This blog post was inspired by a conversation on why we train with one of my current coaches: Brendan McNeirney (CrossFit STAX)
All sports require drive. All athletes, if worth their salt, must push themselves constantly, and we all do it for different, or the same reasons: Clout, team, sportsmanship, self development, identification, fun, unknown, fixed path, strength, balance…. All sports require drive. Some require immense athleticism. Some require an insane amount of skill. Some, however, demand something more.
The barbell life is one that requires strength on an uncountable amount of levels. Those that adopt the barbell life will understand this concept, because every day you are tested; everyday you will fail to some degree. Every morning you wake up with achy muscles screaming in defiance, scabbed up shins, ripped, hide-like hands, rebellious joints, and a knowledge that at some point, perhaps more than once that day, you are getting back under that barbell. Why do we do it? I know why I must do it….
I lift with demons. Without delving too much into my past, it is sufficient to say that I live with a certain amount of intensity. I am simply a product of my past, brought into today, and living above this ground but below the sky. Part of me is constantly fighting something. Growing up I had a troubled family life that, as a result, had me respond in becoming a troubled youth. My early years were a constant fight with digesting a broken family at a young age, abusive step-parents, substance abuse, not living up to my potential, fighting, trouble with the law, vagabonding…. eventually this gave way to my escape: The US Marine Corps. My mother once said, “The Marines did well for you, and you did well for the Marines.” This could not be more true. I excelled within the Corps, truly coming into myself. But this gave birth to a much more difficult concept, eventually. After the war I was angry, frustrated, and in a dark place. I constantly thought about the men that were better than me, who gave their lives for the cause… and asked, “Why am I still here? Why them, and not me?” I still think about them everyday.
I picked up Muay Thai fighting… sometimes purposely losing sparring bouts or even fights in bars as a way to punish myself for the despair I felt inside. I prospected with a motorcycle gang for a couple years.
Always training, always looking for the next way to drown myself away from my intense but undisected emotions… I drank a lot, womanized, picked fights, and punished myself constantly. In some of my photos you may see a tattoo on my left arm. It says: The Sons of Cain Receive No Reprieve. That is a quote that signifies what I am talking about, and why I care so much about athletics.
When I face the barbell, I am piercing the veil. The veil is that intangible place between our existence; the shroud that covers our dreams, fears, and thoughts. When I hold the barbell, I am finally equipped with something that requires so much force, so much strength, that I can transcend, pierce the veil, and fight my demons. This kind of intensity allows me to train obsessively, day in and day out, asking nothing in return. I lift because I must, because I do not have a choice. To let go of the barbell is to lay down my weapons, my defense, against the demons that attempt to claw their way into my heart. Everyday, when I stand in front of that barbell, about to attempt a lift, I can feel a faceless opponent behind me, breathing down my neck. It is a fight against my demons that I cannot see. In order to win, I must fight, I must train. Luck is the last dying wish for those that think success can happen by accident. What is a day, but a series of conflicts between the right way, and the easy way? I am never finished, and never will be. When standing in the face of a relentless enemy, it is the side that hesitates first that will lose.