Monday, November 21, 2011

Fear Factor?

She's a bit scared.
I had a conversation with a friend a few weeks ago. At one point during the talk, my friend said, “Maybe you’re afraid of what you already know.” I shot back, “I am not afraid of anything.”
My response has been sitting at the back of my mind for a while now. Because although, I am a brazen, say what I think, kind of girl – I am actually very afraid of lots things. I think that maybe, I have liked to think of myself as “fearless” when in actuality, I am only outspoken. That’s not really the point I am going toward today, but introspective nonetheless.

Anyway, it got me thinking about fears in general. And thinking about all of the things I am truly afraid of. As it turns outs, my statement, “I’m not afraid of anything,” could not be farther from the truth.

What fears do I have, you ask? Well, many of them are your run of the mill, normal fears most of us have. I am afraid of spiders. Actually, I am afraid of anything that is creepy crawly with legs and or wings. I am afraid of scary movies. Especially ones dealing with the supernatural. I am afraid an intruder will come in to my house at night and I won’t be able to protect my children or myself -- although I always picture myself beating someone in to submission. I am afraid of waking up and smelling smoke and not being able to get to my girls down the hall, the stairs, and outside, before my house is in flames. I am afraid that someone will cross the center line on Hwy 18 on my way home from visiting my mom in Yakima -- and the last thing I will see is the headlights of the car about to come through my windshield. I am afraid that I’m not a good mother. I am afraid that I am not living up to my potential. I am afraid that I am sitting and watching life from a distance instead of participating to the fullest. I am afraid of decisions I have made. I am afraid of decisions I have not made. I am afraid of not being as healthy as I want to be. I’m even more afraid of not being in control of my heath. I am afraid of failure.

She is less scared.
You get where I am coming from. I’m making my point, I believe. But the kind of fear that can be the most intrusive in our day to day life, I believe, is the fear of failure. And that is the fear I am addressing today.

Of course I can circle any topic around to Olympic Weightlifting, and this one will be no different. So let’s talk about how I can equate my fears in life to the way I “fear” a barbell -- and how I wish that my fears of failure were as easily conquered.

A barbell can be scary. It holds a bit of the unknown – kind of like life. I love it. But it doesn’t always love me back. I know what I what I want to accomplish when I see it. It doesn’t always have my best interests at heart. I have goals attached to it. It doesn’t always have the same goals. Sometimes I’m “afraid” to touch it (no, not quite like a spider, but you get my point) – because I fear the outcome. Why? Because I stand before it with expectations. Much like life. I would like to firmly believe that because I have worked for something, and I really want something, it will happen. Not always true. So I fear failure.

She is fearless.
Failure is a part of life. I know this logically, but that doesn’t always comfort me. I fear an unexpected outcome. The outcome I do not want. This negative possibility? Well, I would skip this alternative, if I could. But I can’t. Even the most successful and luckiest of people don’t get to escape the possibility of failure. Or even failure itself. So, knowing this, when we make an “attempt,” at anything, there are two things that will happen . . . victory or downfall. And that simple fact is scary. Always.

So, I am wondering if the way I approach the barbell, the “fear” that it holds for me and the way I address it – could this be a learning experience for the way I approach other fears in my life? It would be nice if it was possible.

How do I control my fear when I face a heavy lift? I tell myself four things:

1. You are not a wussy. You are badass. Yes, you are.
2. If you don’t go for this, Lori, how will you ever get any better? You won’t.
3. What’s the worst thing that will happen? You fail.
4. If you fail, you try again. And again. And again. Because you can.

She is badass.
Unfortunately, the big difference is that a failed lift is just failed lift. I get to try again, “next time.” A life failure? Well, the consequences can be lasting and far reaching. But one similar principal can be applied, however. If you don’t attempt the lift, you will never get the bar over your head, or PR. If you don’t go for what you really want in your life, you will never get it. Ever. Simple, yet, not at all. And that is where the concept of “fear” takes center stage.

So I guess if we want to think of life as a lift, we can choose to keep your fears at bay – and never PR. Or we can choose to face our fear, and deal with the outcome that comes with that decision – good or bad.

So can I look at my life the way I look at barbell? Can I be fearful yet optimistic? Can I wager the outcome based on what I believe in the moment? Can I tell myself that if I fail, or I don’t like the outcome, there is always a chance to try again? And again? And again?


But it’s a lovely concept, isn’t it?

That is why life is “scary” as hell. And we only “fear” a lift.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Like a drug. Only way better.

Last week was a good week. A good, good week. It was a week of PR’s. A PR, for you non-lifters, is setting a “personal record.” A personal record is exactly what it states. It is the best you’ve ever done on a particular lift.

My PR’s last week: Snatch @ 105# (previous 100#). Clean @ 135# (previous 130#). BTN Push Press @ 140# (previous 135#). Overhead Squat @ 140# (previous 135#). Seven reps bodyweight Overhead Squat @ 120# (previous 3 reps).

When you begin lifting, you hit PR’s all of the time. It’s like a constant little stream of crack-like excitement. You’re getting stronger, your technique is improving. Eventually, however, this beginning success begins to level off. The PR’s get further and further apart. And you have to work a heck of a lot harder to reach them.

PR snatch @ 105#
If you look back through my workout journal from 3 years ago, you will see it literally peppered with all caps “PR’s” and smiley faces. Yes, smiley faces. Apparently I thought I may need to be reminded of my mood at the time. Look at my journal from the last year and you won’t find any happy little faces or PR’s with several exclamation points. You will find a lot of “that sucked” and “awful day” or “failure,” accompanied by the obligatory frowned face.

I discussed in the previous blog entry why that journal looks as it does. Mostly, it is due to the fact that I’ve been unfocused. I’ve been rambling around the garage just hoping that I will magically get stronger just because I want to. If “wanting” and “hoping” paved the pathway to attainment, I’d be an incredibly accomplished individual. But we all know that only hard work will get you where you want to be. And I have been working hard. I have been focused. I am reaping the benefits.

So how great does a PR feel? What goes through your head leading up to the moment? I suppose it might be different for everyone, but I approach the situation the same way every time I make a PR attempt.

I load the bar. I stand and look at it. I am filled with a bit of nervous energy. I tell myself, “You can do this.” Sometimes my head argues back, “Are you sure?” This is a make or break moment for me. Sometimes the pessimist is yelling her ass off, making me feel like a failure before I’ve even tried. I try to shut her up quickly before she gets in my head. I look at the bar again. I grip it. Usually opening and closing my fingers far more times than actually necessary. I move my feet, pivoting on the balls, adjusting the heels, trying to find exactly where I want to be. I do this far more times than actually necessary as well. I’ve determined that it’s all a part of the ritual for me. And it’s not changing. I take my breath. It’s go time. It’s only a few brief seconds that separates success from failure.

PR overhead squat @ 140#
FAILURE. It just plain sucks. I usually say “F*#K!” after a failed lift with corresponding angry body language. It’s not because I’m not used to failing, or that it’s come as a shock. Lord knows, I fail more than I succeed. I am passionate. A passionate potty mouth. Anyway, I have always been told that you allow yourself three attempts at a max lift. Then stop. I always do four, if I need to. Part of this is my unwillingness to give up. Part of it, is that I cannot stand being told what to do. And since I don’t have a coach, I do what I want.

SUCCESS. It’s freaking incredible. And for what seems like a lack of creativity on my part, my audible response to a great lift is usually quite similar to that of a bad lift. The body language is similar as well -- fists in the air, but a smile, not a grimace on my face. In my opinion, the thrill that follows the moment after a PR can only be described as pure bliss. For those of you that don’t lift, I am sure you can imagine another experience that mimics this amazing feeling.

I don’t know what “real” lifters feel like being on the platform, in front of so many spectators and other competitors, after a winning lift. When I lift, it’s almost always, just me, a video camera and the walls of my garage. But, although there is no one watching me, except perhaps the spider in the corner –and no one to clap or give hugs of congratulations -- I can only imagine that the emotion feels just the same.

Elation. Achievement. Fruition.