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.

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