Friday, June 14, 2013

Not Just Pumping Iron - Part Fourteen


By definition, injury involves an overextension, an extending of limits beyond what the present structure can accommodate. As discussed in an earlier chapter and touched upon in the last section, it is the lifter who has a "misuse your body" script who is psychologically most prone to injury. Having an impulsive style of living, this lifter is likely not to exercise reasonable caution.

Injuries are, of course, also incurred by lifters who do not have an impulsive personality style. Injury is very democratic and does not discriminate against anyone who invites it. Lifters with a "disuse your body" script often show a quality of ineptness in their physical activities. This is easy to understand, since their body script has discouraged their full and varied participation in physical activities. Ironically, it is their phobic attitude which invites the very thing they are afraid of. This phenomenon is well known by coaches in many sports. It is sometimes stated as, "If you're afraid you'll get hurt, you will." It is the slight pause, that hesitation, that holding back which the phobic person does that invites injury. Consider the gymnast who slows down on his running approach to a handspring, fearing the feat. The slight slowing down may be just enough to rob him of the momentum needed to carry his body through the full gyration and he lands on his surprised gluteus. The same principle applies to the phobic lifter. By not executing the movement with full commitment, an "accident" is invited.

So, what about the lifter with a "use your body" script? Even though neither impulsive nor phobic in personality style, this lifter, too, may incur injury. But with the self-actualizing personality style, the way of inviting injury is different. To be self-actualizing is to take reasonable risks. Working at or near one's growing edge is risky. In taking this risk there will sometimes be expansion far enough or frequent enough to exceed the growing edge, resulting in injury. I believe that honest errors of judgement can and do occur when one is trying to push one's body right up to the very edge of maximal growth. So, training injuries will be incurred by the self-actualizing lifter. They will, however, be rare.

Injuries, then, may be invited by an impulsive attitude, a phobic attitude, or by an honest error of judgement. With the phobic attitude, the lifter is overly cautious, paradoxically making himself vulnerable to injury. In the case of the impulsive attitude, a chronic state of insufficient caution prevails. When the self-actualizing lifter makes a judgement leading to injury, the misjudgement has been an instance of insufficient caution.

It is apparent from the above discussion that most training training injuries have a psychological root. One's body scripting, if it is of either the "disuse your body" or the "misuse your body" type, gives on a psychological set to invite an "accident." I place the word accident in quotes to acknowledge that even though these incidents may appear to "just happen,"  they are not truly accidental. The person who creates the incident may have no conscious intention of hurting himself. In the case of the lifter with the "disuse your body" script and the resulting phobic style, he would in fact have the conscious intention of avoiding injury. Nevertheless, the scripting of these two types of lifters serves as a psychological predisposition for training injuries. People live out their psychological scripts even though they are not aware of them.

So far in discussing injury I have focused on training injuries. For the competitive lifter there is another activity in which he may incur injury. That, of course, is in the competition itself. The lifting platform is a site of injury for many a lifter. The very essence of competition invites the lifter to exceed his previous limits, and the event encourages taking greater risks than in training. If on is ever going to take a big risk in lifting it is most likely to be while competing. It is this flirtation with danger that adds a thrill to the experience of competition for many lifters.

Before leaving the topic of injury and delving more fully into the meaning of competition, I want to introduce a final psychological source of injury. Sometimes people who have sustained an athletic injury, especially if it occurred in competition, are given special attention. The injured athlete may be only slightly less the hero than the victorious athlete. If one cannot be a champion, and hero-worshiping attention is strongly desired, injury could be the welcome route. Many an athlete has taken great pleasure in having admiring and sympathetic fans sign his cast. That could be a sweet enough temptation to allow one to be momentarily off balance or off in his timing, without any conscious intention whatsoever. I am not referring to the athlete who fakes injury for attention. Rather, I am positing that the benefit of admiring and sympathetic attention may at times serve as an unconscious motive to invite or allow an injury. The participation in injury can be an unconscious choice for the purpose of influencing or manipulating others.

Competition is "going public." This is true both for the bodybuilder and for the competitive lifter. In the case of the bodybuilder, training and competition are, or course, two entirely different things. The bodybuilder can train in the privacy of a home gym or in the less private arena of a public gym. As he trains, there may be onlookers. But what is seen is the training activity, the lifting and pumping, not the physique display, itself. Even if the bodybuilder does some posing in the gym, clearly this is practice posing, not the polished product which would be presented in a contest. In a real sense, the training and the practice posing are "private," or at least "semi-private." In the physique contest the bodybuilder "goes public." The event is advertised, and anyone with the price of admission can come in and see the show. In this competitive setting, the bodybuilder is making a public statement. He or she, by his or her very presence, is saying, "Here I am. Look at me. Judge me. Compare me to the others. Applaud me for the body I am, the body which I have developed. Watch, and I will display my body, my self."

The situation is somewhat different for the competitive lifter. In his case, what is done in training and what is done in competition bear close resemblance, one to the other. The lifting which is done in competition is contained in the lifting which is done in training. The training, however, as is also the case with bodybuilding, may be done in the private arena of a home gym or the semi-private arena of a public gym. But, even in a public gym, most of the time one is not being watched closely. Although an actual lift or exercise can be seen, if anyone is interested, what that lift means in the context of one's training schedule is usually not known. It seems absurd to imagine a lifter announcing to a crowded gym, "Now I am going to do my fourth set of snatches. I'll be using 75% of my personal best, and going for 5 reps." Unless this is a recognized champion, offering an open training session for educational purposes, this lifter would be inviting a rash of rude and crude comments. Even of a day when the lifter is doing maximum lifts, the atmosphere is not one of sustained, let alone, rapt attention. Once again, it is in the context of the contest that the competitive lifter "goes public." The lifting meet is the public display of lifting prowess. When the competitor steps onto the lifting platform he is publicly stating, "Here I am. Watch me lift. Compare me to the other lifters. Applaud me for my demonstration of strength and skill."

Everyone is on his own in training.

What one does in training is between the person and himself, and, in some cases, between himself and his trainer. Each person chooses to train as much or as little and in whatever manner he wishes. But, the physique of liting contest is a publicly agreed upon event. Not only is the contest an open event, publicized and attended by all interested spectators who can afford a ticket, but it is a focal time for the competitors. They all agree to show up at the same place, at the same time, in order to show their best performances, under the same conditions. Everyone poses under the same light or lifts the same bar.

Just as there are archetypes, as I discussed in an earlier section, which are brought to life in the lifting activities, the contest is, itself a lived archetype. The archetype of the contest is in evidence throughout history and across cultures.


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