To build the body, utilize the mind.
What makes one person succeed, no matter what?
Why do some people fold in the face of the slightest opposition?
Why do some people make excuses for everything that goes wrong, while others simply go about trying to make things right?
What can you do to develop the ability to forge forward, through any and all appear in your path?
More times than I can remember, I've watched a world-class lifter, back to the wall, pull off a lift that nobody would have believed possible. Maybe the lifter missed his first two attempts and down to his last shot at staying in the contest, he makes the lift. I've even seen people in this situation ask for an increase and then make a good lift. We're talking big time contests here: world championships, the Olympics and the like. These people know how to dig deep, how to not only keep going in the face of adversity but also go a little harder when things get tough. Consider, for example, Olympic gold medalist in weightlifting Naim Suleymanoglu, who was doing snatches in the training hall at the Atlanta Olympics and before too long had the bar loaded to more than the world record . . .
He missed it.
He tried it again and missed again.
He took it a third time and missed it yet again.
He took it an unbelievable fourth time and made the weight.
A few days later, in one of the highlights of the '96 Olympics, Naim went lift-for-lift with arch rival Valerios Leonidas, held him off and won a historic third gold medal.
Or there was the time when a guy named Marin Shikov, at the end of his second tough workout of that day of heavy snatches and clean & jerks, worked up to a heavy single in the squat. The single was so heavy that he missed it, and, since he wasn't surrounded by an army of spotters or the security of a power rack, he dumped the bar on the lifting platform. Obviously, when you've gone through a tough leg and back workout and miss a limit squat, you call it a day.
But nobody told Marin this.
He stripped the bar down, power cleaned it, put it back on the racks, reloaded it, tried the squat again, and just as in his first attempt, when he couldn't stand up with the weight, he dumped it. Surely anyone with any sense would know that it was time to call it a day, but once again Marin must have been clueless because he stripped the bar down yet again, power cleaned it, put it in the racks, reloaded it and, voila, ground out a very tough, successful lift.
You might not know Naim Suleymanoglu or Marin Shikov from Salvatore Ferragamo or care a about picking up an Olympic gold medal in weightlifting, but if you're serious about making progress in your training and your life as a whole, developing a bit of their drive can open the door to a lot of really good things. Let's take a look at one aspect of how THE WAY YOU THINK and act controls your ability to generate outstanding results.
Once upon a time, if you were walking down a sidewalk, tripped and fell, you would quickly get up, brush yourself off and hope that you were spared the embarrassment of anybody's noticing what had happened. Now, when the same thing happens a lot of people look around for somebody to sue, someone to blame for their accident. They might try to claim that the sidewalk was poorly maintained, with anthills sprouting up here and there, or that there should have been signs warning pedestrians that walking is a potentially hazardous activity, or that, perhaps, the sidewalk contractor was insufficiently schooled in the chemistry of sidewalk composition and the physics of sidewalk design. We've come so far in our attempts to avoid personal responsibility that even if a dead-drunk driver goes several times the speed limit and has an accident that kills everyone in his car who wasn't wearing a seatbelt, there's a massive movement to blame the whole thing on a bunch of guys waving cameras in the distance. Examples in bodybuilding and lifting are no less ludicrous and, more important, no less likely to obscure the path to progress.
For instance, it's amazing how many people blame others for misleading them about everything from training routines to diet -- with straight faces they describe in exquisite detail how they were led astray, often for years at a crack, before they saw the light. Or they excuse their lack of progress by noting that they have this or that genetic deficiency that keeps them from becoming world champions -- ignoring the fact that five years into training they're still squatting with no more than a couple of plates.
And let's not forget the drug line, either -- that everyone who outperforms them is on some drug, even though they themselves have not made a lot of progress in the past year and their own accomplishments would have been insignificant decades before anabolic steroids were ever invented. Excuses like these shift responsibility to external sources, psychologists explain. Let's see how this works, putting the whole thing into the context of helping your lifting move forward.
When we look to external sources for explanations of our failures, it bolsters our self esteem. This, of course, is a good thing a lot of the time, but it can also lead to some very unproductive behavior. Consider, for example, the lifter who has made virtually no gains since starting to train. If the lifter lays the whole affair at the feet of an unproductive routine he was duped into following, he feels good about himself. After all, he was the innocent victim who was defrauded by a villain. Consider the challenge to his self-esteem if he says, instead:
1) "Maybe I didn't do such a good job at evaluating the training program in the first place," and
2) "Maybe I didn't really train as hard as I should/could have."
This second approach, which gives what psychologists call an internal focus to your failures, is a little rough on your self-esteem, but it also creates a tremendous advantage: It provides the opportunity to do better in the future by taking direct responsibility for your progress. I know a general contractor who has little sympathy for anyone who is swindled on a building project. "It's their fault for not checking references before they started the project." It's a tough one to swallow if you prefer to play the victim's role, but it's hard to fault the logic of his stance: Take some responsibility for how things turn out.
The same thing applies in the world of weights. What sort of idiot follows lame advice for week after week, month after month, year after year, and then tries to pin the blame on anyone but himself? When you've been squatting with the same weight for so long that the plates are practically rusted in place on your bar, how can you blame anyone but yourself for your lack of gains? If you've missed more workouts than you can count in the last year, do you really have to look outside yourself for the causes of your failure?
Foster the belief that your future, for better or for worse, lies largely within your control, and cultivate a belief that your ability to mold your destiny comes from your control of what you do RIGHT HERE AND NOW.
And remember that sometimes when things go wrong, if you take the blame, it will only help you gain.
Note: If you have enjoyed this article be sure to pick up
"IronMind: Stronger Minds, Stronger Bodies" and
"Winning Ways: How to Succeed in the Gym and Out."
Great cover photo of a supremely confident Lurich.
Walk through a brick wall and rip ya in half!
COURTESY OF MICHAEL MURPHY.
Here's two authors I've been reading for the last several weeks . . .
Thomas Sowell . . . and John McWhorter.
Good Stuff with none of the bullshit.
Enjoy Your Lifting!