Jul 8, 2013


By Josh Hunt

It’s Monday on a dreary afternoon and I am at the computer listening to the rain come down. Now, this seems like a normal thing to do. And, if that was the case I wouldn’t be having guilty thoughts and crappy feelings, for you see I am not at the gym….gasp! Normally, on Mondays at this time I would be finishing up my auxiliary work on a benchpress day, but I am at home. This is weird to me, very weird. Over the last seventeen years I have almost always lifted on a Monday. This has been dogmatic for me. Without question, on first day of the week I make sure to load my truck up with my gym bag and all the other accoutrements I feel I need to take to the gym (can’t forget my iPod, God forbid I have to listen to mainstream radio. If Darkest Hour ain’t playing I’m pissed) and get to the gym after work. But, it just so happens that my training template is telling me to take today off and go into the gym tomorrow. Some people would look at this and ask, “Josh what’s the big deal?” The big deal is I SHOULD BE LIFTING RIGHT NOW!

Powerlifting (and other sports) is something that can be all encompassing. In order to be competitive one must deal with borderline obsession. Hell, let’s be honest sometime it’s full blown obsession no if’s, and’s, or but’s. I am sure I am not the only person out there that has injured themselves (usually doing something stupid like taking an additional set when you are fatigued) and somehow justified actions taken by some thought process that makes it not only acceptable to go in to the gym and train, but necessary. You tell yourself the injury isn’t that bad and you should be in the gym. Or, the wonderful machination crops up in the old noggin that you’re a pussy if you let this little ouchy hold you back from your workout (usually only injuring yourself more). I’ve also done stupid things like drive through sheets of rain to get to the gym. I’m talking rain so bad that other cars have decided to pull off the road and wait the storm out with their hazard lights on. I’ve even hydroplaned in this type of weather, but that didn’t deter me even if I was so scared I peed a little. I couldn’t pull off to the side of the road like the timid mortals I was passing, because the gym was near and I had a competition coming up. It’s hard to articulate to a non-athlete the ill feelings that manifest when a workout had to be skipped because my job kept me at work past 8:00PM. Missing training sucks, it sucks physically, it sucks mentally, and sadly it sucks emotionally.

It’s strange to think about the emotional toll a bad or missed workout can take on a person. But, this is something I am working on, and bear with me because I might sound a little crunchy, yes crunchy, but this is were the concept of permission comes into play. First off I want to make sure you know I am not a hippy, nor do I advocate hippy actions. The thought of head jewelry and tie-died shirts is starting to make my skin crawl and itch (I need to pop a Benadryl). Permission is something that I have had issues with for sometime, it’s a simple idea; allow yourself to do something or be somewhere. I have been going to yoga for the past few months to help increase my flexibility and at the beginning of my class my instructor Stacey usually tells us to give ourselves permission to be there. Okay even if you aren’t thinking it, I have to defend myself. I started to do yoga with a buddy because I figured it would help me with my arch under the bar and hopefully help me reduce the chance of injury. Now that I have done it for a while I am looking at it as a stress reducer, which can help lower cortisol levels. Additionally, if one can reduce stress then one, in theory, should be able to recover faster, which means harder workouts with better results (not to mention a better quality of life. I’m a tightly wound guy and for my own health I need to mellow out a bit). Anyway, Stacey tells us to give ourselves permission to be there. The first time I heard that I was thinking what a stupid thing to say, seriously I am here at the yoga studio why the hell would I have to give myself permission to be here? Then after a few more sessions it dawned on me, I was there but I wasn’t in the moment, I wasn’t getting everything I could have out of this class (I can feel you humming the Grateful Dead as you read this and that only makes me mad, I will have to listen to hours of Sunn O))) in order to cleanse myself of your dirty thoughts). If I allowed myself to be in the yoga class and focus on what it was that I was doing instead of thinking about all the other crap that I had to do that day, I ended up feeling much better after the class was over.

Permission is hard, especially for an A type person like myself. It is hard to give myself permission to sit on my ass and watch television when I haven’t written an article in almost two months (I know you’ve missed me). But, now that I am trying to look at my lifestyle and how it affects my training (I’m doing this holistic thing, I’ll write more about that later) I am discovering that I am negatively affecting myself and holding myself back from the gains I want to make. I know I am going to train when I am supposed to, this isn’t a problem. But, right now as I am writing this I am stressing myself out because I haven’t totally given myself authorization to just relax and enjoy the day. I keep thinking to myself that I am cheating on the gym, that I won’t make the gains that I want to because I am not moving weight right now. Logically this is preposterous. I know I am going to have the same amount of workouts this week as I did in the last mesocycle. It’s just that my schedule and internal clock are messed up, which in turn is killing me. I am really working on letting go of this, because it is not a good thing that I feel this way. I will admit that being driven is a positive for me and that having fire and determination are wonderful things in my life. However, beating yourself up doesn’t do a lick of good. It causes ill feelings, undue stress, terrible thoughts, an unhealthy self-image, and/or a plethora of bad feelings and thoughts. These things can seriously impact your life in a way that makes anything from training, to eating, to living a life that is not enjoyable, which is crap because at the heart of training one should get joy out of it. When things one loves become an obligation that is a tragedy. Athletes train because they want to better themselves and get some sort of satisfaction out of everything from planning their diet, to training, to competing. If that happiness is lost, why do it? This isn’t something you should do because you feel you should. You should be powerlifting, running, bodybuilding, or doing whatever sport or passion you’re into because it does something positive for you. There should be a want in doing it, not a need; because life is short and you shouldn’t do something you don’t want to if you don’t have to. Who the hell cares how strong or fast you are if you don’t first care about it yourself?

The competitive athletes’ mind is a brutal, strange, hardcore, and oft times illogical place. Some of us (if not all) are willing to do things that don’t entirely make sense in order to be bigger, faster, stronger, better. Many of us can justify just about anything if it matches up with our logic base and our perception. Case in point, talking oneself into training while injured. Logically, one would think time off to heal would be the best thing, but most of us are trying to figure out a way back into the gym as soon as we figure out we are hurt. Or, as I have done, endangering ourselves to get to training. Most of the time it would have behooved me to stay in and make up the workout later, but that did not satiate me, I had to train when my template told me to train. Or in the extreme, some athletes are willing to use body altering drugs to gain a competitive advantage when it is considered to be cheating and/or immoral in many circles and could have severe negative health repercussions. Athletes do weird things; I’ve seen powerlifters gain unhealthy amounts of weight because it made them stronger. We’ve all seen bodybuilders dehydrate themselves for a competition, or runners bleeding from the nipples, or cross fitters puking after a set then going back and hitting it again. Our minds are wired differently, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes we are so focused on an objective we hinder our own progression or worse, loose sight of what is important in life like family, friends, and sheer happiness. The thing that really strikes me as being strange in all of this is the fact we can justify and rationalize some really ‘out there’ ideas and concepts, but the idea of giving ourselves permission to take a day off from training is completely alien.
This being said, I think that we all should take a step back and look at how we are doing things. I realize that most of us are overworked an under appreciated and that life is hectic and there are a million and one things to do. But, there are things we need to let go of and other things we need to give ourselves permission to do. It’s okay to take some time off after a competition so we can heal and get our heads straight (and maybe enjoy some stuff we haven’t done because of the time constraints that occur due to training). It’s a good thing to nurse an injury and come back at a hundred percent, we should allow ourselves to rest and recuperate. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up if we have to miss a work out due to an obligation, be it work or social. The funny thing about a lot if not all of the negative feelings in this situation is that we put them on ourselves. We are the people who build the template for working out, then if we miss a workout, we kick our own asses for not doing what we thought we where going to do. I believe this sentence makes sense, but look at all the we’s, or replace them with I’s. Often we create limitations or punishments for ourselves, and if that isn’t holding back progress or causing some sort of hindrance I don’t know what is. I know I need to work on the all of these things; however, treating myself with understanding and compassion has not been in my nature, but it could be. I am now starting to realize that I need to learn to give myself permission to relax. I’m an overactive man and I probably hinder my workouts, hell I probably hinder my life and personal growth because I simply don’t relax enough, forgive myself for mistakes I’ve made, or give myself permission to do what I want and/or need to do (many times things feel like a need or obligation). Plus, there is so much I am missing out on because I feel the need to keep myself articulacy busy (I coined this term, it means doing stuff you don’t really have to do) or beat myself up because I am not doing what I think or feel I should be doing. Giving myself permission is a huge mountain to climb, but I am working on it. I may only be a few feet up but I am higher than I used to be. That being said, I am going to give myself permission to go cook some fish and then watch Bleach.

– Because only you can save yourself
only you can save your soul
and once you save yourself
insecurities will die. Snapcase


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