightlifting helps me do so. For the last nineteen months I have chosen weightlifting as one of the main avenues in which I can improve myself in body and mind; in strength and health; in my maturing as a man. Before this game was called strength training, it was called physical culture. Culture implies development and progress: this is why I love the sport of Olympic weightlifting.


Nick Horton said...

Wow, man. This is a great post! I shared a passage on my blog here:

I feel very much the same way.

Anonymous said...

You have it spot on. Weightlifting is a challenge for the mind as much as the body. For people like you and me weightlifting isn't a sport, it's a religion. You don't 'play' weightlifting, you LIVE it. It's the reason for our existance and it dominates our daily thoughts. I had a girlfriend who would often ask me, 'what are you thinking about?'. I didn't have the heart to tell her, 'training'. Am I resting enough... or too much? Do I need more squat volume? Should I lower the intensity tomorrow? Should I widen my grip?.. These are the questions we ponder.

How we perform in the gym impacts on every facet of our life. What we eat. When we go to bed. How often we have sex... And it's a life long journey not one that finishes at 35.

Martin Luther King once said, 'If you haven't found something worth dying for, you are not fit to live'. I look around me and so many people live with no interest or passion. I pity them.

Weightlifting is the greatest sport ever conceived. Be thankful you have discovered it.


Anonymous said...

I like it Barry and DW. Very good posts

For me lifting gives me the horn...I love to push the boundaries and see how far I can push myself in lifting. To lift new weights I have never done before, to test myself. To be others that I have regarded as solid totals.


Anonymous said...

Great post, loved and related to every word of it.

DW very powerful reply. I don't think you could have written a more accurate comment reflecting how we feel about weightlifting. To me the challenges of weightlifting are a lifestyle, a somewhat controlled obsession.


Anonymous said...


Barry said...

Glad you liked the post gentlemen. I had to love what I do this evening because my ass was kicked in the gym this evening. The last session of the fifth week of Russian squat routine. I am broken. But I am happy despite it all.

Anonymous said...

gotta love weightlifting going to a hotel on valetines weekend that has a squat rack :)


tom said...

Thanks for the inspirational article. Anyone can lift weights, but to keep at it for years requires some 'mind over matter' that you describe perfectly, and this carries over into other, non-weightlifting pursuits.

CathalByrd said...

'Mr. Anonymous' spells anonymous with an 'e' at the end...who could this enigmatic man be??

Hugh said...

Good article. The most poignant part for me is when you speak of the honesty required to analyse and criticise oneself. Without this skill our horizons and potential are shackled.

"There are two kinds of rugby players boys; there's honest ones, and there's the rest. The honest player gets up in the morning and looks himself in the mirror and sets his standard, sets his stall out and says 'I'm going to get better, I'm going to get better and I'm going to get better'". - Jim Telfer, South Africa, 1997.

brendan said...

I get up in the morning and say "today, I am going to get older an fatter' [from ' a day in the life of an old fat weightlifter']

Eamonn Flanagan said...

The enigmatic Anonymouse also appears to have little understanding of basic punctuation.

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