Back in June, gyms were allowed to reopen after a prolonged Covid related closure. For most of us, without the luxury of extensive home gyms, this would be the first time we had touch a barbell in over six months. I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to get back to squats, deadlifts and bench presses, not to mention snatches and clean and jerks. Excited as I was, I was also rusty as hell. All muscle memory seemed to have vanished. I literally felt like I was back to square one. This was especially true with the Olympic lifts.
I have always enjoyed doing snatches and clean and jerks, even though I was far from proficient in either. Their complexity is part of their appeal. When you are focusing all your attention on nailing that triple extension, it’s hard to obsess over that mistake you made in work, or the current family drama.
Olympic lifting demands concentration and going through the motions simply won’t cut it. There are times when it can be infinitely frustrating. With each failed or less than perfect attempt seeming to push the goal further away. However, on those rare occasions when you execute it perfectly, it is one of the best feelings. When you hit your snatch just right, and the bar feels like it floats through the air, you don’t need your coach to tell you that you nailed it. You can feel it. It is one of the closest things to a flow state I have experienced.
Before the pandemic hit, I had been working hard on my lifts. I felt like I was making a little bit of progress and had hoped to take part in an Olympic Lifting competition during 2020. Don’t get me wrong, I had no notions of winning, or even doing well. I simply wanted that experience of standing on a weight lifting platform. I wanted to see how it felt to perform my six lifts, in front of the judges. Also it would give me an honest line in the sand. This is where I am now, let’s see where I can get to with another year of training!
My post lock down goals, however, were a little more modest. I just wanted to try to remember how to do the lifts. Thankfully my current gym, Primal Performance and Fitness, is well stocked with expert coaches. They possess the skill and perhaps more importantly, the patience, to help me get going again.
As the weeks went by, I began to feel more comfortable with the barbell. Although not quite like riding a bike, my body did start to remember the movement patterns. I could almost feel the rust coming loose as my brain seemed to say “oh yeah, something is ringing a bell.”
We approached the end of our nine week block of Olympic Lifting and our coach suggested holding a friendly inhouse competition to round it out. I experienced a strange confluence of conflicting emotions. On one hand, this was the moment I had been waiting for. On the other hand, I wasn’t ready! On another hand (high functioning anxiety often requires octopus like limbs) this would be the safest and least judgemental environment in which to do it. It would be happening in my own gym, with the folks I had been training with for the last couple of months. Nobody was waiting for me to fail! I nervously agreed to take part
In the days leading up to the event, I struggled to silence the nagging thoughts that maybe I should wait for the next one. Maybe I should wait until my snatch was “insert arbitrary weight here” before giving it a go. Wasn’t it ridiculous to take part when my lifts were so pathetic? What if I bombed out? What if I made a fool of myself?
These intrusive thoughts are nothing new. I think we all wrestle with them at certain times. They are insidious. Their number one objective seems to be to convince us that now is not the time. Our comfort zones are so warm and cozy, wouldn’t it be better to stay here for a while longer?
They are the voices that tell us we are not fit enough to join the gym. Not qualified enough to apply for the job of our dreams. Not attractive enough to ask for that guy/girls’s phone number. They will try to convince us that when we lose weight, we will be worthy of happiness. When we earn x amount we will have made it. Their chorus will only be happy when we are content to play small and sit in the shadows of our own lives.
Silencing them is hard. It can require herculean effort to get them to shut the hell up. But like with any skill, the more it is practiced, the easier it becomes.
So, last Saturday, I did just that. I decided that the potential risk of failure was worth it. I didn’t want to miss out on ticking something off my bucket list just because I didn’t feel quite ready. At almost 40 years of age I have learned that we rarely feel ready. Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith.
Arriving at the gym, I suddenly couldn’t wait to get it over with! The irony wasn’t lost on me. Taking to the platform for my first lift, I noticed a little group of members had gathered to cheer us on. I felt buoyed by their supportive presence. Nobody was standing in judgement. Everyone genuinely wanted to see each lifter achieve their best. Whether that best was 20kg or 200kg was immaterial.
I hit my first two snatches, missing the third lift. The applause for the missed lift was the same as it was for the successful attempts. I had three good lifts for the clean and jerk. Setting a new PR in the process. Overall it was such a brilliant day. I feel like I learned so much and honestly can’t wait for the next one. It saddens me to think I could have missed out on the whole experience by not getting out of my own way.
So lovely readers, I urge you. DO THE THING! Don’t wait until the time is right, because it never will be right. Don’t wait until you reach your goal weight to begin to enjoy your body. Don’t wait until you’re as fit and athletic as you would like to be before you allow yourself to appreciate what you can do now. After all, the time on the platform is mere seconds, enjoying the process is much more important.
If the pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that there may not always be another opportunity. If not now, then when?
Be well xxx