“Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.”– Thomas Paine
The whiskey stench was thick. He woke up and threw the blankets off of himself… his head pounding and a heaving nausea overwhelming him. Some girl was next to him… he didn’t remember anything, nor did he care. As the urge to vomit grabbed him he threw the blankets on her, and walked briskly into the bathroom. After several moments of heaving, he stumbled over to the sink and turned on the faucet. He ran his hands under the cold water, letting it trace itself over his palms. He cupped his hands, filled them, brought his face down, and washed it amongst the cool liquid. As he stared up, head pounding, and gazed at himself, he was instantly teleported back to the middle-east:
He stared at his face in the mirror. The convoy had just eggressed back, his black gloves caked in blood and dirt. It had all soaked completely through. He ripped them off and dipped his hands into the half broken porcelain sink in the back of the compound, letting the water drip onto them. He brought his hands up and washed the blood from his face. Was it his own? Was it his friends? Was it his enemy’s? Did it matter? The sink filled with the brown and crimson murkiness washing from his face as he stared into his own eyes… what have you become?
She walked into the bathroom to check on him. He was caught in the distress of his memories. She asked, “Are you ok?” He replied, “Leave.” “You’re an asshole!” she said. He grumbled, “What did you expect?” He just let her leave. A perfectly beautiful, acceptable woman. He wasn’t there. He wasn’t available. His soul was fighting.
There are many times in this sport, in many sports… that I have been an athlete in where I have had to stop and ask myself, “Why are you doing this?” If you look in the mirror, and the first thing you look at is your abs… then you are on the wrong track. There will come a time in this sport where your aesthetic goals are going to be the least of your concerns. This is a sport of failure. You will miss, and miss, and lose, and miss some more. Bomb out in competitions. Miss winning just narrowly. What keeps you coming back?
When I reflect back to my younger days as an athlete at the ages of 22-26… a physical prime, I was an absolute machine. While I have always had a degree of intrinsic motivations, there were certainly elements to me that were superficial. I loved the attention. I loved that I lived at 10% body fat. My recovery was outstanding… I could just go and go and go. The years began to take their tole. My legacy unfolding. Wins, losses, injuries, sacrifices, pain, victory. Each year growing and dying in one way or another. As I got to where I am now, I realize how little I care about the more superficial reasons to compete: The clout, the looks, the attention. Now it is, and only is, about competing against myself. Developing the tools to allow my soul to face adversity. That’s all there is for me at this point. At the age of 32, training 3 hours a day, with goals to get into the AO and Nationals… everything is set against me. Caring about my 6-pack is going to get me no where. I have to dig deep. I have to be realistic… but at the same time, be brave enough to defy expectations.
There’s this kid who trains next to me in my gym. He is younger, faster, leaner, stronger. But… he is always watching me. Looking at what I am doing, watching my weight. He is missing lifts that he easily should be making. His focus is wrong, his values are skewed. He is comparing himself to me, rather than focusing on the lift in front of him. At that rate, he will never fulfill his goals. He will never be sated. His hunger is extrinsic.
When you look in the mirror, try just looking at your eyes. Stop letting your view gaze all over your body and pass judgements. Walk up, and look yourself straight in the eyes. Sit there, for awhile, only look at your eyes, and ask out loud, “why am I doing this? What have I become?” The answer may surprise you… or frighten you.
The scariest, but most revealing thing you can do to your training is stop, slow down, and ask yourself what you are becoming. Do you like the man you see? Or are you too busy worrying about what your next selfie will look like? If it’s the latter, don’t be surprised when you hit adversity and then look at the guy training next to you for comparison.
That man in the story up top is a true tail. All of that is real. Because all of that is me. What do you see when you look in the mirror? See you on the platform.