Thursday, April 11, 2013

Tired Iron

Tired Iron. That's been me all week. After not working out for 10 days getting back into it has felt like slogging through mud with cement shoes. Breathing during a workout is like sucking pudding through a straw. My hip flexors complain and my lungs scream. It hasn't been pretty. I've tried my best not to roll my eyes every time something is asked of me. 

The phrase "tired iron" flits through my mind often. I always want to blame the barbell. Some days it feels as if overnight 15 pounds were secretly added to the 45lb bar but we're still calling it 45. Why does it feel so heavy when there isn't even any weight on it? It's never the iron that's tired, only me.

Some days though, that bar feels as if I could lift it with my pinky. The barbell magically floats above my head as if it has always known exactly where it wanted to go and has merely been waiting for me to discover the same path. That wasn't today.

There's an article by Henry Rollins about weightlifting that I love. He writes about struggling as a teenager and how weightlifting helped him deal with those struggles. He also writes about how weightlifting formed him as an adult and the life lessons it has served him. Doubtless, any one who devotes themselves to a particular skill, whether it be music, sport, or art, gains similar insights. That of building character, discovering who you are, building self-respect, etc. I believe any activity that requires regular practice and intense concentration, reaps similar rewards.

Having worked with weights for awhile though, I'm partial to what Mr. Rollins says about weightlifting. When I load the bar with weight and hear the familiar clang of metal plates crashing into each other, my mind relaxes. When my fingers wrap around the cold steel of the bar, I know I've come home. And in that moment, when I start to pull the bar off the floor, or brace my abdominals for a squat, that is all there is. There is no thinking about work, relationships, or finances. There is the bar, loaded with weight, and me.

You lift it or you don't. I like that there's no middle ground when lifting weights. In my world of weighing factors, analyzing assessments, and making decisions that are sometimes on my gut, I constantly question what I've done. It's nice to have a place in my life that is so black and white. I don't have to be the "decider". I just have to show up and do what I'm told (and keep the eye rolling to a minimum).

Being someone who over thinks everything, weightlifting is good for my brain. It tests my ability to focus and block out all things extraneous. Whether it's other people at the gym or my own hamster wheel thoughts.

Blocking out whatever is going on around you is hard, but then you also have to remember the various parts of the lift. Olympic lifting is technical and to be successful you have to remember all the moving parts and be able to put them together: pull the bar slow off the floor, pull the bar fast after the knees, explode with the hips, elbows up, catch the bar on your fingertips, reposition your hands, jerk the bar above your head explosively, lock out the elbows, bring your feet back together front foot first. It's amazing our bodies can do this at all. And for the people who do it proficiently, and show!

What one should look like during a power clean.
(Photo courtesy of Crossfit Fairbanks)
It's so much to put together. And at times, outright frustrating. But man, when it happens, when you do actually get it, and the iron isn't tired, it's like nothing else. And you feel as though you just did this: