Sunday, September 2, 2018

More From Ken Leistner - July 1983

I have just completed reading an article entitled A Deviant Star; R. Aquari, part of a binary system, behaves strangely at regular intervals. The title could just as easily referred to any number of powerlifters and their sycophants. Oh no, one of those articles!

Actually, it's hard to get too serious about the behavior that many lifters display at meets, even though most of their deviant behavior stems from the fact that they take themselves too seriously

In past years I've touched upon the psychological aberrations that often make John Q. Public, or other top level competitive athletes, look upon the iron community with the disdain reserved for a bastard cousin. I don't hold most of the lifters responsible for their actions, although they're damn well accountable. Many lifters, and I'll apply this as well to the female lifters that I've worked with or have spent time with,began lifting or continue to lift because it fills a very large space in a life, in an ego, in a universal existence.   

Most of us have always pooh-poohed the notion that we trained because of some real or imagined inferiority complex. Those other guys might train because of that, but not me, no way, my man, I am together! I just dig training. Right.

There are the small guys, the 220-plus-pound small guys, who remain real small a bit under the surface no matter how big they might get. There are the guys who found that in addition to being able to kick a lot of behinds, being bigger and stronger than most everyone else in Hometown made life a lot easier on a day to day basis. The problem is, they wear the same crutch 10 or 15 years down the road.

Come meet time, inhibitions are lowered, with or without 'supplements' that tend to quicken one, and all psychological hell breaks loose and is most often thrown in the face of the audience without much shame. Thank goodness that it's always an audience of peers! It would never play in New Haven.

The purpose of competition is to bring all you are to a particular point in time, perform a particular set of skills to the best of your ability, use your intelligence to out-strategize your competition, and enjoy yourself for being able to accomplish something that few others are capable of.

Sounds good . . . but the vast majority of competitors lift out of anger, not out of love. The celebration of strength that all of us give lip service to usually passes on by as the manifestation of a bad dream; missed lifts leading to ranting and raving, intimidation of officials, alibis thrown to everyone who will listen . . . a celebration of tantrums. 'Kill that mother' . . .'Beat that bar' . . . 'be bad, be tough' . . . the sounds of celebration?

Before the picture gets too bleak, let's remember that we, as powerlifters, are quite special. We take huge risks, discipline ourselves and train as hard as other competitive athletes, and will our bodies to do incredible things. As a group, we're terrific! I think the problem lies in forgetting this one fact and why it is so.

Almost every non-lifter, and this would apply to a vast number of athletes who utilize weight training as an adjunct to their sport, feels that lifting lifting is boring, repetitive, and a dreaded necessity.

We, on the other hand, get turned on by the prospect of doing no more than moving more weight than we have done previously. There is something quite nice about that. The byproducts of proper training (referring to cardiovascular conditioning, flexibility work, skill and strength development) becomes us as they do bodybuilders and others, but we walk the earth strong, Jack, I mean real strong and that's the kicker.

Great strength has always been revered and whether it's admitted to or not, we are respected less for that bulging bicep than the ability to move great amounts of weight. The additional bonus of looking good and feeling good is, to a powerlifter, just that . . . a bonus.

While it's important to get the most out of mind and body during competition, the fact that we're the 'beautiful people' of the sporting world (that might not sell at Yankee Stadium but put Cash or Rosciglione in a room full of other athletes and see where the attention/respect goes) makes it difficult to understand the necessity, or what appears to be the necessity, of running amok at a meet.

It's interesting to note that the better lifters tend to quietly psyche, and quietly sulk when they screw up. Perhaps they have learned the importance of marshaling their strength and energies, and preventing all unnecessary leaks. Perhaps it is the champion who learns the importance of carrying oneself with dignity at all times, for it is this type of repetitive conditioning that allows one to carry oneself with dignity and perform with maximum efficiency when the deal goes down and the automatic pilot kicks in.

I've been fortunate in that I've been acquainted with top athletes from a number of different disciplines, and almost every one of them had spent years getting their heads right, almost willing themselves to be 'good' at most of the things they tried, a in every case, there was a carryover effect to their sport. Anger can be dissipated in training, if only through physical release, but it has no place on the platform.

Before everyone rolls their eyes, know that I've been there. While I was never hesitant to roll with anyone who looked at me sideways, I got my rear kicked a fair number of times, a function of being a lot smaller than most of the other semi-hoods I bopped with. Athletics was a natural outlet for all of that pent up aggression, frustration, and anger, but it took years to learn that I did a lot better if I just relaxed, approached competition as a fortunate opportunity to show off my skills and abilities and went out and enjoyed myself.

Was I always happy about the results? For those who have been there since 1968, when I started powerlifting, it's an obvious fact that I've never burned any records into the platform, so yeah, there has obviously been some frustration and estrangement. Throw in a few serious injuries and bodily damage, mix well, and you have yourself a frustrated athlete, but one who realized that more was, and is, accomplished by seeing every competition as a means to an ed (self improvement) rather than an end in itself.

I've had to duck many a thrown lifting belt as some berserk lifter bellowed to the heavens that this meet indeed would be his very last. It made a lot more sense to me to lift as well as possible and if that didn't go down according to my script, salvage the day as best I could, learn from it, and get on to the next day. Filling my head with amphetamines, getting a mad on, working up a rage tended to obliterate my skills, fog my head for two or three days and usually bring about some semi-embarrassing incident. Understand that I haven't been immune to the pitfalls of banality that grab most of us, but the idea is to learn from those mistakes, even if the mistakes aren't our own.     

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