Monday, January 28, 2008

You're in Control!

When you're lifting weights, it's easy to think of it as you vs. the bar. You're trying to get an exercise done, and the bar is your enemy, trying to drag you down and stop you. But this isn't the case.

The bar (and the weight on it) does nothing. Absolutely nothing. It is not a force trying to oppose you in the completion of your movement. It's simply a piece of metal that you push and pull around in an effort to get stronger.

This may seem blindingly obvious to some of you, but the revelation that I'm not fighting against the bar when I work out came to me almost like an epiphany in the middle of a hard set of Squats the other day.

As I struggled to stand up with the bar on my back, my first thought was along the lines of "I'm not going to let this bar beat me." Then I suddenly realized that there's no way the bar can beat me. I'm not competing against it. I'm the one who put it on my back. I'm the one who controls where it goes. I'm the only active agent in the me-bar system. I'm not struggling against the bar, I'm struggling against myself. I'm fighting against the fatigue in my legs. I'm fighting against the pain in my shoulders. I'm fighting against the part of my brain that says "Heavy thing on your back! Drop it! Drop it!" I'm fighting against the ever-present temptation to just give up on a rep or a set or a workout because I'm tired or I'd rather watch TV or I just don't feel like it.

In other words, working out isn't a test of me vs. the bar. It's a test of me vs. me. Just as the workout tests my muscles, it also tests my fortitude, discipline, concentration and determination. If I fail on a rep, it's not because the bar beat me. The bar can't beat me. If I fail, it's because I let myself fail.

Of course, this philosophy can't be taken to extremes. If I went to the gym and loaded up a bar with 900 pounds, there would be no way that I could Squat that weight. That's not due to a lack of determination or a lapse in concentration. That's because I was stupid enough to load up a weight I couldn't handle.

This shift from thinking in terms of me vs the bar to thinking in terms of me being in complete control of my workout helped me finish that set, and it helps me to keep my focus on the task at hand in the gym. It brings home the fact that I'm responsible for my own workout, and that "having an off day" doesn't happen unless I let it happen.

Training 1-28-08

5 x 5 x 250

2 x 5 x 145
2 x 4 x 145
3 x 145

Power Clean
5 x 3 x 155

Bent Over Row
5 x 5 x 170

Overhead Delcine Situps
3 x 8 x 45

Comments: Squats felt almost easy, probably because my previous 2 sessions were in the early AM. Lifting in the afternoon is so much better! Nothing wrong with Press, weight is just getting heavy. Power Clean form was problematic at times: I tended to want to pull with the arms when I got tired. Focusing on keeping the back locked and driving up off of the floor helps on Rows. Couldn't quite hold the top position on the last situp like I'd wanted to.

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