Chaff

Chaff

Jan 22, 2017

Chaff

 

By Josh Hunt

 

Before my home high school football games, the coaches would round up the entire team and put us in the wrestling room that was adjacent to the gym. The room was about 40ft by 40ft with rolled up wrestling mats, and two sets of doors. One set lead in from the gym, the other lead out to a concrete corridor that converged with the football field. The room was small and quiet. And, there I would put on a show. I believed that I had to not only whip myself into a mental state nearing the levels of berserker warrior, but I had to get my team hyped, or intimidate them so they would know that I was an animal too. I had a ritual of getting really quiet, then breathing heavily and audibly, then lowering my head and trying to look as if I were getting ready for a fight. I wouldn’t make eye contact with any of my teammates; I’d only stare at the door leading to the football field. I would then start to pace around the room trying to breath harder and look tougher with each counterclockwise loop that I stomped. My female trainer friends, whom at the time I was trying to catch any of their eyes, would back up to the wall and tell me that I freaked them out a bit. I would continue to engage in this adolescent war dance until the coaches came in, said a few words, and then lead us out to the field. Once on the field I would feel the butterflies in my stomach as I stretched out and tried to look intimidating. I’d walk through my drills and mutter to myself how all I need is that first hit, and then it’s a game. I tired to be as intense as I could be. This went on for pretty much all my two-year stint on varsity football at Shadow Mountain High School (yes this is one of my high school’s real name. If you are wondering the other high school that I went to was named Rim of the World, feel free to Google this).

 

Sometimes my routine would vary, like the time we went to play our rivals Horizon High School my senior year. One of my running backs offered me a Yellow Jacket pill that he bought at the local AM/PM and told me that this would help me get psyched. Of course, being a high school kid and awesome, oh wait an idiot, I took it with really knowing anything about it. I started to feel weird, but amped up. I begin to shake and needed to eliminate because my ‘fight or flight’ scene had taken over. When I tried to use the urinal I was shaking so bad that I got more of my own waste on me than down the drain. As the game approached I got even more into it, I started screaming in the locker room, I needed to show everyone one I was out for blood. Well this continued until my head coach came out and told me to ‘knock that shit off, we don’t do that type of drama here.’ I shut up sat down embarrassed, but amped, and oh yes I was ready for the game. As it turned out the pill that I took was pretty much a no-dose and I made a complete idiot of myself.

 

In hindsight, I think I subconsciously knew at the time that what I was doing was a show and really just straight up bullshit. My play didn’t change the harder I got into my act. Some games I wasn’t as into the pregame theatrics as others and I played at the same level whether I made an impression on my teammates before the game, or if I was more subdued. The sad thing is I used to do some of this crap during other sporting events to include heavy attempts at the gym or even worse at powerlifting events. I remember just a few years ago I was trying to get into a lift and I unknowingly breathed in a way that was like hyperventilating, I got under the bar and I couldn’t take any air in and I was pretty much crushed by the weight. I am painting this picture because I have changed my mindset; I honestly think there is a lot of chaff in people’s routines not only in powerlifting, but also in all sports, and even in our day to day lives.

 

It is my current belief that if a person that has been preparing for something, say a powerlifter that has been training for a meet, they should be able to execute at the drop of a hat. There is no getting your head into it, because it should pretty much be something that is so engrained in you that it’s second nature. My training partners will scream in my ear as I am working on my fourth set of seven with a decent amount of weight that: ‘I have to get big’ or ‘be aggressive’ or something of that nature. But, as I am lying down I’m thinking, just do what you did last time. You’ve done hundreds of repetitions of this; just make it happen like a machine, an unemotional finely tuned machine. Gone are the days where I would have to find the perfect metal song to listen to or be reliant on snorting ammonia caps prior to heavy sets or attempts at the gym (although I do the latter from time to time at meets). Behind me are the days of trying to get my head into it, and stomping around the warm up room. I am much more relaxed, I know what I can do, how it should feel, and what to do next. Why would I waste any time, energy, or emotion focusing on creating the prefect competition/heavy lift headspace or indulging in some asinine ritual? They are just a waste.

 

In the past few years I have seen a lot of lifting, and been able to watch a great many amazing lifters. In doing so what I have generally noticed is that the good ones are calm, collected, and quiet. Dave Doan (a great bencher in my mind) will take huge attempts, and no matter the outcome drape a hoodie with a zipper over his shoulders and sit backward a la A.C. Slater on a chair and wait for his next attempt. Between attempts he’ll chat with you, but he remains very Zen. Jona Leo seems to be the same. There is a definite air of confidence but there is no show, there is no production, he just works to make his attempts. Even, Jeff Snyder who does get up prior to attempts and listens to music right up until he is called to the platform is relatively placid in between attempts. There is no wasted motion or energy; it is as efficient as possible. This shows me that everything outside of being confident, realistic, and prepared to an almost mechanized state is something that you might be wasting your effort on.

 

I think we all have a tendency to over complicate things. Powerlifting, is a pretty easy concept, you try to move as much weight as you can either in the squat, benchpress, or deadlift. That is it. So why not get really good at those lifts, so good that you can do a great deal of weight if your sick, hung-over, or had a stressful work day? Why tell someone that you can do reverse bands with a shirt for sets of twenty loading up the bar with four times your body weight, when that is not a lift you will compete in? As I’ve stripped a lot of chaff out of my workouts I’ve noticed that working on the primary lifts has forced me to really focus on my technique. I’ve also noticed that I’ve built my work capacity up over thousands of reps. I am to the point where I could head to the gym on this Sunday night that I am writing this, with a few beers in my belly, and not having eaten supper yet and still hit 80-90% of my one rep max. This is because I have focused on the importance of the actual act and not the supplemental lifts, or the psyching agents, or the need of other people to get me into it. Although some of that is nice, a cheering section never hurts, and I have been known to pop an ammonia ampoule from time to time, but these outside things are unnecessary.

 

We should all strive not to be that lifter that has to have a specific bar on the bench or things don’t go right or need the radio station on a specific frequency. One should be able to make their attempts with nearly any bar and Nickleback playing. I’d ask that you start thinking about what is germane and what is chaff not only in your competition routine, but your training template, and your life. What do you have to work on and what is noise, what it is that will help you and what will take your focus from what is important. For example we all get stressed out about our jobs from time to time, but how does that serve us? Carrying around stress that we can do little to nothing about does nothing for us. Having to get into a certain state of mind to do anything from asking someone out on a date, to cleaning out old e-mails, to attempting a new personal record only diverts energy and focus from the task at hand. Really look at the way you live and see what you can do to separate the wheat from the chaff, because chaff does nothing for you. The high school Josh wasted a lot on show, the current Josh is focusing on the directive. My take away is that simple is efficient, calm is powerful, confidence is power, and the rest does not serve a person.

– I can see you in the rear view
Fading into nothing now
Snapshots are blurred, subtext obscured- Rosetta

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