Penance

Penance

Jul 31, 2016

IMG_7063Penance

By Josh Hunt

Remember the old school cartoons, where a bulldog in a bowler hat would punch a cat, and you’d see the cat fly through the air as its soul come out of its body? That is the best way I can describe how I am feeling right now. I am miserable. When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I can think about is how long I have until I get to go back to bed. I find myself screaming and cursing at the ice pack that I use to chill my lunch when it falls out of the freezer, seeming unprovoked. I wince when I have to hold my hands above my head for more than thirty seconds, because it feels like my shoulders are on fire. My stomach churns when I have to take my post work out protein. Basically, I am a Goddamn train wreck right now. I have never been this tired from training in all my years of athletics. And, it’s not the ‘oh I played a football game and I’ll be good to go on Monday’ tired. It’s a more insidious form of exhaustion, it’s the ‘I feel like puking when the hot, stagnant, summer air of the Belleville Weight Lifting Club hits my face as a I walk through the door’ exhausted. It’s the ‘I’d rather take a punch in the face from Brock Lesnar than work all week, then go to the gym on Friday evening to do some light squats and deadlifts’ wrecked.

I find myself in this state because I have decided to be more than mediocre; I want to be a good lifter. Hell, I want to be a great lifter, but that is going to take time, sacrifice, and a lot more work. Right now I am working on a program that I would have found insane a few years ago. Lately, other competitors have told me that I should tone it back because I am working too hard, and I’m going to fry my central nervous system. I just look at them for a second, chuckle, and then get back under the bar to finish my work out. My training days are so hard I find myself talking about them, a lot. An outsider might think I am either boasting about my lifting prowess or complaining about what I am putting myself through in order to garner some sympathy. But, it is neither of these. I talk about my training because I am looking for therapy, because honestly sometimes I feel like I am in an abusive relationship with myself.

I am coming to learn that this feeling is part of the price I have to pay to transition into the lifter I want to be. So far the gains have been great. On 14 March 2015 I benched 485 pounds in the 120 kg open division at the USAPL Military Nationals in Atlanta, GA. On April 30th of this year I ended up benching 545 pounds weighing 276 pounds at the Illinois State Meet and I probably left twenty more pounds on the platform. In thirteen months I had a sixty-pound personal record increase. From my experience and observation, a personal record increase this large does not really happen all that often. In the seven years I’ve been competing in the USAPL a ‘big’ personal records has been an increase of eleven pounds or so. Brady Stewart (The #2 264 pound open International Powerlifting Federation [IPF] bencher in the world) has told me if you want to be as good as everyone else do what they do. If you want to do something great do what others aren’t doing. I have taken this to heart, and I feel I am doing things others aren’t doing. But as mentioned before there is a penance I have to pay. Sometime the cost is so high I question it. I have decided to walk this path, which is one that not every one is going to understand. Hell, even the people that you think will understand it may not. They might try to lead you astray because they don’t understand the price that you have to pay or are unwilling to pay for accomplishing your goals.

When I started this article, I was going to write about falling in love with a sport, and I was drawing allusions that how I used to do two a days during football season in California and Arizona. I wanted to do this because I believed that someone that would read this article might be able to identify. However, what I am writing about really has little if anything to do about the concepts I used to consider to be working hard. Honestly, I don’t have the patience for bullshit to include my own. What I am doing to myself is really tough, and most of the time not fun at all. It is hard and can actually reduce one’s quality of life on a daily basis. That for me does not matter, I want to be the best bencher in my local area in the near term, and I want to be a national level threat within the next few years. For this I have to pay a price. I don’t believe anyone can truly articulate what this price is, I’ve heard world-class athletes discuss it, but it never really resonated, until recently. It’s like when your parents tell you that what it is like to be a grown-up as a kid, and it doesn’t really crystallize until you are thirty out shopping for new underwear. I don’t want to seem preachy or give the impression that I am a better lifter than others out there, because as stated before I am still a mediocre lifter in my own eyes. I do want to try to express what I am feeling now in hopes that others can commiserate with me, or try to articulate what its is like to try really push oneself.

For far too long trite and clichéd colloquialisms have permeated the thoughts of athletes, including myself. I remember my running back coach screaming, “Ya gotta want it! Ya gotta sweat blood!” This mindset has set in to so many people. This form of training that one has to do to get better is not like that; you’re not going to sweat blood. You’re going to strain relationships because you are too tired to take a walk with your fiancé or you can’t pay attention to your best friends conversation because the brain fog is so thick. When engaged in this transformative training you’re going to fantasize about recovery days, get excited about cold showers that help to break down inflammation, and smile about a day where you don’t feel completely drained. This type of training is not like a crap Michelob Ultra ad where beautiful people train ‘hard’ and have a smile on their face when they drink beer that tastes like water (seriously it is the Propel of beer). It is a situation where you finish your work out and don’t want to drive back home because it might be too much effort. Trying to transform yourself is a harrowing process filled with exhaustion, pain, and frustration.

When it comes down to it, I am paying the cost, or at least trying to pay the cost because of desires that I have. My fiancé isn’t going to love me any less if I remain at the same level as a powerlifter. My friends are not going to loose respect for me if I don’t set a new personal record at bench nationals in September. My coworkers won’t understand my need to get out of work on time so my two and a half hour work out won’t go so late I can’t spend thirty minutes watching TV. I am doing this for me, which comes with the benefits of a larger number under the bar, but costs in ways I never thought of. If you are interested in becoming a better anything you have to be willing to pay the toll. Just a few years ago I was not willing or able. I am now, and I’ll tell you it sucks, but it’ll be worth it in the coming years. I’m in it for the long haul and if nothing else I am going to because a better and stronger person for it, even if it is just mentally.

– “I sucked out your lifeblood
Tore down your fortress
Burned down the woods
I poisoned your harvest- Enslaved

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