Just a small disclaimer: the quest for knowledge is circular. There may be no answers at the end of this post, but the questions asked are important even though they only seem to lead to more questions. I am also currently carb depleted and water loaded in preparation for an event this weekend so, while I might not be a peyote addled medicine man on a vision quest, I do find myself very introspective. I think that’s a good thing.
A mere four months after writing about balance and my need for it in my life, I find myself returning to the subject. Once again I have become consumed with my training. From the moment I wake up to the time I begin trying to sleep, my life is about my efforts to keep my disease in check. Aside from my time in the gym, I am currently reading two e-books…both about the science behind programming for strength. I no longer watch TV and in fact, I just had to ask my Mom if my beloved San Francisco Giants were in first place. As it turns out, they’re on a seven game losing streak. That’s one piece of knowledge I could’ve skipped on.
After asking all the fundamental questions and peeling back the layers of tertiary and secondary answers, the root of my returning obsession is likely fear. Fear of these progressive symptoms and the loss of control that they represent. Fear of not being able to make a difference before I’m done. Truthfully, there is absolutely no shame in that. The most important question for me right now is, “How much obsession is acceptable?”, because if I want to become as proficient with Olympic weightlifting as possible some level of fanaticism will be necessary. To pursue state and national powerlifting records with a movement disorder is an unreasonable expectation that will require unreasonable drive. The one answer that I do seem to have is that those goals are worth some level of sacrifice. What I struggle with is limiting that drive and making sure that the life I am fighting to preserve is actually worth preserving.
Where the need for balance comes into play is between accepting the inevitable while still fighting the good fight. In Shaolin philosophy, the image of the Tiger versus the Dragon represents the balance between the line and the circle. The Tiger represents direct, straight-forward attacks while the Dragon is a symbol of a more defensive and circular approach. Opposition and acceptance.
I believe weightlifting is a perfect analogy for this balance of philosophies. To perform well you must not only be strong, but fluid and fast as well. In my chosen sport of powerlifting however things are much more direct. In my specialty of the Deadlift, while there is a lot of science and technique involved, you really just pick up the heaviest weight that you can off the floor. That’s it. It is often considered the ultimate test of unadulterated brute strength and with my new challenges, it has become what I am good at. Therefore, it occurs to me that my pursuit of the Olympic lifts represents a quest for balance as well as a way to preserve the physical abilities that are slowly being taken away. When it comes to the deceptively simple act of Snatching a mere 135 pounds overhead my ability to Deadlift 572 pounds counts for nothing. Virtuosity in the former requires speed, coordination, and precise timing. Even the way the Snatch is gripped is symbolic of the importance of a balance between strength and technique. The Deadlift and the Snatch both exceed the ability of the hands to hold on to the bar. The Deadlift approaches this by placing one hand over and one hand under the bar and gripping tightly. This is not an option in the Snatch or the Clean. Both movements require the arms to stay relaxed and mobile. This can’t happen when the bar is gripped tightly. Instead, the bar is gripped loosely in the hands with the fingers instead hooking over the thumb to prevent the barbell from escaping the relaxed grip.
Sometimes it’s better to relax than to grip tightly. I realize that I have embraced a certain level of obsession in my life. Anyone who truly wants to excel at something is going to have to do just that. I am willing to relax my grip somewhat, and I am renewing my quest for a more balanced life, but I also accept my need to be driven. Is it worth spending my life fighting? Will I look back and wish I’d done things differently? These are questions that everyone faces in one form or another and there’s no way we can know the answer. For me, the goals that I have are worth it and if they end up serving as a symbol that is an inspiration to others then they are bigger than me and very much worth the sacrifice.
Thank you for reading. Be strong. Stay balanced.